DAY 45 - How to Love Others Like Jesus Did

Am I loving my brothers and sisters and desiring their good.

34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

INSIGHT:  God’s purpose for our loving others is that they might come to know and glorify Him.  So naturally, if you love God, you want good things to happen to others so they will also glorify Him.  God showed us sacrificial love through the life and death of Jesus.  We return sacrificial love when it costs us something to put others first.  It doesn’t always feel like a sacrifice, because of the empowering grace of Christ and the resulting joy.  The way we show love may differ according to our unique gifts, calling, and resources, but Jesus did say that we are to love each other the way He loved the disciples and us.  Here are some of the ways Jesus loved:  

He intentionally pursued them – John 15:6
He spent quality time with them- Mark 6:31
He provided for them- Matthew 17:27
He comforted them- Matthew 8:25-26
He taught them- Matthew 5:1-2
He prayed for them- John 17:9
He warned them of danger-John 16:1-2
He corrected them – Luke 10:41-42
He rebuked them- Matthew 8:26, Luke 9:55
He humbly served them- John 13:5
He gave Himself up for them-Matthew 20:28

My expression of love, to others, may be different than yours, and yours different than mine.  I used to get so intimidated when I compared how others served and loved compared to me, until I really understood 1 Pet 4:10.  I now see that God provides great desire and energy to love others in the unique way we are to love them.  God has given me great energy to help strengthen people in their suffering, and to move carnal or immature believers into a real relationship with God, through discipleship.  I have great desire and energy for this work, because it is what God has called me to do. I have had days where I will make lengthy voice recordings of encouragement and prayer for up to five people in the throes of suicide or divorce pain, who reached out for help in a single day.    But because of my gifting and the grace of Christ, I am left energized by the work, rather than drained.

However, some people are easier to love than others.  I have a more difficult time loving people who stay stuck feeling sorry for themselves or who are extremely needy and never seem to make progress. Not all are savable, and some are even sent by the devil himself, simply to distract me, or stifle the work of God in my life.  This calls for much patience and discernment.  When I see it’s time to cut someone loose and move on, I do so because sometimes that’s the most loving thing I can do.  I’m more gifted with exhortation than mercy.  I had one person that was so difficult, that when they would contact me over and over, I would look up to the Father and start chuckling because He knew how hard it was for me.  I would say, “Lord, I need more grace for this one…please send it!”  Incredibly, many of the contacts with this person turned out to be even enjoyable after praying for more grace.

Note: Sometimes love for others is not what you do for someone, but what you don’t do, that you certainly could do.  (1 Sam 24:10, Rom 13:10).

DAY 44 - Who is MY Neighbor?

Do I love my neighbor—those in my path.

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “ ‘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, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,”Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” 30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

INSIGHT:  When we love others like this, it is the greatest evidence that we love God.  The ability to love sacrificially can only come from the Holy Spirit, as we fully yield and surrender to Him.  He then fills us with the love of Christ to love others, but until then, the love of self gets completely in the way of our loving others.  It even sounds scary.

It was so hard for me to love others until I fully surrendered it all.  It was like trying to serve two  two masters.  However, I want to encourage you by letting you know that when you have fully surrendered to the Spirit of Christ, sacrificially loving others is much easier in your heart than you may now feel it is.  I was so reluctant to share what I’m about to share, because I do not want you to stumble by thinking I am exalting myself.  However, this email is the perfect illustration of this teaching and the fact that it came in literally as I am writing this page is sufficient enough evidence that it will do more good than harm to share.

A few days ago I received an email from an older man, who had divorced his wife of 30 years, and who even as a Christian felt dead inside.  As I typically do, I sent him a few replies and a voice recorded message/prayer.  It was not much at all.  The following is his reply.  Michael, I can't believe you have taken such an interest in me! Thank you for your thought provoking prayer. You are the most genuine person I have met in 35 plus years of following Christ. I would like to call you and talk to you and let you know how I got in this mess. I have taken God for granted and feel like one who has trampled the blood of Christ underfoot. I need someone to be accountable to.

I am telling you that I did not do much for this man at all!  It was not like a huge burden to love Him because I’m simply using the resources and strength that God has given me.  I’m helping those that have fallen into the hands of spiritual robbers, as he brings them across my path. Our neighbor is anyone who comes across our path in need of help that we can provide.

Today, many people have been robbed spiritually by Satan (Jn 10:10, 1Tim 6:5, 2Tim 2:26) and we have the opportunity to show them love by caring for their spiritual condition, encouraging them, and administering God’s grace according to the gifts we have uniquely received (1Peter 4:10).  It takes courage, but God promises to help you, with grace and resources, if you have the courage to serve those that He brings across your path.  What will somone testify about you, the next time you serve or love them in just a simple way?

DAY 43 - God's True Love Language

Can heaven look down and say that I am making progress in loving God with everything I’ve got?

30  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31  The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

INSIGHT:  I used to believe the best way I could show God love was through my emotional expression during praise and worship.  I see many people, including myself for years, who can express deep emotion during worship service, but then be walking comfortably in sin, just hours later.  God sees all of that worship as false love, when not matched with righteous living.  I even saw a popular pastor teach in his book that God’s love language is worship.  That is only partly true; he did not even mention obedience (99% of the truth is still a lie).  The Bible teaches that God’s primary love language is obedience (1 Kings 3:3, John 14:15, 1 John 5:3).   If we don’t know this, we will hear, “You honored me with your lips, but your hearts were far from me.”

God had been prompting me, for many months, to memorize huge amounts of Scripture.  It is extremely hard for me, and my brain wants to drift to anything but memorizing.  I felt great pressure because I love Him so much, and I want to please Him by obeying Him (John 14:31).  It would get so hard for me that a few times I cried out, “I know your main love language is obedience Father, but you just didn’t make me smart in this way, but you still know that I love you very much.”

Then, one day, I was headed to the prayer trail and I caught the tail end of a radio broadcast by Dr. Chuck Missler.  I had met Chuck briefly at a conference years ago, and I walked away saying, “I think I just met the smartest Christian man that has ever lived.”  He has likely forgotten more than I have ever known.  It’s quite odd to see someone with a brain like his, who also cares so much about Jesus.  I arrived at the trail, and just a few minutes into my prayer walk, I was again talking to the Lord about the difficulty I was having in obeying Him in this.   I was passionately reminding Him how much I loved Him, but also reminding Him that He didn’t make me smart like Chuck.  In a very playful moment I looked up and loudly said, “Remember Lord, be patient with me on this because you made me more emotional than intellectual, and just look how much affection I feel and express toward you…I bet Chucky doesn’t give you this kind of love does he?  It was such a tender and funny moment.  I sensed the Lord smiling at my silly human reasoning, but it still didn’t get me off the hook of obeying Him.

What I realized, in that moment, was a richer meaning of Mark 12:30 and what it means to distinctly love God with all of our heart (I’m good at this part), our soul (this part too), our mind (not so much), and with all our strength.  God wants us to love Him with everything we have, and some of that comes as easily as breathing to us, while the other areas require absolute dependence on His grace.  God demands that we love Him even in our weak areas, but never apart from the grace to actually do so.  Praise God, I have memorized more Scripture than I ever thought possible, all because He is helping me do what I cannot do on my own.

DAY 42 - What Happened to the Golden Rule?

Do I treat others, in every situation, the way I want to be treated?

12  So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

INSIGHT:  Jesus did us such a wonderful favor by sharing this teaching with us.  It takes much of the complexity out of understanding how to live as a Christian in relationship to others.  For the most part it is just this simple.  Do you want forgiveness—forgive others?  Do you want to be trusted—be trustworthy to others?  Do you want others to listen to and respect you—listen to and respect others?  Do you want to be loved—give love to others?  Again, we reap what we sow (Gal 5:6-7).

I used to own an online interactive training business with my ex-wife, where we helped subject matter experts to create and sell their online training material.  When my wife decided to leave the marriage, she kept control of the business administration and finances. Within 7 months, the business became a victim of the divorce and I was left with the phone calls from clients who wanted to know how I was going to fulfill my obligation to them.  Even though I no longer had access to anything financially or contractually with the company, I was the company to them, so they came to me.  Most of the clients were easy to take care of, but one of my favorite clients, James Brown, needed a huge amount of training material migrated to an entirely new system. The issue fell into a very gray area in his contract that did not seem to demand my involvement, but it would be very difficult for him alone.  I was an emotional mess and didn’t want to have to do this.  Just tying my shoes was a taxing event some days.  During some difficult email correspondence between myself, my ex-wife, and him, one time he simply wrote, “All I ask is that you consider whether or not you are treating me the way you would like to be treated?”  In the end I was deeply convicted, and I decided I needed to help him.  He was greatly pleased and ultimately so was I, but more importantly so was the Lord.