Enduring Love

February is traditionally the month of celebrating love. The following is the love story of a very close friend and a wonderful way to end this love month!

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Enduring Love

Boarding the Greyhound bus late, she observed it was nearly filled to capacity with cramped travelers. As she stood at the front of the bus scanning the interior, her gaze identified only one empty seat remaining. Reeling as the bus pulled out of the station into traffic, she quickly slid into the vacant space.  She gave a perfunctory nod to the man sitting in the window seat who was preoccupied reading a book. With the dim overhead reading light shining directly on his head, she dismissed him as bald, and assumed he was elderly.

Silence reigned between the two people for much of the journey. Then at one point when she shifted her position, their eyes met. In the astonishing moment that followed, she felt a spark of attraction toward the handsome stranger with closely cropped blond hair. She mentally reversed her first impression. Names and college information were readily exchanged in the short time remaining. They were both college freshmen in Boston traveling to their separate homes in Maine for their first holiday weekend. She had just enough time to share her reluctance to investigate the city of Boston alone. Reaching her destination first, she departed at the station as the bus lumbered away. Its thick plume of exhaust dispersed in the night air along with any thoughts of a future encounter that may have materialized from the serendipitous meeting with the handsome stranger.

Incredibly, during the following week a letter arrived in her college mailbox from the man she’d met on the bus, inviting her to tour the city of Boston on foot. From that first pedestrian date, their relationship blossomed into a friendship of sharing and caring. Their college years were a whirlwind of fun and exuberant dates; of enviable cultural and educational experiences.

Their friendship gradually transformed into ardent, committed love. The day he proposed marriage and slipped a shimmering diamond ring on her finger, the world was ablaze with irrepressible hope and promise. Their hearts overflowed with ebullient love!

In June they graduated from college and were married. Dreams were fulfilled; prayers answered. Over the ensuing years, people who knew the couple well expressed the unsolicited observation that their marriage was “made in heaven.”

During her first months at college, she had prayed that God would choose her life-long partner. Perhaps her motivation for seeking God’s help was selfish; she likely felt inadequate to make such a monumental life decision herself. It was a tentative act of faith at best, but our Lord honors any amount of trust and reliance, accepting minuscule amounts of sincere faith.

Jesus explained to His disciples, “‘I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to this mountain, “move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible to you’” (Matthew 17:20, NIV). Jesus was not teaching that His disciples could literally displace mountains, but that when large, looming problems are fully relinquished to the Lord, they are either minimized or resolved when faith is bathed in prayer.

Mustard seeds were some of the smallest known to man in Jesus’ day. When planted, the seed grew into a tall shrub in one season, serving as Christ’s metaphor to illustrate the result of implementing a small amount of faith to gain a large victory. It is God’s desire that our hesitant faith will gradually mature into constant dependence upon Him, no matter how difficult, large, or impossible each situation may seem to us. God is “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV).

Our Lord is jealous for our exclusive adoration and devotion. With ever increasing amounts of submission and obedience the couple extended toward their Lord, the greater the abundance of joy and peace He heaped upon their marriage. God delighted in their companionship, He lavished them with His redeeming love, and He accepted them as His friends.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.
In this way, love is made complete” (I John 4:16, NIV)
.

God’s eternal love reaches its full expression on earth through those who believe and serve Him, designating us as His current disciples.

God has been consistently faithful to the couple whose meeting He orchestrated nearly fifty years ago when He answered a dubious prayer. According to His perfect plan, executed in His precise timing, a miraculous introduction of future marriage partners was initiated with coy smiles and whimsical sparks in the improbable environment of a crowded bus cruising the Interstate at 70 mph!  “Nothing, you see, is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, The Msg.).

The Marriage Triangle: I’m Sorry #LoveWins

Please visit TRC to read more of the great articles in this issue!

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The Marriage Triangle: I’m Sorry #LoveWins

by Anna Popescu

Back in the 1970’s, a novel came out, followed by a movie with the same name. Its catchphrase became very popular: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” 1 Remember that? 1

As I was deciding what love message to write this article about, that phrase immediately came to mind. So I have two questions:

1. How can husbands and wives live peacefully together if they don’t have to apologize for hurting each other?

2. If we do not have to ask forgiveness for wrongs committed, doesn’t that negate the death of Jesus on our behalf?

One of the realities of marriage is that husbands and wives will have stressful times of disagreement. We are human beings with an inherited sin nature, and as such we often have our own personal agendas. We want things our way because we each believe we’re right.

So, how should we react to something our spouse says that is upsetting to us? Bill and Pam Farrell discuss this in their book, Men Are Like Waffles–Women Are Like Spaghetti 2:

“When your spouse ignites the conversation, you have a choice. You can react and shorten the fuse, or you can diffuse the situation. At times, the best way to diffuse a conflict is to turn the focus of the conversation. When your spouse launches a verbal grenade, it usually has a compliment embedded in it.

One day Pam and I were talking about a project we were trying to get done at home and she said to me, “Bill, you are so picky.” To say that I enjoyed that comment would be a bold-faced lie, but instead of getting angry it occurred to me to say, “I wouldn’t have married you if I wasn’t so picky.”

When your spouse says, “You are impossible,” start humming the theme to Mission Impossible.

Lest you confuse this with sarcasm, remember that the Bible says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1).

These attempts to cut the hot lead before the conversation explodes won’t work every time, but sometimes it is all the discussion needs to remind you that you are in love.

If diffusing the situation doesn’t work, what else can you do to resolve a dispute? Keep in mind that you and your spouse were brought up differently and therefore may react to certain situations in completely different ways.

Don’t Interrupt!

One of the hardest things to do in the heat of an argument is to truly listen to the other person without interruption. This is difficult because we immediately start thinking about what to say to support our own view, and often miss the true gist of what our spouse may be saying.

After 18 years of marriage, Rick and I are still learning how to do this. We are both firstborns, meaning we each are the oldest in our families. As such, we both have the inclination to assume we have the right answers to problems, and so we bump heads about certain issues.

Parents typically use their eldest child as an example when trying to settle arguments about or among their children:

“Why can’t you be as ____ (fill in the blank) as _____ (fill in oldest sibling’s name)?”

“We didn’t let _____ (fill in oldest sibling’s name) do that at your age, so why do you think we’ll let you?”

And as we and our parents get older, there is the tendency for our siblings ─ and even our parents at times ─ to turn to us to handle certain aspects of their elderly life/senior care issues. So it’s no wonder we firstborns think we are always right and that is the main reason we have a tendency to interrupt our spouse so that our opinion can be heard first, because of course we’re correct!

This does not just pertain to firstborns. If the first marriage between Adam and Eve had such problems, why do we think we should be exempt? The key is to find ways to diffuse problems before they become huge obstacles.

Humble Yourself

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit,
but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
 

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests,
but also for the interests of others.

 Philippians 2:3-4

I wish I could remember more often to say to Rick, “We each have different ideas on how to get this done, but as my husband, I’ll defer to you to make the right decision because I trust that you want the best for us.” That simple statement truly gets his attention, which also causes him to put a lot of thought into his final decision.

If you use that trust statement, make sure you follow through. Go along with his decision without reservation. Don’t second guess his choice after you have already said you trust his judgment.

I need to remember how important this is because, as Rick’s wife, I am to be subject to him as the head of our marriage ─ just as I am to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ as the Head of the Church (His bride).

22 Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord.

23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church,
He Himself being the Savior of the body.

24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

Ephesians 5:22-24

Firstborns are not the only ones who have trouble with humility ─ we all do. We have an inherent, prideful tendency to consider only our own opinions so that it is difficult for us to see any other way. We need to pray for the humility to “esteem others better” (Philippians 2:3) than ourselves. That means we should listen to our spouse’s opinion/explanation carefully before thinking that our way is the best.

Forgive as Jesus Does

In 2 Corinthians 7:8-10, Paul writes this to the Corinthians:

8 I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first,
for I know it was painful to you for a little while.

9 Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you,
but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways.
It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have,
so you were not harmed by us in any way.

10 For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience
leads us away from sin and results in salvation.
There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. 

But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

In verse 10 above, “…the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience…” shows us that we are to be sorrowful (sad) when we have sinned. And “…worldly sorrow which lacks repentance…” is clearly a warning not to conform to the world’s standard of whitewashing our guilt (or pretending we did nothing to be guilty about) rather than repenting of those sins.

When the Holy Spirit shows us that we have sinned against someone, we are to ask that person to forgive us as soon as we can. When someone asks us to forgive them, we must do so right away, whether we feel like doing so or not.

21 Then Peter came and said to Him,
“Lord,
how often shall my brother sin against me

and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you,
up to seven times, but up to
 seventy times seven.

Matthew 18:21-22

Relationships need nurturing to grow closer and stronger. Marriage relationships require that even more. When husbands and wives are willing to acknowledge and ask forgiveness for the ways they have hurt each other, they are taking another step in loving each other the way Christ loves His Church.

Jesus loves us so much that He took the punishment for our sins on Himself. This leads me back to that catchphrase “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” If we do not have to ask forgiveness for wrongs committed, it means that Jesus’ death counts for nothing, and we know that is not correct. If I were to rewrite that catchphrase, it would be “True love means forgiving each other as Jesus Christ forgives us.”

Forgiveness is one of the “key” words of the Christian faith.
If God had not included forgiveness in His plan for humanity,
none of us would enjoy life renewed with Him in heaven.
Without forgiveness there would be no hope at all. 3


1 Love Story, the movie; Love Story, the novel

2 Farrel, Bill; Farrel, Pam. Men Are Like Waffles–Women Are Like Spaghetti: Understanding and Delighting in Your Differences (p. 112). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

3 What Does the Bible Say About Forgiveness? A Biblical Study

 

Happy Valentine’s Day 2017

Welcome to my annual Valentine’s Day post that I believe is so appropriate
for a day that’s all about love. 

The other day I got to thinking about Valentine’s Day and how it’s supposed to be all about love. 1 John 4:19 immediately came to mind, and I knew this was to be my message about  love … God’s immense love … for us.

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The Dimensions of God’s Love

We love because he first loved us. —1 John 4:19

We have all been told how much God loves us. That fact is unquestionable, especially as we look around and see the evidence of His love in all of His creation. God’s love for us can be described as multi-dimensional, so let’s look at the different ways God loves us—the Breadth, Depth, Height and Length of His love—by examining the universe He created.

Breadth

When a man and a woman get married, they usually exchange wedding bands. If you look closely at a wedding band, you cannot see where it begins or where it ends. This circle of metal is therefore used as a symbol of unending love between husband and wife. In the same way, a circle represents eternity.

That is how I think of God’s all-encompassing love for us. I visualize the circle that His arms form to surround the earth. This thought both amazes and comforts me. I am amazed because it shows how big God is. I can’t imagine any human who can hug the whole world. I am also comforted because I enjoy being hugged. But the true illustration of the breadth of God’s love is found in Scripture: But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), —Ephesians 2:4-5

God loved us “even when we were dead in trespasses.” What a truly astonishing thing!

Eternity is a difficult concept for us to understand, but God has it all under control. He loves us so much that He can’t stand the thought of being apart from us, so He has provided us with a way to spend eternity with Him:

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For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
—John 3:16

The breadth of God’s love for us is that huge. He made sure that we have a way to be with Him forever—in other words, for eternity. Trying to figure out what eternity could be like is the same as trying to count all the stars in the sky. It is impossible!

I like to imagine what it will be like to spend the rest of eternity with God, but I’m sure my limited picture of heaven falls far short of the truth. All I know for sure is that: But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. —John 1:12-13

Depth

The Grand Canyon ranges in height from 9,000 feet at the North Rim all the way down to 2,400 feet at the Colorado River. Those of us here in the Southwest know that there are no easy ways to get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. In fact, portions of the Colorado River are barely visible from above because of the depth of the canyon. Now that’s what I call deep, but it is still measurable.

We read in Romans 5:8 that …God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The love God has for us is so deep that it is immeasurable. It is impossible for me to imagine something that cannot be measured. Everything that surrounds us can somehow be measured, whether by weight or volume. But not God’s love. It is bottomless and keeps going on and on to infinity. Even though we don’t deserve any of it, He loves us that much anyway.

We hear a lot these days about “unconditional love.” The truth is that the only true, unconditional love we will ever receive is from God, Who loves us with a pure love found nowhere else. How better to explain God’s love for us in spite of all our sins and shortcomings? The fact that God loves me in spite of myself is the ultimate proof of the depth of His love.

Height

Have you read about those who have succeeded in climbing Mount Everest? This 29,035-foot mountain range is the highest in the world and the most difficult to climb. There are many people who attempt this climb more than once in the hopes of finally being able to complete the challenge of making it to the summit.

I cannot imagine being at a point 29,035 feet above sea level. That is so high that one’s breathing becomes quite labored and therefore requires extra oxygen. But that is still not as high as the heavens. In Ephesians, Paul gives us a taste of what it will be like when we’re in heaven: and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,. —Ephesians 2:6

There is no way we cn ever understand the height of such “heavenly realms.”

I love knowing that those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord will be up in heaven with God forever, seated with Him and serving Him in all His honor and glory. Even though we’ll be higher than we’ve ever been, we will not suffer the usual effects of high altitude such as headaches, nosebleeds or labored breathing. God has made sure of that. I believe that heaven will be the most comfortable place ever!

If then you were raised with Christ,
seek those things which are above,
where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above,
not on things on the earth.
For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
—Colossians 3:1-3

Length

It is estimated that right now the universe is at least 46 billion light years in radius. My puny human mind cannot comprehend such a measurement. Look up at the billions of stars in the night sky and then try to understand the lengths to which God will go for us. He could have designed just an adequate place for us to live, but did He? No. He chose to give us a wonderful universe filled with beautiful planets and stars. It stretches on and on, just like His immense love for us.

The daytime sky and the night sky are the same, yet very different. During the day we cannot see the stars because of the light of the sun. At night, the stars and moon illuminate the dark sky. When we are in heaven, things will be greatly changed.

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There shall be no night there:
They need no lamp nor light of the sun
for the Lord God gives them light.
And they shall reign forever and ever.
—Revelation 22:5

No more night? Really? What will that be like? And imagine not needing a lamp to read a book.

Being part of such an exciting eternity with God requires only this:

  • recognize that we are sinners and be truly sorry for our sins
  • believe in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and our Savior
  • acknowledge that He died on the cross at Calvary and that His death paid the penalty for our sins
  • and trust that He rose from the dead on our behalf so that we might live forever with Him—and all because of the length of God’s love for us.

Paul related this aspect to Timothy:

However, for this reason I obtained mercy,
that in me first Jesus Christ might show
all longsuffering, as a pattern to those
who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
—1 Timothy 1:16

The definition of longsuffering is: suffering for a long time without complaining ; very patient during difficult times. I need this reminder because even though I so often lose patience with the things and people in my life—and with myself—God never loses patience with me. His longsuffering patience is eternal!

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible,
the only God,
be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
—1 Timothy 1:17

Beloved, on yet another Valentine’s Day I am so glad we have a God Who shows His awesome and immense love for us in so many ways, in spite of our sinful selves!

5 Bible Verses That Can Change Your #Marriage

Shared from Faith in the News.

5 Bible Verses That Can
Change Your Marriage

Here are five Bible verses that can change your marriage.

First Corinthians 13:4-7 “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Love is more than a feeling. Love is a verb–it is what you do! Look at the cross to see that. Jesus died for us while we were still wicked sinners and enemies of God (Romans 5:8, 10). So how can we not love our spouse in this way, being kind and patient, bearing up, hoping the best, and enduring it all? But here’s what love is not: envious, resentful, arrogant, or rude. This verse is frequently used during wedding ceremonies. Why not look at these verses again and study them together as a couple (if that’s possible). It could strengthen your marriage.

Ephesians 5:32-33 “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

I included verse 32 intentionally because God sees the marital relationship between a man and a woman as reflective of the relationship between Christ and His church, where He was not only willing to die for her, He did and did so voluntarily! That means we, too, must die to ourselves in loving our spouse voluntarily.

Read the rest here.

Sunday Praise and Worship: As for Me and My House

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Today’s praise and worship song is “As for Me and My House” by John Waller. The last portion of Joshua 24:15  reads: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” So, what exactly does that mean? How should we serve the Lord in our homes?

If we have made the choice to truly live for the Lord—that is, to repent of our sins and follow Him as our Savior and Lord—we must also choose to follow and honor Him in our homes. We can best do this by living out Jesus’ command to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22: 37, 39).

If we purpose to love in this way, we will always be living to serve the Lord.

Read through this section of Joshua 24, where Joshua called all the Israelites to Shechem to hear his final words. He challenged the people to make a conscious choice to always serve God rather than their man-made idols:

14 “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!

15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

16 So the people answered and said: “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods;

17 for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went and among all the people through whom we passed.

18 And the Lord drove out from before us all the people, including the Amorites who dwelt in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God.”

19 But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.

20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.”

21 And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the Lord!”

22 So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord for yourselves, to serve Him.”

And they said, “We are witnesses!”

23 “Now therefore,” he said, “put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the Lord God of Israel.”

24 And the people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!”

25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.

—Joshua 24:14-25

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New King James Version (NKJV). Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

5 Bible Verses That Can Change Your Marriage

This article from The Isaiah 53:5 Project has some good advice about marriage and goes along well with my Marriage Triangle series of articles which I write for TRC (The Relevant Christian).

5 Bible Verses That Can Change Your Marriage

Here are five Bible verses that can change your marriage.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

– First Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is more than a feeling. Love is a verb–it is what you do! Look at the cross to see that. Jesus died for us while we were still wicked sinners and enemies of God (Romans 5:8, 10). So how can we not love our spouse in this way, being kind and patient, bearing up, hoping the best, and enduring it all? But here’s what love is not: envious, resentful, arrogant, or rude. This verse is frequently used during wedding ceremonies. Why not look at these verses again and study them together as a couple (if that’s possible). It could strengthen your marriage.

“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

Read the rest here.

#Complacent

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Complacent

By Patricia Knight

Each day I traveled to work, I encountered a stretch of residential build-up on a secondary road where the speed limit was reduced from 55 mph to 35 mph. Familiar with the road land marks, I decreased my vehicular speed in preparation for the new speed zone.

One morning a state police vehicle passed by me from the opposite direction. I perceived I was within the posted speed limit, so I ignored his presence, assuming he had business elsewhere. That is, until he negotiated a screeching U-turn! Suddenly I was engulfed with eye-popping blue lights and ear-piercing sirens. The policeman then had my undivided attention.

When the imposing officer appeared at my car window, he was straightforward. “Do you know you were traveling 52 mph in a 35 mph zone?”  He had the proof; I had no excuse. Still I felt obliged to offer a weak explanation: “I drive this route to work every day and I’m usually more compliant with my speed.”  To my surprise, the state policeman gently responded, “It’s easy to act complacent when repeating the same activity frequently.”  Fortunately the officer dismissed me with a warning. Little did he know the impression he made that day, affecting my driving alertness and compliance, as well as my reaction to life in general.

Complacency denotes self-satisfaction that results in false comfort, diminishing an awareness of danger.

Apathy is closely related, expressive of indifference, a lack of feelings, or inaction. The opposite of complacency is passion; zeal rather than indifference. Jesus taught that love knows no boundaries, tantamount to the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence—and love your neighbor as well as you do yourself” (Luke 10:27, The Msg.).

Jesus defined our neighbor with a parable: A man was attacked while traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho through rugged, crime-ridden terrain. He was stripped of his clothing, robbed of his possessions, beaten unmercifully, and left for dead. A Levite, a priest, and a Samaritan eventually passed the victim’s way. The first two ignored the assaulted man and intentionally crossed to the opposite side of the road.

Complacency reeks of self-importance and indifference. What could possibly have been so pressing in the lives of the Levite and the priest that neither could conjure up the minimal time and compassion to cover the naked, bleeding man with a garment? It is obvious that neither religious leader cared about his fellow man. The suffering victim’s pitiful condition didn’t tug on their heart-strings. For them it was easier  to turn away and ignore their neighbor with an indifferent attitude, though they would likely claim personal righteousness. Complacency is the greatest hypocrisy.

Historically, Samaritans and Jews exhibited open hostility toward one another. But, it was a Samaritan who ran to the aid of the beaten, robbed man lying beside the road. He bandaged his wounds, and lifted him onto his own donkey for transportation to a local inn. There the Samaritan cared for the assaulted man. The following day, the Samaritan gave sufficient funds to the inn keeper to provide for the man’s future care, assuring the inn keeper he would reimburse any extra expenses incurred when he returned (Luke 10:27-28).

The man who posed the question to Jesus, “ ‘Who is my neighbor’” (Luke 10:29), learned explicitly from Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus’ story highlights a neighbor as one we help when a need is displayed, to whom we may give of our time and treasure, and for whom we are willing to be inconvenienced.

One great danger of complacency is that it gradually overtakes the heart space reserved for kindness and decency. Apathy is so deviously replaced with nonchalance and mediocre responses that it is easy to ignore danger along life’s journey. Complacency bows to subtle changes. The process is so insidious that before we are aware of the changes, we’ve been converted to a curmudgeon who increasingly replaces a once tender, passionate heart with reluctance. What happened to fierce, dynamic faith? It cooled to tepid.

Jesus didn’t call us to follow Him when it is convenient. Our time on earth is brief; we are here on assignment. There is kingdom work to be done, people to help, and the gospel to proclaim. He wants 100% of each of us, with the adoration of our hearts, the zeal of our souls, and the days of our lives. Because Jesus died for us, no sacrifice can be too great for us to make for Him.

What is your response to Jesus when you recognize a paramount need in another person’s life? Do you avoid prayer, assuming Jesus is incapable of surpassing human limitations? “Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with men is possible with God’” (Luke 18:27). Continual prayer is our most powerful deterrent to apathy, preventing us from slipping into smug self-dependence and self-satisfaction. Acknowledging that God is supreme and capable of the miraculous, dispels indifference. Apathy requires low energy output and provides no positive returns.

There are blue lights of warning surrounding many of our personal scenarios, reminding us to slow down to discern and evaluate. It is never too late to comply to the greatest commandment in which there is no provision for self-serving motives. Complacency and apathy provide only convenient excuses.

Jesus desires to fill our hearts with a deluge of joy. In addition, He clothes us with joy.

You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy
that my heart may sing to you and not be silent.
O Lord, my God, I will give you thanks forever” (Psalm 30:11-12).

From the riches of heaven’s own wardrobe room, swishing robes of rejoicing define us externally, as Jesus, the source of our praise, engulfs our hearts. Joy is to be the constant dimension of a life of faith, a sovereign characteristic that flows freely from dwelling in God’s presence, a gift that interlocks with God’s everlasting nature. Following His example, let us love our neighbor, reaching out with enthusiasm and joy.

Thankfully, neither complacency nor apathy are permanent states, easily remedied with commitment to spiritual renewal as we discover anew the exhilaration of displaying our Lord’s characteristics. We are transformed by Christ; a holy reconstruction project uniting us with Him that motivates us to ask,

“What can I do to help my neighbor?”