Love the Sojourner

First of all, this is not a political post.

Second of all, this is a Jesus post.

Neighbors, brothers, sisters, friends, immigrants, refugees….

The truth is, we are all sojourners. We are strangers in a strange land.

Our land never quite feels right. We don’t quite fit in. We don’t know where to put things like loss, heartbreak, hate, anger, fear, doubt, pain, grief, war, shame.

Just like the children of Israel slugging it through slavery in the land of Egypt, we look around, we see sin and its consequences, and we know the truth – we are sojourners traveling through a land briefly. Our home is eternal. Our home is comfort in the arms of our Savior. Our home is the feast to come, the victory of heaven, not the blackening landscape of a home that passes away.

We get glimpses of this land through His Word, His sacraments, and through one another.

For this reason, Deuteronomy 10:19 speaks His Word of direction to us:

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 

God gently reminds Israel and us of all we’ve been given, of the freedom that has been won, of where we have been, of where we are headed, so that when we look in the eyes of our neighbor, we’ll see our own experience as the sojourner far off…the sojourner who was once a stranger to God, welcomed with open arms, by a neighbor named Jesus.

We GET to be part of all of that. We get to be welcomers into the Body of Christ and the kingdom, because we ourselves have been welcomed, not because we have lived in Haiti, or Germany, or Africa but because we have eternity. We have a home with no shame, a new home of grace that will one day be full and complete.

We have been brought out, so that others may be brought in.

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. 

Who are these others? Look around you. Who is on the outskirts looking in? Who are those that do not know what we know of grace? We can reach across our lawns and we can reach across our oceans and love, love, and love some more.

God does not limit Himself to what is visible in providing for our needs. There is always more room, more trust, more mercy, more comfort, and more provision in the economy of Christ. Where do we doubt His ability to keep us safe, to provide resources for us, and to give us strength when we look at the sojourner in need?

Just as God answers the fears of the people of Israel proactively, He answers ours in the same Word.

Deuteronomy 10:20-22:

20 You shall fear the Lord your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. 21 He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen.

He is your praise. Look what He has done! Can He who raises the dead provide what we need to love? Why yes, I think He can.

Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

A tiny little command, tucked inside a whole lot of promise.

We raise our hands in Praise to Him who can, and simply ask Him to point us in the direction of where to send all the love.

 

Free Love the Sojourner iPhone Wallpaper

Look for the Love the Sojourner line coming out in May 2017, on our Products with a Message page. #surroundme #starttheconversation #productswithamessage

 

Set the world ablaze

Yesterday, we talked about making waves.

Today we’re going to talk about setting a blaze.

Read James 3:5-8, below:

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Notice the connecting piece between our segment yesterday and what we are studying today. One tiny verse –

So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

Write that verse out somewhere if you can. What is the connection between the tongue and boasting? How does the tongue find trouble on it’s own sometimes without our help? Our friend, the tongue, needs to be steered or bridled.

James points out another reality – our tongues can also set the world ablaze. The Greek word for unrighteousness in our translation is adikias, from the root word adikia, meaning unrighteousness, but also injustice, and hurt. That hits the nail on the head. How is our tongue down right hurtful sometimes? Fires can be glorious and also destructive.

Let’s look at another passage that speaks similarly about waves and wind, selfish words, and growing out of them.

Ephesians 4:14-16:

…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

We are not tossed by waves, but we are driven by the Holy Spirit and God’s Word. In Christ, we are not left to idle in a sea of doubt and chaos. We have Hope. Let us start a fire, a fire for Christ, firm in the Holy Spirit and the Word that we are given!

God’s Word says that 2 things ignite – truth and love. So we can ask ourself this question before we open our mouth…

Am I speaking truth in love?

It sounds too simple. But God knows that it’s just so easy for us to speak one without the other.

Am I speaking truth with no love?
Am I speaking love with no truth?

Brothers and sisters, if we are aiming for setting the world on fire for Christ, we are intended to speak both as one.

I fail miserably at this. Dear children, pick up your toys! Dear husband, plan a date night! So many necessary commands, that definitely speak truth. I unfortunately forget to include the love. It’s easy when we are in a conversation with a friend about their struggle with sexual sin to speak only love and care – “It’s ok! It’s no big deal!” – without the truth that they so desperately need in order to see Christ’s forgiveness and love.

Where do you have the hardest time sharing truth with love and love with truth?

We’re in this together. Reread James 3:8 and hear the comfort there…

but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 

Did you find it? Don’t blink or you’ll miss it. Dear friend, you are not the first, nor will you be the last, to struggle with tongue taming. It’s a daily work of sanctification. Christ’s mercy was given to us on the cross. It works in us every day, to set fires that point to His Life, rather than death and destruction. We will daily struggle with this, but it’s a good work, a good walk with our Savior who knows boundless grace.

Work that good Grace in us today, Lord. Truth in love and love in truth – we leave it at Your feet every day. Set some fires around us in Your name, for Your glory. Amen.

 

Discussion:

What areas of your life do you struggle with your tongue the most?

What examples can you point to of speaking the truth without love?

What examples can you point to of speaking love without the truth?

 

I hope you’ll join us for Good Gifts Live at its special time today, 2pm CST, on the I Love My Shepherd Facebook page. The topic for tonight is I Am Covered. Find out more tonight, and if you can’t be with us live, catch the archive tomorrow morning right here or on the I Love My Shepherd Youtube channel.

Wake up to love

 

img_2320

Who has an alarm song? Do you wake up to an annoying and persistent beep-beep-beep, or a duck quack, or does your alarm blast out one of your favorite tunes in the wee hours of the morning to motivate you to get out of bed?

My husband sets our alarm every night. It has been his job since we were newlyweds in our tiny studio apartment in St. Louis. I don’t know how he got this job. Every night he would flip a switch on our old-school clock radio, make sure it was tuned to a local rock station, and climb into bed next to me. At 6am our alarm would sound to a roll of the dice, either an alternative grunge rock hit or a loud obnoxious DJ with morning pizazz. You can see why we were really excited when the iPhone alarm transformed our lives and we could pick the song we wanted for our morning wake up call. It’s still my husband’s job, but now he picks a song, inputs it into the alarm settings and voila – praise music is our jam at 6am.

There are still limits to this set up. Dave picks the song, but at some point both of us are like, “If I have to wake up to Mandisa singing Good Morning one more time…” “If I have to hear the Sidewalk Prophets reminding me that He Loves Me Anyway for the fortieth time…” It’s a ridiculous reaction, but I bet many of you are as friendly to get out of bed in the morning as we are, and at some point you’d like to tell these sweet artists who offer their beautiful songs to zip it, simply because it’s 6am.

God thinks of mornings a little differently than I do. In God’s economy each day is fresh, not the repetition of a long ago set alarm. In fact, God, Himself, awakens us each day. He is our Dawn and our Bright Morning Star, bidding us to rise.

Let’s read Isaiah 50:4-7 to hear a new message this day.

The Lord God has given me
    the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
    him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
    he awakens my ear
    to hear as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
    and I was not rebellious;
    I turned not backward.
I gave my back to those who strike,
    and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
    from disgrace and spitting.

But the Lord God helps me;
    therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
    and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

This passage, again, like so many in Isaiah, is a prophecy of The Servant, aka Jesus. Jesus is the one who is never rebellious, who inclines His ear to the Father’s calling, not just once, not when he needed it, but every time. Because of His work for our salvation, we can have a relationship with God where His mercies are new to us. He wakes us every morning, the Father’s gentle breath of forgiveness on our face before we even roll out of bed. He makes us ready for our callings in the wee hours, whether that’s 6am, 11am, 4pm, or 11pm.

Scripture tells us that the Father, unlike my blaring alarm, is found in the gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12), but sometimes he’ll use trumpet blasts to wake me up to His presence (Acts 16:26). However He chooses, He does awaken. Our passage in Isaiah reminds us that He is really the one who Wakes. He sustains our eyes to open, our breath to refresh us, our muscles to strengthen us for the day ahead.

We awaken because He determined that this day is for His work.

When I take that first cognizant breath in, that’s the Spirit, letting me know that God has designed this day for me as His child to go forth. He has plans for me. He’s not finished with me yet.

And what is the work of each new day?

“The Lord has given me the tongue of those who are taught that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary…”

Jesus in us, means that we wake up to love.

We wake up to say, “I am loved.”

We wake up to say, “Who needs His love.”

We wake up to reach His Hand into the lives of those who need His fresh breath in their lives.

We wake up to Love.

Christ woke up from the tomb. He did not stay underneath the covers of darkness and sin and shame. He rose up on that bright morning in the garden many years ago, and that bright morning lives in us to reach a weary world each and every day.

“He awakens my ear to hear…”

Wake up to Love today. You, yourselves, are so very much valued and treasured. Go and share it with a world who does not know morning, like we know morning. Wake up to Love.

fontcandy-39

 

Exploration:

What time do you wake up most mornings? What is your usual morning routine?

What would or do you choose for an alarm song or sound?

What does the message of “Wake up to Love” speak to in your life?

AWAKE

AWAKE Scripture Engagement Tool

The gut punch of left alone

Alone. As a mom of four kids, therapist, and pastor’s wife, I love me some alone time. Give me a cup of coffee and a good book, a glass of wine and a fire in my backyard, or a bathtub and a cup of earl grey, and it’s like a tiny window of heaven. Alone time is a precious resource around here. You don’t take it for granted. But I also know what it means to feel truly alone, as in left alone…and there’s a big difference.

Have you had that moment? That moment when it feels like everyone has walked away. Maybe a loss leaves you wondering who will fill the gap, who else will share your secrets. Maybe you have been left by a loved one, a father, a mother, a husband, a brother – someone who walked out the door leaving you behind with the tears, the shock, and the anger. Or maybe you have been left standing to face the bully of life on your own, and when you looked around, not a single person stayed to fight alongside you.

Whether in little or in the big moments of life, we have all experienced the stomach drop of left alone.

My therapist is fond of saying, “There are two sides to every coin.” Today, let’s return to Isaiah 62:12, our passage from yesterday, and remind ourselves of the titles bestowed on us by Christ, once again. There is so much in this snippet of Scripture:

And they shall be called The Holy People,
    The Redeemed of the Lord;
and you shall be called Sought Out,
    A City Not Forsaken.

One side of the coin is being sought out, being chosen and loved, someone running after us. The other side of the coin here is that to know what Not Forsaken looks like, we need to experience left alone.

Words associated with the word forsaken in the dictionary include – abandoned, deserted, to disown, renounce, refuse, or discard.

This is so often the world’s message to us – you aren’t worth the time or energy, you aren’t important enough, you are insignificant. This is never, never, God’s message to us.

Flip the coin…

Sought out means not forsaken, not abandoned, not disowned, not renounced, not refused, and never, never discarded.

Look up the following verses and hear God’s message of Not Forsaken –

Deuteronomy 31:8

1 Chronicles 28:20

2 Corinthians 4:9-10 …persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

Hebrews 13:5-6

We may undergo trial. There may be good days and bad days and rotten days and complacent days and joy-filled days and everything in between, but there will never be forsaken days.

You, my friend, are Not Forsaken. It is your name, placed on you by God Himself. Notice the capital letters in the Isaiah text. Sought Out, Not Forsaken. He will be with you each day, in the wonderful and the hard. Cling to that. Let it seep into your soul.

Not Forsaken.

Father, we thank you that You sought us out and that You bring us to You, that You treasure us enough to make promises and follow through, especially when the world goes it’s own way. Charge us to be faithful, Lord. Help us to live in Your promises and find the value and worth of each day in You and You alone. Thank you for Jesus, who makes us new and holy and free. Forgive us when we forsake You, and lead us ever back to Your mercy and grace. We stand on Not Forsaken in You, today. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen. 

fontcandy-38

Exploration:

Martin Luther and other commentators apply this verse also to the Church on earth. The Church being God’s people here and now, and across time. How has God sought out His people in history? What historical moments come to mind when you consider that the Church is not forsaken? What promise of the future is there for the Church in Not Forsaken and Sought Out?

The first verse of the hymn The Church’s One Foundation speaks directly to this topic of Sought Out. Sing this message to yourself or with your family today and be reminded of His Faithfulness.

The church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord;
she is his new creation by water and the Word.
From heaven he came and sought her to be his holy bride;
with his own blood he bought her, and for her life he died. (public domain)

http://www.hymnary.org/hymn/LSB2006/644

 

Clay Walks: A life lived in love

fontcandy-34
*photo made with the vrsly app, using a pexel.com photo
Are the pages of Isaiah getting easier to turn as we man-handle the pages? My study Bible has these ridiculously thin pages and until a section has been tossed and turned again and again, I trip and I fall around trying to find the right chapter and verse. The pages stick together. I turn them and go six chapters too far. I back track and finally land on the selected passage. It becomes easier as I turn the pages more and more. As I study more, the pages have my fingerprints all over them. A side effect of this is that the pages get just crinkly enough that I can turn them deftly and without all the frustration.

This is how faith seems to work as well. Turn to Isaiah 30:18-22.

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
    and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
    blessed are all those who wait for him.

19 For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. 20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. 22 Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, “Be gone!”

Walking, like our fingers moving across the pages of our Bibles, is one of the descriptors of faith in the Bible. In Isaiah 30, we find a fun name for our God associated with this walk – Teacher.

We do not walk alone, girls. We have a Teacher who guides and leads. While this passage doesn’t speak about clay, it fits into our title of clay because clay is moldable. It’s instruct-able. When we say, “Mold me and make me, Lord. You are the potter, I am the clay.” We also say –

Teach me.

Walk with me.

Show me the way.

Isaiah 30 gives us clarity in this picture. As we walk in faith, not in perfection, but simply walking, we grow up into Him, into the Teacher, Christ Jesus. Look at Ephesians 4:14-15:

…so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…

Look just a tiny bit further in your Scriptures and rest on Ephesians 5:1-2.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Living the truth in love looks a whole lot like walking.

Therefore…walk in love. I so often walk in hurt, in bitterness, in impatience, in discontent, in annoyance, in apathy.

Because of Jesus Christ, I can walk in love. I am instruct-able. I need and I have a Teacher to show me the way, to walk beside me, to walk behind me and cover me in forgiveness when I mess up. He also walks ahead to guide me in the True Light.

When I learn, I’m walking. When I grow, I’m walking. When I trust, I’m walking.

Check out Acts 9:1-2.

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Paul, he was walking as God’s clay before he even knew it. He was walking hunting down people. He was walking in destruction. It’s ironic that Christianity is referenced here and only here as “the Way.” Neither right nor left, friends. Jesus is the Way. Paul walked and life changed forever along that Way.

When I am wrong, I’m walking. When I repent, I’m walking. When the breath of forgiveness rushes in, and covers my sin, I’m walking.

He leads. I walk. In His love, in His mercy, through crinkly pages and brokenness into marvelous, inestimable Grace.

Keep walking, friend. Clay walks.

 

Exploration:

What was your first experience with studying the Bible?

 

What group Bible studies have been memorable for you?

 

What is the hardest part of walking in love for you?