Love Your Neighbor, Love Yourself

It Starts With Love

Love Your Neighbor.  It is the simple direction Jesus left with us when questioned about which commandment was the greatest (Mark 12:28-31).  He answered,  “Love your neighbor”.  Your neighbor could be living on either side of your home or working in the office next door.  Your neighbor could also be occupying the bedroom next to yours in the same house.  The Bible didn’t say ‘change your neighbor’ or ‘judge your neighbor’, it just said to love your neighbor.  During the divided times we appear to be living in across this world it makes me wonder – why is it so hard to love our neighbor?  To make it personal, why is it so hard for me to love my neighbor?  I think it all boils down to the other simple concept laid out in this scripture…if you are going to love your neighbor you must also love yourself.

The scripture says in verses 30-31:

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.’[b] 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no commandment greater than these.”

Love Me Too?

Interestingly, when I read this verse I have this visual of a triangle with God, me and my neighbor at each point.  This triad is one that is continually cycling.  God loves me, then I love my neighbor, then my neighbor loves (or learns of) God.  Then God loves my neighbor, then they love me and then I love God.  It is a continuous process that blesses all and gives God the Glory. It seems though, the hardest part of this verse is the ‘loving yourself’ part.  I truly believe it is hard to love our neighbor genuinely because we must first learn to genuinely love ourselves.  See, we have an intimate view of our flaws, fears, and shortcomings.  We know what is in or secrets closet.  We know what we have been through.  With all that we know, who could love us? Without conditions too?

Receive God’s Love

Thankfully, God loves us beyond what we see.  He always sees our potential and purpose.  God wants you to know you were created with perfection in mind (Song of Solomon 4:7).  You were fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).  Sometimes it is easier to serve and love our neighbors because it makes us feel better about ourselves.  In other words, our kindness provides a justification to love ourselves which isn’t quite how I believe God wants us to perceive our existence.  Our love for our neighbor is an extension of our love for ourselves and our love for ourselves is an extension of God’s love for us.  Also, it shows our understanding of the beautiful creation we are because God made us.  God loves us, flaws and all.  Looking back at that triangle again, it the perfect foundation to demonstrate the righteousness of God with each point interacting with each other – respectfully, lovingly and with compassion.

How do we get to ‘loving’  ourselves?  Love God with all your heart and soul.  Let God love you back.  Receive His unconditional love.  God doesn’t love us because of ourselves, God loves us in spite of ourselves with no boundaries.

That is how we love our neighbors.  Can you imagine what this world would be like if we operated this way?  It leaves me breathless to think of what that state would look like.  So, until then, I’m going to start where God has me – in my home, my neighborhood, my workplace and my church.

And, by the way, also start with loving you!  Start where God has you – but first look up and thank God for creating beauty and perfection in you – then, pass it on.

This is the foundation of Living the Redeemed Life.  God has already prepared the path for your purpose in this world with his redeeming love.  Walk in it, love and don’t look back!

#LivingTheRedeemedLife

Some Days, I Need a Strong Tower

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Going In For Cover

Some days, I need a Strong Tower. Actually, most days I need one. You know, the one mentioned so frequently throughout the Bible promising cover and protection from the most personal and oppressive forces? If you have ever said the phrase “This is one of those days”, then you can understand what this means.

Where Can I Hide?

The interesting thing about exclaiming I need a strong tower is that many times I am crying out to God to give me a place to hide – a quiet sanctuary where I can block out the distractions of this world. Though it is a great thought, unfortunately, it is not always feasible; like when I am driving in traffic or working with a team on a project. The thought of going poof into the air to my ‘strong tower’ place might also scare those around me – kind of like the rapture though they weren’t caught up with me. Still, it is a fun thought…but I digress.

God’s Covering

In the Bible, a strong tower is described much like a fortress. It is a fortified place that not only provides safety for those inside but also keeps the undesirable things outside. It is a pure place. A safe place. We sometimes look at our homes as ‘strong towers’ because they are our ‘safe places’. But even they can be penetrated by unexpected events and emotions – anyone that has lived with a growing teenager can relate. When God is your strong tower it goes much deeper. God can be your safe place – even in the middle of a crowd. I know that may not make sense but think about Psalms 23:5 which says “God prepares a place for us in the presence of our enemies”. It reminds us that He is always aware of what we face. If God prepares the place for you it is already anointed with His protection. His cover is over you always, even when those desiring your downfall are right before you.

That is what His strong cover means – He is our fortress and refuge in the middle of the storm (Psalm 46). What a promise and what a blessing God offers to those that seek Him.

So, the next time ‘one of those days’ or even one of those moments creep up on you, seek the cover of a loving and safe place. Seek God. He’s got plenty of room to cover you and no one – I mean no one – can break through His walls. You are safe with Him.

#LivingTheRedeemedLife

God Uses You Right Where You Are

God Can Use You

Here, I sit in my favorite coffee shop, journaling about my day and life and my current focus on God’s movement in the desires of my heart.  As I write, I speak to God about using me and opening doors and getting me ready for my next season. I jot down all the things I want to do and, out of habit, I start outlining the steps to get them done. I get a bit anxious when I get to the steps that may require more resources than I currently have but keep writing and put an asterisk next to those bullet points trusting God will provide whatever I need. Suddenly, I hit a wall where I could not focus. As I try to write my thoughts down I become increasingly distracted. What was this about? I like the white noise of this space and can usually focus (I pretty much wrote my first book in this same coffee shop) so why is my mind wandering all over the place?

God, Was That You?

Then I have a BAM! moment – I feel this deep conviction in my spirit telling me ‘I want to use you right where you are’. Is that you speaking to me God? I stopped, looked around and then focused on my coffee cup. At that point, I understood what I was being told.

See, all of my ‘planning’ was so forward thinking it was as if I couldn’t do anything until some other event occurred. For example, I ‘will’ set up my sewing machine to make hats for sick kids once I get some additional resources (e.g. money) to get the fabric and ultimately the time to do it. As I contemplate the topic for my next book, God was telling me “I’ve already given it to you, so get started on the outline”. This was true but for some reason, I was waiting for some event – like the words being carved in stone from a lightning bolt before I actually sat down to start writing. In other words, I already had what I needed to get started so I shouldn’t plan as if I needed to acquire something else before I could move. I already have a ton of fabric in my basement to get started on the hats so what was I waiting for?

Watch For the ‘Pot Holes’

Procrastination, disguised as planning, can be a tool the enemy uses to keep you from your goals, dreams and, more importantly, God’s purpose in your life. We sometimes ‘wait’ out of fear when we really need to be moving because of faith. Now, I am not saying you should just move without any forethought on the plans of your life after all the Bible says ‘the people perished due to lack of vision’ (Proverbs 29:18) but there is a point where you have to trust God for the provision for your dreams and direction. In business, there is a term called ‘planning paralysis’ where you can plan so long you end up doing nothing. In life, sadly, this can have an end result of you never experiencing what a great God can do if you just let Him move.

Jeremiah 29:11 says:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

So today, as you look ahead in your life, prayerfully seek those areas you have been holding onto or even ‘holding out’ on and trust God to provide. You already have what you need to prosper and that is your faith. God is our dream giver and provides for whatever you need – right where you are.
#LivingTheRedeemedLife