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Please be aware that the core idea embedded within comes from Campus Crusade for Christ, and along with some features of theme development, may be also subject to their copyright.
This is the weekend of the Fourth of July, a day when our neighbours to the south celebrate the freedom that they as a nation have won.
For many of us, freedom is an important concept. And in this series on "Things I have learned or that the Lord has showed me," the thought I want to share is about the freedom to love and to serve. It is a unique idea that has had a big impact in my life since I first heard it. Not only does it cover what has to change, but also how we can go about making that change.
I currently live in the Wolsley area of Winnipeg. Quite often I take the bus along Westminster when I go to work. It's quite a bit different from riding the bus along Portage. It's just a little less rushed, and hardly ever crowded. Usually, there's a nice handful of people on the bus.
This one day, there were about seven or eight of us riding the bus, when a young couple boarded. What amazed me was that she had the sweetest voice, and the lovliest smile, and here she was, complaining in her sweet voice to her partner, about how they kept running into this certain woman, and she couldn't stand her.
I thought, "How appropriate. This will make a valuable introduction to my topic."
You see, the lesson I learned very early in my Christian walk was that there were people I just couldn't love in my own strength. You know, I felt guilty. I knew I should love everyone. I thought that it was silly not to love everyone. And I am by nature pretty easy-going.
But nothing could change the fact that there were people that I found difficult to love. I was repulsed by them. I just didn't have that `loving feeling' for them.
As I have been working on this message, I realize that there are new people whom I need to apply this to in my own life. There are types of people whom I find it difficult to love because of what they represent, like gang members who I see as a threat to my safety. And there are international leaders who I waste my life detesting, like Saddam and his ilk.
You see, God knows it is for our own benefit that we learn to love others. If we spend our time being angry at those things that we cannot change, we only hurt ourselves.
It was from attending a Campus Crusade for Christ Lay Institute for Evangelism, that I learned about what I want to share with you.
One of their seminars was on how to love by faith. So with your forbearance, I will share with you what I learned then, and what I have since learned. It is like a wedding: some things old, some things new, and some things borrowed.
When we invite Christ into our hearts, he initially makes a big change. But after this he brings to our attention areas of our life that we have yet to yield to him.
Our Christian life is in this like the mustard seed. As we water our faith, it grows. And so it is with this area of love.
Jesus asks again: Peter, do you agape me?
Peter answers: Lord, you know I phileo you.
Jesus: Feed my lambs.
Jesus asks the third time: Peter, do you Phileo me.
Peter answers, troubled: Lord, you know I Phileo you.
Jesus: Feed my sheep.
You see, Jesus takes us where we are, and uses that to glorify himself.
I have been married (and to the same woman) for 26 years. For my wife, the dream died two or three times. But a miracle from God brought it back. As she says, the Holy Spirit was standing by with a defibrilator to revive the failing heart, and breathe new life into it.
She felt we were living in the same house, but emotionally divorced. I remember one time, when I actually sensed it was serious, having a long walk and putting it into God's hands.
Jesus says that we will be known by our love for one another as Christians.
There are those whom it is easy to love.
Then there are those who have different ideas from mine. I can reason that God will set them straight. So I can put up with them.
But of course Jesus says to love your enemies. "Sure, I guess I can love them, just as long as they are not next door! But what about those ones at work who just rankle me? What about that child of mine that always turns up the music so loud, and just won't listen? What about that spouse who doesn't care for me anymore, where the spark has died? Come on, you really don't expect me to love that one, do you?
"How am I supposed to do good to the one who hurt me? How can I love the one who doesn't care! I've lost all feeling for them, you know."
There's the rub. Jesus didn't say to feel all gushy about them. Compassion is not about emotions. Compassion is about a step of faith.
Can I repeat that for you?
(here it is again)
Compassion is about a desperate heart crying out to God and saying, "That person drives me up the wall! I can't love them. I've given up trying. But Lord, I'm willing to let your love dwell in me. I don't know how you will do it, but love that (insert your nemisis here __________) through me."
Yet when the person moved out, their mail kept coming to his home. He could not figure out why they didn't just have it forwarded to another address.
So the next time he saw this person, he asked why they deciced to keep having their mail sent to his house. They said, "Because I felt loved here."
God had taken that staffer's prayer, and without him noticing any change, had made it obvious to the other person.
There is no guarantee that when you ask God to love someone through you, that you are going to feel any different. But when you take something to Jesus and leave it at his feet, miracles can and do happen. I don't know if it is enough to save your marriage, to heal your relationship with your kids, or to win that lost person to Christ. I don't know if it will change anything at work. But I do know that when you put it in God's hands as a grain of mustard seed, there is no telling what can happen. God works things out for our best, because that is to his own glory also.
If we never try, we won't know, will we. But if we will take the step of confessing our own lack, then God can use that and build on it.
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