If you read the news, you’ll see consistent coverage of polarizing topics and conversations that divide. Politics, government spending, inequality in the workplace, global warming, immigration. Everyone seems to have a strong opinion and divisiveness is the status quo. Marching, arguing, hating.
The thing is, you have more in common with your neighbour than you have differences.
If you’ve ever traveled to another country and spent time people-watching, you know a mother’s love is universal. Laughter in a movie theatre or adoration for a sunset alongside strangers transcends which suburb you grew up in or what sort of car you drive.
Stand in line at a water park with thousands of other guests and you’ll see that stretch marks don’t discriminate. Shade cover is ubiquitously desired and over-priced burgers taste good after a long swim in sunshine. Everyone agrees.
Can you spend some time today focussing on what you have in common with your neighbours, rather than your differences? Pray you will be able to extend grace to those you might disagree with and smile despite your disparity.
Prayer opens your heart and eyes to the need around you. The Holy Spirit will show you how to bless those across the road and serve your neighbours, no strings attached. Meeting people where they are will diminish your differences and allow God to make his way onto your street and into your hearts. Love lessons the gap between us and that’s something everyone can admit is more fun than fighting.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35 NIV).
Societies flourish when families flourish. Families thrive when marriages are healthy. And, unconditional love is at the centre of a strong marriage. 1 John 3:18 encourages us to love not with words or speech, but with actions and truth.
How can you show love to your spouse today? First, begin by praying for him or her. If you’re not married, pray for your future spouse or for important marriages in your life. Seek to look at your partner through God’s eyes today. It’s important to have him at the centre of your marriage. As each person seeks to know Jesus more intimately, intimacy grows between the couple.
You may not be married to a fellow believer. Pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to your spouse through your selfless actions of love. Ask him to reveal himself to your partner in creative ways.
Pray that marriages within the church will be strengthened. Ask God to give help those who may be struggling.
The Man said, “Finally! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! Name her Woman for she was made from Man.” Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife. They become one flesh. (Genesis 2:23-24 MSG)
Much of the New Testament was written to churches, giving instruction and encouragement. We are no different today in our need for constant affirmation of our faith, authentic friendships, a pat on the back. Hebrews 10:24 in The Message says, “let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out.”
It’s easy to offer up a prayer for someone in your life who may need it. Today, why not go the extra step and use a little imagination in how you encourage someone in your world?
You often receive back what you’re willing to give when it comes to friendship and community. Think about who in your church might need to hear from you today. See how resourceful you can be in reaching out. Try picking up the phone instead of the easy text message. Invite someone for dinner or coffee. Write a nice card. Bring flowers.
You know the old adage, “actions speak louder than words.” Usually things are cliché because they hold truth. God created us with a need for friendship and support. You aren’t meant to do life alone.
As you continue to spend time in prayer and fasting, your relationship with your Heavenly Father is deepening. The closer you are to him, the more clearly you hear his voice, the more secure you feel about your circumstances, your family, your work.
Now, it’s time to look outside of yourself and begin to see how you can impact your surroundings. Look at the encouraging words of Peter:
“Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes.” (1 Peter 4:7-11 MSG)
So often, your personal struggles are what hold you back from pursuing all that God has for you. Guilt over poor choices dismantles your ability to see yourself as God sees you. Bad relationships bring you down and discourage you. Other people’s problems encroach on your peace. Work or financial issues cause you to feel overwhelmed.
Although these are everyday realities for you, you must not let them overshadow your walk with God. Today, reflect upon God’s goodness and mercy towards you even though you live in a fallen world and a sinful body.
The author of Lamentations wrote while mourning the impending exile of the Jews in the midst of great sin and disarray in Jerusalem. The Message version of Lamentations Chapter 3 implores you to “keep a grip on hope” because God’s mercies are new each day; “the worst is never the worst.” If life doesn’t look quite like you wanted as you woke up today, stay the course. Stop beating yourself up because of your failures. Say something nice to yourself. Apologise for hurts you’ve caused and move on.
It’s a new day. God is on your side and “his stockpiles of loyal love are immense.” He is still on the throne and no matter your circumstances, he can be found in the midst. Turn your full attention to him today. Relinquish the desire to be perfect or to wallow in guilt or shame. Embrace God’s mercy in giving you another day, a do-over, if you will.
Read Colossians 3:18-25 (MSG)
You’ve probably heard the mantra, “God First, Family Second, Job Third.” Although I don’t believe life can be so simple as to compartmentalise our relationships in a linear fashion, I understand this thought speaks to priorities. In any given moment, I’m loving God, my husband, my kids and my work all at the same time! However, the out working of my first love and affection being Christ means my other obligations fall into alignment. I love my husband better. Then, when we are healthy and walking in unity, our kids benefit. As our family prospers, we can invest in other areas with joy and ease.
When our jobs become more important than our kids, people suffer. When our personal expectations and image trump our kid’s feelings and struggles, we risk crushing their spirits. As employees, husband and wives, we must serve and work as though we are serving the Lord. This removes any chance of offence or bitterness when our own expectations aren’t met.
As we continue to focus on our families through prayer and fasting this week, let us commit to doing everything in our power to serve and bless those whom we influence. Keeping our priorities and investment of time, energy, kind words, and service in the right order, we not only bring honour and glory to God, but our families prosper as well.
Heavenly Father, only YOU know what the dynamics of my work and family life are like. Give me strength to do what you have called me to do to love and honour those in my life. On good days when it’s easy, I rejoice! On bad days, when life is hard and I don’t receive the respect and love I so desire, help me to focus on YOU first and honour you anyway. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Read 1 John 4:7-21
**Today begins our third and final week of corporate fasting and we will concentrate our prayers over the next seven days on our families.
As we lean into God’s voice for direction and wisdom moving forward in 2015, let us place the highest value and commitment on loving our families. John reminds us that by loving each other, we actually reveal God’s character to the world. Since God SO LOVED US, we ought to love one another.
Oh, I know… we all love our kids and our spouses. But, true love is laying our lives down for one another as Christ laid his down for us. Can we love a little more intentionally this week those God has placed in our families? Can we serve our spouses a little more with less strings attached? Can we bless our children with joy despite fatigue or irritation? Let’s put aside negative history with our extended families or parents and reach out.
We are only able to love others because Christ first loved us.
No matter what personal goals we have regarding our careers, health, or finances in this new year, can we commit to loving our spouses, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers? Let’s pray for those we care for most and call out their gifts and uniqueness through kind words and prophecy.
Dear Lord, I want to thank you for my family. For the ones I chose and the ones I didn’t! I commit to obeying your command to love the people in my life just as you love me. I will do my part to serve and bless my family so that you may be glorified. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.