As I walked my usual morning route, I could not help but notice by the appearance of my neighborhood, how many of my neighbors do not seem to value caring for their lawn and garden. My father and grandfather taught me the importance of mowing the lawn weekly, caring for the flowerbeds, removing weeds, sweeping, raking, etc. They showed me that there is a sense of accomplishment that comes from keeping your home and your property looking good.
While navigating past a heaping mess and nearly slipping on the wet lawn clippings a few times, I reminded myself that I need to keep my attention off of my neighbor’s overgrowth of weeds. My first agenda should never be to try to make a person manage their lawn care better and I should not rush to judgment as I’m passing by the unkept property.
This reminded me of how we are in life at times with our “neighbors.” Remember, the Bible tells us that everyone is our neighbor. And we are to love everyone. Yet we spend a lot less time loving, and a lot more time focused on our neighbor’s overgrowth of weeds. We look at our brothers and sisters in Christ and point out their flaws. We even look to those who have not yet come to know Jesus and point out their flaws too. It is easy to mention the overgrowth of weeds that has infiltrated someone’s life. We want to make every person our project. Then we put ourselves in charge of the “project” because we have such high opinions of ourselves and believe we have the true answer to make the person better. Sadly, we do this so regularly that we miss what needs addressed in our own lives. Plus, we look like a hypocritical proud Pharisee along the way.
Today, as you look to your brothers and sisters, and as you engage with “outsiders,” be reminded again of our true calling. We are to love God and love others. As my grandma would say, “Mind your own plate.” If we each would spend more time focused on our own shortcomings and more time asking God to pour out His grace upon us and allow Him to move in us and through us—if we would simply love, with no strings attached—the overgrowth of weeds would slowly change as His love and grace transforms. Imagine if we recognized our own shortcomings. Imagine if we saw each person as God sees them. Mind your own plate.
“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For you will be judged by the same standard with which you judge others, and you will be measured by the same measure you use. Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a beam of wood in your own eye? Hypocrite! First take the beam of wood out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.” – Matthew 7:1-5 [CSB]
We can glean a lot from the leadership of Moses. This picture we get of him standing in the breach is one that exemplifies what it means to be a leader. Don’t stop reading with the excuse that you are not a leader. Everyone is leading someone. The question is—do you stand in the breach?
First, you have to know what it means that Moses stood before God in the breach. When you consider a breach, picture a wall. You have a wall for protection. This wall works great so long as it remains intact. However, there are moments when there is a breach in the wall—a breakdown of the wall at some point that makes the wall ineffective. Now whatever you are trying to keep out is now coming through this break in the wall. When soldiers are protecting an area and there is a breach, the soldiers will use their own bodies to stand at the breach to continue to ensure the area is protected.
When we look at Moses and this picture of him standing before God in the breach, we see a leader who is concerned for the Israelites, the people he was leading. Despite their sin, their shortcomings and failures, he cared for the people. He sought for their best interest. He stood between them and God and made his plea of intercession. He recognized their weakness. He recognized their sin, but he did not let that change the way He cared for them. He sought the mercy of God. He prayed for the people.
As a leader, the most important thing is to care for the people you are leading—to love them. Love them like Jesus loves them. Love them with all that you are and love them despite their shortcomings and failures. Look at them as God sees them. Do all you can to stand in the breach. Pray for them. Give them your very best as you pour into their lives. Treat your time with them as precious. Don’t sell them short. Don’t treat them as a number or a task. Seek their best interest always. Love them. Love them like Jesus.
“So he said he would have destroyed them–if Moses his chosen one had not stood before him in the breach to turn his wrath away from destroying them.” – Psalm 106:23 [CSB]
As the dogs and I were walking along, I noticed that Marci was walking differently. I picked her up and found something on the bottom of her foot that I quickly removed.
Observation – paying attention – requires us to be intentional. It is necessary to be intentional to understand the needs of the people around you. In this busy world, we often don’t listen when someone is talking with us, because we are trying to contemplate the best answer to the conversation or even thinking about the next task we must accomplish, looking beyond the current interaction. Many times, we are so stuck on ourselves and our goal is to be heard instead of to listen. Also, we are rarely present in the moment, and yet this presence is what is needed to show love and compassion to others. Time is precious, and how you use time is a choice. Do you choose to run around on empty and allow the situations around you to dictate your actions? Do you attempt to be in the moment wherever you are at, being at attention, and calmly following the leading of your Father?
Notice that Jesus was always intentional—always present – and able to understand the needs of those around Him. He spent much time in prayer. He spent much time interacting with people, whereby He invested in their lives, actively listening and engaging in conversation. Conversation, such a lost art today.
Today, be mindful of what is happening around you. Wherever you go, be there. Slow down. Listen for His still small voice. Invest in those before you. Enjoy the people God has put before you, and ask God how you can bless them today to bring Him glory.
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” – James 1:19 [ESV]
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3 [NIV]
Love comes from God. He loved us first. We love because He loved us first (1 John 4:19). Again and again in the Bible, we read how God loves us. We read of His love in action. John wrote that we shouldn’t just say that we love each other. Love isn’t simply words. Instead, “let us show the truth by our actions.” Let us love people by our actions. If we act in love, then we are showing our love.
John wrote a lot about love. Remember he was the beloved disciple. He walked with He Who is love. In 1 John 3:14, we read, “If we love our Christian brothers and sisters, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead” (NLT). John is saying that if we do not have love, that we are dead. Dead. Because if we do not have love, we do not know God (1 John 4:8). If we are not alive in Christ, we are dead in our transgressions.
Today, take time to accept God’s love and renew yourself in it. Consider how God loves you. Ask God to teach you to love like He loves. Aim to intentionally share His love with others. Ask the Spirit to reveal anything you are doing without love. Let us speak words of love, but let us also act in love.
“Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” – 1 John 3:18 [NLT]
In Psalm 28:5, we read about a people who care nothing for what God has done or for what God has made. Consider this for a moment. The person cares nothing for what the Lord has done. The person cares nothing for what God’s hands have made. In this verse we read about 1) acknowledging God – Who He is and what He has done, and 2) caring for what God has made.
The people did not care about God, about what He made, about what He did. They lacked adoration for God. They lacked compassion for His Creation. This includes lacking compassion for people. These people were doing the opposite of what Jesus says is most important: Love God, love people.
“Care nothing” can be seen as disregard or lack of consideration. The Message translates this as the people having “no idea how God works or what He is up to.” It all points back to acknowledging the Lord and desiring a relationship with Him, wanting to know Him more. As you have this regard for Him, as you grow in your relationship with Him, you will grow in your love for the things He loves. You will care for what He has done and for what His hands have made.
“They care nothing for what the LORD has done or for what His hands have made. So He will tear them down, and they will never be rebuilt!” – Psalm 28:5 [NLT]
The Bible again and again mentions not making treaties with others. It might seem strange to us because we don’t usually go around making treaties. When we thinking of treaties, we think of government alliances. So what can we glean from all of these verses that tell us to “make no treaties”?
These alliances were seen as being bad because of the consequences the people would face for aligning with these people who did not worship God. The people would eventually lead God’s people to worship other gods. God’s people were to be set apart, to be holy. The people were to be a chosen people. If the people had a close relationship with those who did not follow God, they too, would not follow God. Time and time again, we have seen how the people you surround yourself with makes a big impact on your life.
Applying this to your own life doesn’t mean never being around non-believers. We are called to be out in the world, shining a light. We cannot isolate ourselves. However, we need to be careful who we keep close. Our inner circle should be strong God fearing people. Our close relationships should be with those who love God and will encourage us to love God and love His people. Keep people close who will empower you to live for Jesus, who seek your very best.
“Make no treaties with them or their gods.” – Exodus 23:32 [NLT]
In Exodus 23, we read a lot about the commands of the Lord. Some of the commands might seem foreign to us. Do you usually see a “donkey of someone who hates you (that) has collapsed under its load”? Most people do not even know someone who owns a donkey.
Even so, we can glean something from these commands. In today’s verse, we can note that in our culture today, this would be like seeing someone who hates you with a broken down car at the side of the road. Do you go on by or do you stop and help? Do you care?
I’ve been considering that question a lot lately. God wants us to care. If we love God, we should love people like He loves people. He commands it! If we have a heart for God, it is a heart that feels for others. If we don’t care, if we have a heart issue, that can be helped by the Holy Spirit. Allow the Spirit to work on you from the inside out. Pray about it. If you care for only some people, but there are others you disregard, there’s still a disconnect. The “stop and help” command does not change from one person to the next. Today, look inward. When you pass someone with a broken down donkey (or car), do you walk by?
“If you see that the donkey of someone who hates you has collapsed under its load, do not walk by. Instead, stop and help.” – Exodus 23:5 [NLT]
Many times we pick and choose who we want to show kindness. It is a lot easier that way. We don’t need to address any of our own personal issues when we desire to show love and kindness to a person. We can stay in our comfort zone. The problem is, we aren’t meant to stay in our comfort zone, and we are commanded to love everyone. This includes loving those who are not easy to love.
In Matthew 25, we read about the Sheep and the Goats, the final judgment. In Verse 35, Jesus begins to share that what we do for others we are doing for Him. When we feed someone who is hungry, we feed Him. When we give someone who is thirsty a drink, we are refreshing Him. When we clothe the naked, we are clothing Him. When we visit someone who is sick or in prison, we are visiting Him. This can be helpful to self-examination, to looking inward at our heart and checking our motives and our level of compassion.
It will always be easier to help someone who you know well, someone who is like you, someone you find comfortable. But we can never share the love of Christ with the world if we stay in our own little safety area. Don’t stay in the bubble this week. Say “hello” to someone new. Do something kind for a stranger. Share the love of Christ with those who come along your path.
“Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’”- Matthew 25:45 [NASB]