Forgetting what is behind
Putting no confidence in the flesh
Striving for what is ahead
Forgetting what is behind
Putting no confidence in the flesh
Striving for what is ahead
Love Your Enemy
Love Above All 4
Luke 6:27-36, Matthew 22:37-40
Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, your soul, and your mind. Second UNTO this, love your neighbor as yourself (and love yourself as you love your neighbor)
When Jesus is asked, “what is the greatest commandment?”, he answers with pristine diplomacy and conviction. He begins with the Shemah, the verses everyone devoted to the Jewish faith not only had memorized, but literally wore on their forehead, “Love the Lord your God”. He doesn’t leave it hanging there though, He continues with instructions for what this looks like. “Second to this, love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love the Lord your God, and do this by loving your neighbor as yourself. A mentor of mine encouraged me to complete this by adding, “love yourself as you love your neighbor.”
Love is the mark that defines someone who follows Jesus.
Love Above All 3
1 Corinthians 3:13
Hebrew is one if the most beautiful written languages. I have been working through a podcast that digs deeper into the original Hebrew text of the Bible and it’s root meanings, so I was feeling Hebraic today!
After translating all the attributes of love in 1 Corinthians 3, I used the characters of the word ALWAYS and engraved them into bricks. The commitment of ‘Always’ is the foundation of love. The mortar that holds our always is agape.
Love never fails.
I had not planned on sharing my drawing from today, but God has a way of arranging things.
We began a new sermon series at Journey today, Love Above All (Valentine’s themed). I was behind the drum kit this morning, which usually means more time to draw, from having two rounds of the sermon during which to draw. This morning was a bit different. We began taking advantage of the first service to have a small group Bible study discussion as the worship team, second service included a housekeeping conversation inspired by a budget meeting from the previous week. Following the pastor’s sermon outline for our discussion, this image of a blooming rose stayed in the front of my mind.
The message was an overview of love, what is love, how does God view love and how do we live a life of love as God designed? Jesus was once asked, what is the greatest of all the commandments? His answer, as all of his replies, was perfectly executed:
Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘ hear , O israel ! the Lord our God is one Lord ; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart , and with all your soul , and with all your mind, and with all your strength .’ The second is this, ‘ you shall love your neighbor as yourself .’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:29-31 NASB
We often read this as a bullet point list, but this could not be more wrong. Jesus is affirming the old law, the Shema, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul and your mind.” Then He takes it a step further. Those raised in traditional Jewish homes in this time period were familiar with the Shema being written on a piece of paper and placed in a small box, then tied to their foreheads as an outward expression of their devotion to the Lord. Jesus is plainly stating this is not how to show love to God. “The second is this, love your neighbor as yourself…” Directly tied to the greatest commandment are brief but direct instructions on what loving God looks like. Our love for God is expressed most clearly in our love for each other.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
John 13:35 ESV
The rose is an encouragement to bloom. Grow where you’re planted and let your true colors shine. The thorns on the stem are references that loving openly is not always comfortable or easy.
I started out confessing that I did not intend to share this drawing. A not so coincidential encounter this afternoon changed my mind.
My oldest son served with me at Journey this morning. It was youth Sunday, he signed up to help out with the tech team. After service, he suggested we go play some Pokemon Go downtown. It was a warm day in central North Carolina, so off we went. The public library is one of the Pokemon hot spots. We parked and began walking past the fountain and up to a sculpture on the library grounds. As we walked, a young woman was walking toward us from the other side of the building. She seemed to hug the building, as if she were trying to hide her presence and avoid attracting our attention. We were about twenty feet from her when her eyes met mine. She immediately spoke in the loudest voice she could muster without bursting into tears “I’m waiting for my ride, is it ok if I wait here?” I am not a representative of the city, but I cannot imagine any public employee having an issue with her request, so I replied that it was quite alright. Noah and I kept walking. The young woman spoke again, “I just left the hospital. I lost my baby.”
I froze in my tracks. Eight years ago, my sister lost a child hours after he was born. In the last year, a family very close to me buried the newest member of their family after a few short months of life. I looked at my son, looked back at this young woman who was now seated against the library and sobbing, then motioned to Noah, “let’s go talk to her.” Noah nodded in agreement.
As we approached this young woman, I observed physical attributes indicative of drug abuse. I asked if it was ok for us to come closer, she nodded through her tears. I began sharing with her my sympathy and my experience with death too early, but confessed that no one can truly know what her heart is experiencing but her. She proceeded to confess how she does not believe she is worthy of the love of God because she has lived a life wrought with pain no human being should experience. Many of her life experiences have been direct attacks on her self worth. A childhood of unimaginable abuse, being thrust into a life of adulthood at 17, then losing custody of her son (now 8) after some very poor life choices, losing her career to the consequences of earlier life decisions, now losing the young life she was viewing as a second chance to contribute something positive into life only a couple of weeks after listening to their young heart beating. Noah and I say with her and listened, we shared our experience of God’s love and ways He has moved to bring light I to our darkness, to me through my seizures, to Noah through his conversation experience and recent Baptism.
Then it struck me. This is why I drew a rose. This young woman and her baby are the reason. I asked her to wait a moment, I had something for her. I jogged back to my van, opened my sketch book to this drawing, snapped a quick photo and carefully removed the page along the perforated seam. The tears began welling up in this young woman’s eyes again as I walked closer with the drawing on hand. I handed her the image, and explained what I just confessed to you. I didn’t know why I was drawing this image as the pencil was moving, but now I understand. This rose was for her, this rose was for her child. She has lived a life navigating through thorns, but God still wants to watch her bloom.
Noah and I moved on in our Pokemon quest. Walking back to our vehicle, we could see this young woman had moved to the large fountain and was waiting on the fountain wall for her ride. I stopped and asked if we could get anything for her. She thought a moment and said she would really like a bottle of water and maybe a bag of chips. She adamantly insisted that she does not like receiving charity and wanted to pay for the water, then pulled three dollars out of her back pocket and handed it to me (what I perceived as being g all she had). Noah and I drove to Walgreens, about half a mile away, we purchased her a coconut water drink with antioxidants, a bag of cheese chips Noah likes and a bag of trail mix with probiotic heavy ingredients. I threw her three dollars back in the bag with the snacks. We drove back to the library, where the young lady still waited at the fountain, and Noah handed her the bag through the van window. As we pulled into the street, I saw her look into the bag, shake her head and smile. I saw her waving in my mirror as I slowly drove away, I saw her waving to us. I could hear her voice, but couldn’t understand her words. That didn’t matter, because I could read her lips….”Thank you! Good bless you!”
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. And second unto this, love your neighbor as yourself. By this, people will know you are My disciples.
I ask each one who reads these words, please remember Delana (De-lay-na) in your prayers.
2 Timothy 1:8
Shame has no grip on me because I am a reclaimed follower of Jesus; neither the devil, nor the grave, nor the tongue of ANY man can alter the truth that my God is not ashamed of me and I am not ashamed of Him.
We are the body of Jesus, we share in the glory, and in the suffering, of following Christ. We become the body by holding each other accountable and supporting each other on this Journey.
The body of Christ is made up of our intertwined and interdependent bodies. The head is clear, because Jesus is the head. Inspited by multiple legislations passed around the United State last week, a fetus is growing in the core of the Christ.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
I don’t know about you, but 2017 was a very long and often difficult year for me. 2017 coming to an end was life’s Christmas present to me. I welcomed 2018, but with with cautious reservations like drinking a steaming fresh cup of hot cocoa.
I am confident I was not alone in this feeling. Michael and the team at Journey are sensitive to this spirit of apprehension as well, choosing to kick off 2018 with a series titled ‘Uphill’, inspired by a quote from leadership coach, John Maxwell.
The first and most significant step in developing uphill habits is focusing on what you do. Where your feet take you (or where you allow them to go) determines who you are. One thing that life and humanity guarantees is that we will create habits in our life. Some good, some not so much. It is a mistake to consider habits lightly. Your habits are your responsibility. You define your habits, but then these same habits will define you.
You stand at the 2018 block of Another Way. You get to choose your road from here.
The Parable of the Hole
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost. I am helpless. It isn’t
my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in the same place, but it’s still not my fault. It still takes a long time getting out.
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there, but I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it. I walk down a
– Portia Nelson
Change what I do. Check. That’s really easy to say, but how do I actually do it when my habits are so deeply part of me? You must take control of your mind, be the master of your thoughts.
Romans 12:2, 3:5-6
We are what we repeatedly do.
How we think determines how we feel.
You can’t change your behavior without changing the way you think.
Your thoughts determine your destiny
My 11 year old son drew with me this week! His explanation of his drawing is the person is thinking of things he wants his life to be, while what is happening around him are habits he needs to change in order to make his thoughts a reality.
Well, ok. I am focusing on what I do and controlling my mind so it stays focused on uphill habits and not sliding comfortably back into old routines. Now what?
Keep your life aligned with your purpose.
Guardrails along the interstate are put in place to keep drivers safe. They don’t actively hold vehicles on the road, but they do prevent an accident from becoming something catastrophic. Using our actions and out thoughts, and leaning on God’s direction, we can put up guardrails that keep our lives aligned with the path we travel. That doesn’t mean accidents won’t happen, but it will ensure bumps in the road won’t change our direction.
Work of Art
The Israelites marked each milestone on their journey to the Promised Land with a pile of stones, which inspired them to keep moving; at work of art to mark every accomplishment.
Out lives are God’s work of art, His workmanship. The word in today’s drawing is the original Greek, translated ‘workmanship’; or more literally, work of art.
God builds our lives as His work of art, we climb uphill, becoming our lives by living God’s work of art.
The greatest asset to the trajectory of our lives are our relationships. The crowd we run with, the people we let into our circle. Psychology has studied social phenomenons of friendships and discovered many details about an individual can be determined simply by looking at who they hang out with. Political views, annual income, consumer habits, even the number of children you have and how healthy your most intimate relationship will be can be predicted with astounding accuracy by looking at your five closest friends in a lineup.
Relationships being our greatest asset, also makes us vulnerable to them becoming the most significant threat to our ability to grow. Choosing our relationships wisely, the ones to start, to keep and to change or end entirely, is critically important to defining our lives and holding to our path.
Uphill 4 – Choose My Relationships Carefully
1 Peter 4:7-8, Romans 12:17-18, 1 Corinthians 15:33, Proverbs 13:20, Proverbs 29:17
Nurture – Anything left on autopilot is destined to crash.
Restore – Forgiveness is not dependent on the other person’s response
Sever harmful relationships.
Initiate heathy relationships.
We feed each other, but we also depend on each other. We are responsible for feeding each other well, and just as responsible to ensure we are being fed well.
Noah interpreted this message a little more literally than I