Take it ALL in

When deciphering the Bible, almost every word packs a hefty meaning. Small, seemingly insignificant words can leave me with a feeling of awe and wonder at God’s power and enormity. Every time I am reminded of one of those deep meanings, I revel in how much God loves me and every single person. Let’s take a look at the common words ALWAYS and ALL.

Always

When Jesus commissioned the disciples, He said, “And be sure of this: I am with you ALWAYS, ev

en to the end of the age.” In all of those times when we don’t think we can handle our stress, we absolutely can because Jesus is with us ALWAYS — in every second of our lives. And because He is stro

Proverbs 30:5 (NLT) says: Every word of God proves true. He is a shield to all who come to him for protection.

ng and right beside us, we know we are supported 100 percent and we will not fail. We just need to realize that He IS HERE for us!

With respect to our Lord and all He is, Psalm 105:4 (NIV) reminds us to “ALWAYS” see Him in whatever we are doing, thinking, saying. “Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face ALWAYS.” When we do this, we put our selfish desires aside and do God’s will. In everything we do, we should see God’s hands all over it.

All

The other word that needs more attention is ALL. When I read Deuteronomy 6:5: “Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your strength.” I have read this verse hundreds of times and thought, “I got it, I will do my best to love God a lot.” Then I realized that ALL doesn’t mean “a lot,” it means 100 percent. 100 PERCENT!!! 

That means when God is telling you to help someone with a flat tire on a Friday night after work, you do it. If he’s telling you to give up your Saturday golf game to help a widow with yard work, you do it. If you have negative thoughts toward someone, you change them to positive thoughts and pray for them. If you see someone walking along with arms loaded down with groceries, give them a ride. That’s right. In a world where we are worried about our safety, you still help. Do these things and watch your happiness grow. You may think that giving up something will be hard. It is, but what you will find out is that God gives back. Helping someone will actually help your mental health. Hats off to those people who give up their entire lives to serve God by serving others.

Again, God uses ALL in Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT): “Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in ALL you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Here God is reminding us that our ALL is to Him exclusively. ALL does not include our own understanding. If we give our every day lives to God, He will guide us through choices, big or small. And you will be surprised at how pleased you are to do His will. His will is good!

1 Thessalonians 5:15 (NLT) employs both ALL and ALWAYS together.  “See that no one pays back evil for evil, but ALWAYS TRY to do good to each other and to ALL people. This verse gives us a little grace because ALWAYS is followed by TRY. God knows we are human and cannot be perfect followers all the time.  However, as believers, He expects us to try our best. How about making it a goal to show grace to everyone, just like we are given grace from above?

You can read through the Bible quickly to get the gist of it, but if you slow down and linger on Scripture, you will experience the bounty of God’s love in ordinary words. Make it a challenge to dissect every seemingly insignificant word of Scripture and you will unveil a deeper, more fulfilling meaning than you could ever imagine.  Roses are beautiful, but if you stop and smell them, you capture their essence. 

Beautiful People

It’s that time of year when we start contemplating our lives and how we are going to better ourselves in the coming year.  Many of those resolutions come in the form of getting fit.  I have been a passenger on that train many, many times.  And all of those marketers selling products to make us perfect don’t help! 

We hear: 

• Work out every day.

• Cut out all sugar.

• Get eight hours of sleep.

• Drink eight glasses of water.

• Supplements, supplements, supplements. 

Those are common New Year’s resolutions all to make ourselves better, pursuing body perfection.  Of course, most of us should have a daily dose of exercise, especially if we have a stationary lifestyle.  A healthy diet and working out are amazing for the heart and body, but for the soul, we need to workout a different realm. 

For the last couple years, instead of resolving to better my physical body, I focused on goodness.  Every day, I made it a point to read my Bible and do something nice for someone.  I was on track for a couple weeks and then, those priorities fell to menial tasks that were never meant to invade my resolutions.  

Perfection is out of reach

So my quest to achieve a more loving heart happened, but not every day.  How could I be that disciplined anyway?  No person on earth is perfect, especially me!  God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the only beings who are absolutely perfect. Psalm 92:15 says: They will declare, “The Lord is just!  He is my rock!  There is no evil in him!”  So, we should take our cues from the one who has no faults!

Since God is perfection and we have His Word as a role model, we should look at the world as He does … with love.  God does not see the wrinkles in your face, the muffin top, the hair that’s out of place;  He sees your soul, whether it’s beautiful, stressed, meek, sad, joyful, etc.  1 Samuel 16:7: The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

A truly better you

So, if you are going to make a resolution, make one that brings joy to both your heart and others’ hearts to where you love everyone … to where you look at someone and don’t judge them or size them up.  Look at them and love them!  Say, “Hi, how are you?” and rely on God to give you some way to strike up a conversation with them.  Romans 12:9-10 (NLT) says:  Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good.  Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other.

When we connect with others and see that they are human beings, created by God, just like ourselves, we make the world more connected.  The closer we become, the more love we share and the less we quarrel.  That will make a better world for everyone.  So, use this New Year’s resolution to find the love in your heart and offer it to others.  

Bonus verses

Romans 12:2 (ESV): Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Luke 16:15 (ESV):  And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

Give yourself a Solid Foundation

This morning, after watching TV footage of Tropical Storm Nicole, the children’s song, “The Wise Man Built His House Upon the Rock” was streaming through my mind.  Off of Florida’s eastern coast, reporters were showing the ocean biting off chunks of houses and throwing them out to the turbulent waves.  Seeing the homes built on the beach prompted the song which comes from Jesus’s parable recorded in Matthew 7:24-27 and Luke 6:46-49.  

The parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders goes like this: “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.  But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” (Matthew 7:24-27)  

Just reading that Passage over and over, I feel the intensity of the situation.  Then as I read, “it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock,” my body relaxes.  I feel less anxious and more confident — all from those nine words.  Then, as I finish the parable, I tense up again at “collapse with a mighty crash.”

Solid foundation

Many of Jesus’s parables are allegories.  The purpose of the builders’ story is not to advise you when constructing your home’s foundation.  Those folks who have houses on the beach probably checked them structurally for withstanding a hurricane.  They, including inspectors and engineers, probably could not have foreseen homes getting washed from underneath them, or they wouldn’t have built them there.  

The story is getting at the material that you build your life on.  What is important?  What should be your platform, your roots, your engine?  We have a small pond in our backyard and a creek that runs the back property line.  Our house sits on a hill and is not in a flood zone, thus we didn’t consider buying flood insurance.  However, when the 500-year storm named Hurricane Ian passed through over a month ago, our storage areas under the house flooded where some of our belongings were ruined.  Also, our deck and bridge gave way, but they had been showing their age since we moved in a couple years ago.  When we were chopping up the mangled structures for disposal, their weak foundation was exposed: the footers were unbelievably wimpy.  The concrete holding the post in place was about 6 to 8 inches deep and probably about the same amount wide.  And, there was only about 12-18 inches of post in the ground past the concrete — not nearly substantial enough.  However, the structure lasted about 40 years, through numerous hurricanes.  It goes to show that your luck can last a long time, but if your foundation isn’t solid, you will eventually collapse.  

Holy whispering

Last night when I was reading my Bible late, I just asked God to help me fill my being with His Spirit.  The Spirit is in me, but has not overtaken my whole entity.  The Spirit nudges me into doing things and I often don’t do them.  My will puts the Spirit on the sidelines.  When I do my own will, I feel unsettled, unsatisfied.  

I was pondering what makes me feel complete.  It is when I do something wholeheartedly, something that the Spirit has charged me to do.  When I obey the Spirit, telling me to go talk to or help someone, I leave feeling good.  The Spirit nudges you to do good.  You just have to listen and act.  

Don’t collapse!

This is all in line with the builders’ parable.  If we hold to Jesus’s teaching, He is our foundation, our ROCK!  And, as the Passage says, although the rains pour down, floodwaters rise and winds beat against us, we will remain standing.  Those who choose to do otherwise, building their life on shifting sands — money, fame, perfection, lies, ego, superiority, political agenda, swindling, anything that void of righteousness — collapse.  

The parable has to do with the foundation of your being … your soul.  “What do you stand for?” is really not the question.  That would be self-serving.  It is living for Jesus and what He stands for.  Jesus tells us what He stands for in Matthew 22:37-40 (NLT): “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

Love God

How do you love God? Read the Bible.  Yes, It’s a big book.  You can skim it to pick up some ideas.  Look in Psalms to quiet your soul. Read some Proverbs for good advice.  The four Gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — and Acts — tell about Jesus.  Actually, the whole Bible is about Jesus.  Reading it, you will undoubtedly have lots of questions.  Find the answers in a study Bible, a concordance, internet searches or asking a Believer.  A book that I read to understand the framework of the Bible is “30 Days to Understanding the Bible” by Max Anders.  There are also books that provide historical background to help readers understand the cultural climate of Biblical times.  If something doesn’t make sense in Scripture, then look for the answers.  There is an explanation. 

Love others

As far as loving others, Jesus put it perfectly when He said love others as much as you love yourself.  Did you grab all the sale items at the grocery store and leave none for others?  Did you say something to a friend that may have upset them, but felt it was not a big enough deal to apologize?  Does your sarcasm go too far?  Are you in a hurry and beep your horn and scare an elderly driver who is doing their best?  Maybe you snap at home because you are stressed and feel that at home, you can let it go.  Do you leave others to do a project because you have too much to do?  Do you check up on those who have no family?  Do you judge, not knowing a person’s full story?  Do I say these from experience, YES!  I’m working on all of that : )

How do you get inspired to love others?  You read the Bible and understand that Jesus is real and our Savior.  You follow His example.  Then as a gift for believing in Jesus, you get the Holy Spirit who guides you along to loving God and others.  Is just going to church once a week enough?  No, you need to read and understand the Word to understand what God is about.  His way to live will become much clearer with every verse you read.

Jesus told us that if we build our life on Him, we will not fall!  So, why not build your foundation deeper and stronger with Jesus Christ, so you can withstand ANY situation that comes your way?