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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Lebanon County barns 2/13/18
Earlier this week we passed this attractive red barn complex in Lebanon County.

"The First And Greatest Commandment"

Note: Valentine's Day was on Wednesday so this week we are sharing a series of messages on love.

Message summary: Today we will consider what Jesus called the first and greatest commandment.

ListenListen to our message on your audio player.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:5). "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment" (Matthew 22:37).

Loving God book coverOne of the formative books in my Christian growth was a book I read many years ago with the simple title "Loving God" written by the late Charles Colson. Following his involvement in the Watergate scandal Colson had a life-transforming conversion experience
and went on to live the remainder of his life as a committed and active servant of Christ. The book is a compelling look at the cost of discipleship and the meaning of the first and greatest Commandment that we are to love God.

Today's second text is a response to a question by a lawyer and expert of the law who asked Jesus what the most important commandment is. "Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested Him with this question: 'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?'" (Matthew 22:34-36). The question was likely an attempt to trap Jesus.

But Jesus responds with one of the greatest summary explanations of how His followers were to be characterized.  "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments'" (Matthew 22:37-40).

Jesus is actually quoting from the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 6 a statement known as the Shema, one of the best-known, most fundamental expressions of Jewish belief. "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength" (Deuteronomy 6:4,5).

Yesterday a tragic reminder of our fallen world dominated the news with yet another school shooting resulting in multiple injuries and fatalities. There is much hand wringing with various proposals on how to "fix the problem". Sadly for many the one true fix is mocked. That fix is expressed in these words from a Gaither song:

It's not complicated;
Don't need a lot of rules,
This is all you'll need to know.
Loving God, loving each other.

Authentic, culture-transforming Christianity comes down to loving God and loving each other. Everything we do - our relationships, our work, entertainment, education, and every sphere of life should demonstrate to a watching world our love for God. No success, status, or possession will matter at the end of our days. How we loved God and loved others is what really matters.

So let us be characterized with a sold-out genuine and sacrificial love for God.

Be encouraged today.

Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Thankful manDaily prayer: Father, we know that You are a faithful God, keeping Your covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love You and keep Your commandments. Your love is so abundant that You not only have provided for our physical needs but also our spiritual need of salvation. We have not seen, nor have we heard and our mind has not fully conceived of the things You have prepared for us but we look with anticipation to the time when we will receive all that You have promised to those who love You.

But in the meanwhile we remain faithful and trust You for all that weighs our hearts down; most recently the mass shooting yesterday that resulted in multiple injuries and 17 fatalities in Parkland, Florida. We pray that those personally affected will find Your peace in the midst of horrendous chaos. We pray for those in authority, both school and law officials - that You guide them as they seek to bring order and normalcy back to the classroom setting in the days and weeks ahead. May Your comfort be found by those who lost loved ones. Grant strength and courage to those injured. We also pray for those who dealing with inevitable fear from their haunting experience; faculty, students, and family members. May they find courage and peace as they seek to work through and overcome this horrible act of evil. May something good come from that which was intended as evil since we are not to be overcome by evil, but we are to overcome evil with good. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

Verses with the phrase "those who love Him":
  • "Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments"  (Deuteronomy 7:9)
  • "Then I said: 'Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments" (Nehemiah 1:5)
  • "I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments" (Daniel 9:4)
  • "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).
  • "However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”— the things God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9)
  • "Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12)
  • "Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?" (James 2:5).ddd

Here is an outline of our messages this week:

Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources

"Loving God, Loving Each Other"  Video  Gaither Vocal Band

"My Jesus I Love Thee"  Video  The Collingsworth Family

"What is the greatest commandment?" from the Bible Study website "GotQuestions"

Finally today:
Basketball goal in sun (Photo by Shawn Sauerwine)
Shawn Sauerwine, a friend of ours, took this photo of what appears to be a sun swish! Our temperatures have been more comfortable in recent days so a basketball hoop looks rather inviting for those who enjoy this activity.

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Scripture references are from The Holy Bible: New International Version. © 1984 by International Bible Society; NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. and the King James Version.

Personal Mission Statement: "I am created by God to bring Him glory. Through God's Son Jesus Christ I have been redeemed and make it my life's goal to please the Lord. My mission in life is to honor God through my faith and obedience and prepare myself and all whom I may influence for eternity."

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