Jesus said, “love your neighbor,” Mark 12:31, yet we pick and chose who will get our respect, who we will honor, and who we love. We chose the rich, the popular, the seemingly successful. They get our attention. They get our listening ears. They get our respect. They influence our lives. They may even get our wallets.

We pick and chose and we get it wrong. But we are not meant to pick and chose at all. God does not show favor to the rich over the poor, Job 34:19. He shows no favoritism at all, Acts 10:34. God is not partial, Galatians 2:6. James 2:9 says, if we show favoritism, we sin! 

We are supposed to love everyone, no matter who they are. We are all the work of God’s hands. God places immeasurable worth on every person. There is not one person who escapes His all-seeing, all-loving eyes. 

A glaring truth about our own spiritual maturity: How, and to who, we show respect, honor, and love is the measure of our spiritual maturity. Period. Only our unrestrained, unlimited, unprejudiced love is the mark of our maturity. And this cannot be faked.

Spiritual maturity has nothing to do with our giftings, titles, or our great ability to communicate. It’s not in the hundreds of miracles performed, or our ability to prophesy. All these can be done with a heart attitude that dishonors, disrespects, and even withholds love. Believe it or not, but God’s gives (these) gifts to people and doesn’t take them back, Romans 11:29. Operating these gifts and spiritual maturity are independent of each other. I wish it wasn’t so, because we are all too easily impressed by gifts, and often miss the much weighted thing, love.

If we disrespect, dishonor, withhold love from people, based upon our personal choice, we will turn people away from the Gospel and make people think relationships in church are broken and dysfunctional; in this case they are.

But, show respect, give honor, love people, especially to those who have no way of giving back, and we open people up to the gospel like never before. Why? Because it is so rare.

When our own hearts have been radical transformed by God’s love, we will in turn love every person around us.

Love is what changes hearts. God is love, 1John 4:8.

God’s Community

February 16, 2016
  • Is up close and personal with all types of people–not just those we prefer, but every person in the room
  • Shoulder to shoulder walking, sometimes running, sometimes picking up those who have fallen
  • God’s love is felt in the atmosphere
  • It is loving and accepting and warm
  • People are secure and freely themselves
  • There is no condemnation, no fear
  • Shame is never a tool used to motivate, neither is punishment, intimidation, manipulation, religious bullying…
  • It is transparent and honest and vulnerable and open
  • It is willing to grow together and sometimes fight together–together, not against each other
  • It is so close people call each other brother and sister–even the most unlikely are joined together in this family
  • There is no favoritism, God is not partial, neither is His family
  • Unity permeates every relationship because of the extreme level of commitment to one another; extreme!
  • The central focus of all activity within the community is unmistakably JESUS
  • Everyone and everything points to JESUS
  • Everything in the community gets it’s purpose from JESUS
  • The community lives and breathes and does everything with eternal purpose
  • Sacrifice is understood as Jesus’ example for us to follow
  • Willingness to get down in the dirt and wash people’s feet permeates the culture.
  • There is deep respect and honor for everyone in the community–and it’s tangible.

Is this an illusory ideal? Nope! This is the community we read about in the New Testament. This is the family God is wanting to build us into. When we are allowing God to transform our hearts, our churches will look more and more like this. But, if there is distance in our relationship with Jesus and we are not allowing His life to affect ours, there will be distance in our relationships with people.

Allowing Jesus to transform our lives, transforms our churches. Seeking to live up close and personal with Jesus, will make us want to live up close and personal with His–our–family.

Praying is like breathing. God wants our praying to be as easy and as natural as breathing and as non-stop, continuous, do-it-without-thinking as breathing is. We never stop breathing. We should never stop praying.

Paul said, pray without ceasing, Thessalonians 5:17. Paul knew the vital thing in the life of a Christian was to pray. Prayer is as vital to our spiritual life as breathing is to our natural life. 

Jesus’ life was a life of prayer. Jesus assumed we would pray. Matthew records Jesus teaching on prayer and three times in a row Jesus said, when you pray, Matthew 6:5, 6:6 and 6:7. Then in verse 9 Jesus said, this is howbegin by giving glory to God.

The gospels record that Jesus prayed constantly, for extended periods of time, and He went to solitary places to get alone with God, the Father.

Here are just a few instances:

  • Jesus went up on a mountainside by himself to pray, Matthew 14:23.
  • Jesus prayed all night, till shortly before dawn, Matthew 14:25.
  • Jesus got up very early in the morning… went off to a solitary place, where he prayed, Mark 1:35.
  • Jesus spent all night praying, Luke 6:12.
  • Jesus was praying in private, Luke 9:18.
  • In the gospel of John Jesus thanks God for always hearing Him, I know that you always hear me, John 11:42.

If Jesus made such a priority of prayer, shouldn’t we? 

Prayer is communication with God. Communication is two way. We speak and listen. God speaks and He listens. God will use many ways to grab our attention. We just have to have our spiritual attention tuned into to seeing and hearing Him.

As a baby grows in their ability to communicate with their mom and dad they learn many verbal and non-verbal tools of communication. A baby’s language skills develop very naturally through continued use. Our prayer–our ability to communicate with God–develops the same way, naturally through continual use.

As a baby grows up, communication is as natural as breathing. In the same way, our prayer life grows up and is as natural as breathing: something we do without thinking, a continual conversation with God, a worshipful attitude all day long. Even the busiest day can be filled with a constant communication with God that is prayerful and worshipful.

Prayer is not difficult. It might begin as a discipline to create the habit, but prayer never stays a discipline, at least if the desire is to truly know God and surrender to Him. Without surrender, prayer will be difficult. Surrender is the key word here.

Prayer quickly becomes a delight, because God gives ever-increasing revelation of Himself and we realize we are spending time with the Creator of the heavens that the earth. And God is the initiator of the relationship in the first place, so…

Prayer becomes our natural response to God’s heart that is constantly calling to ours. As we grow closer to His heart, prayer is the natural communication that flows back to Him expressing our thanks and worship. Much of our prayer becomes less about asking Him for things and much more an expression of thanks and worship. Our Father knows what we need before we ask Him, Matthew 6:8. This doesn’t mean we don’t ask for things, it simply changes what we ask for, and how we ask.

God longs jealously for a deep relationship with us. A relationship only grows as deep and intimate as the communication allows. We only grow into a deep relationship with God through continual prayer–and surrender.

God’s promise to us is, everyone who asks, receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened, Matthew 7:7. No time spent seeking God is ever wasted or lost. He responds to us by giving even more of Himself to us. If we seek Him, we will find Him, Jeremiah 29:13. God gives Himself lavishly. He wants to be known by us. He has made the way easy for us to know Him, through continual prayer.