Luke, Patty, Anna Kate, Caroline, and Eleanor

Luke, Patty, Anna Kate, Caroline, and Eleanor

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Advent, Prisoners, and God's Love

I know that I usually use this blog to document the life of our little family, and of course post pictures of our girls for the grandparents, but today I just wanted to share something that God has been teaching me this week.  And who knows...maybe this will be a new chapter in this little blog.  Not to take the place of the entries about the girls, but in addition to them!  Maybe it will be a series...somewhat deeper thoughts.  Or maybe it will just happen this once :)

In any case, I have been going through an Advent Bible study online with some friends from our seminary days.  This week the topic is love (to go along with the love candle of advent).  Not surprisingly, I have been really convicted this week about loving others. It's so easy to just think that I'm ok because I'm a nice person, but that's not enough! If I'm not actively loving others, I do not know God (I John 4:7-8). And Mark 12:28-30 (which I've read a 1000 times, but just noticed for the first time) says that my love for God (and therefore for my neighbor) should involve my emotions (heart, mind, soul) AND my actions (strength). That means that I'm actually required to feel love for people. Paul commands us to have brotherly affection. It's not ok to just be civil to those people that I "just don't get along with" or "just don't care for". I am actually commanded to love them as I love myself. And those people that "don't deserve it"? Yes, them too.
I was really convicted about this yesterday. Luke has had an extremely busy week at the church and was out late on Sunday and Monday nights for events and meetings. A few weeks ago, he had also committed to going with a couple of other local pastors to our county's maximum security prison on Tuesday night to deliver Christmas packets that our churches had collected - gallon ziploc bags containing toiletries, paper, writing utensils, and a few other necessities (all things that had to be inspected and approved by the prison security). Anyway, Tuesday came and I was thinking that he really should just stay home because we hadn't seen him much this week. I mean, we had already given a few dollars toward the purchase of the supplies - wasn't that enough?  I almost suggested it to him that he stay home, but something stopped me. He stopped by the house to grab a sandwich and headed back out the door to meet up with the other pastors and go to the prison. When he returned, I could tell he was overcome with compassion for the men that he had just ministered to. And so was I after hearing his stories. Basically they spent 2-3 hours walking from cell to cell and delivering the gifts to the men who were allowed to just step outside the door to their cells for a brief moment. One man even told them, "Thank you so much. You have no idea how much this means to me each year. This is the only reminder of Christmas that I ever receive." And to think that I almost asked Luke to stay home because I was lonely. I don't care what those men have done, I need Jesus' grace every bit as much. And I am so glad that my husband was able to show them the love of Christ last night.

Matthew 25:34-40
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
So as you go about your daily lives during this Christmas season, search out those opportunities to show Christ's love to those around you.  Maybe leave a gift in your mailbox for the mail carrier.  Or ask the server at the restaurant how you can pray for him.  Or ask the cashier how her day is going and then truly listen.  And then thank God for his ultimate gift of love in his Son Jesus.

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