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Scripture of the Month – February “Love is the Foundation of God’s Law” by Soror Iesha Johnson

Matthew 22:37-40 “ 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. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

         One of the new trends on social media are the various “challenges”. There’s the “you name it challenge”, the “mannequin challenge”, the ice water challenge” and various others. However, one particular challenge that was the most meaningful to me was the “love challenge”, or “love your spouse challenge”, based off of the movie, “Love Dare”. This challenge, did not focus on dancing, or on determining how still you could be, or how silly you may look, or even how much physical and mental strength you possessed in order to have a bucket of water dumped on your head. But this one focused on how much love you could show towards another person. The challenge of how much love you were able and willing to show daily, despite the disagreements, arguments, and issues present was the task.

                In this particular scripture, Jesus is being challenged by the Pharisees. He’s being challenged on his judgment on the greatest commandment. In the beginning of this chapter, leading up to verse 34, Jesus is challenged on several topics in a tag team challenge-a-thon between the Pharisees, Sadducees, and the Scribes. Each time Jesus is faced with leadership tests, He proves his integrity by handling the situation expertly and wisely. After shutting down the Sadducees, the Pharisees felt the need to challenge him once again, however this time, an “expert” lawyer asked him which commandment was the greatest in the law. Not only did he say to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind, but he goes even deeper and says you must love your neighbor as yourself. Well, some may find that it’s easy to love God for he is the supreme ruler of our lives that blesses us day in and out, however, at times, it’s a challenge to love our neighbor.

                 Galatians 5:14 states, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word (or one sentence), as we love our neighbor as ourself.  In other words, the whole will of God containing our duty towards men is encompassed in this one thing called the love challenge. As Romans 8:8 states, He that loves another has fulfilled the law. 1 John 4:20 breaks it down even further to say that you cannot love God who you have not seen until you first love your neighbor.  Jesus expects us to love and when we are not showing love, we are not displaying that we belong to God. We as Christians, should be displaying love not only to our family and friends, but also to strangers, employers, the waitress at your favorite restaurant and the young kid that is washing your car. Every commandment that relates to others, is embodied in this one commandment. However, there may be a challenge for someone to honor and love an absent father or a drug addicted mother, an unruly, and unfair boss, or an abusive boyfriend. It may be difficult for someone to love that man that murdered your sister, or the dishonest co-worker that lied on you to rise to the top. This challenge of loving someone that has wronged you is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be easy, once you surrender your will to God, God will lead and guide you in taking on his supernatural agape love. His agape love will allow you to naturally love those that have wronged you and even those that are new to your circle. God’s love allows us to love beyond what we see, feel, or think and give us the opportunity to love on his merit.

                This love challenge requires submission and true devotion , are you up for the challenge?


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Scripture of the Month – June “Remaining Steadfast in Faith” 1st Peter 5:8-9

1 Peter 5:8-9

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”

Two commands in this verse warn the believer of a mortal enemy. The Christian life is like jungle war. Every Christian is facing spiritual guerilla warfare. Peter tells us who our enemy is–the Devil. The word “sober” includes the following characteristics: self-controlled, watchful, clear headed, alert, serious, and aware of what is going on. Being “sober” is the opposite of being “asleep” and insensitive to one’s surroundings. As it is written, “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep, sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:6-8). These words confirm our real situation in this world.

A drunken person has neither a clear mind nor any control over motor activities. When are Christians most likely to lose control? When we are spiritually out of shape. Sober people are balanced in disposition, thought and action. They are not flighty or carried away by their own notions or others’ notions. They are mentally self- controlled and understand the situations they will face in life.

The Christian should have poise and self-control in any situation they face. Christians, be wary, Satan is at work. In spiritual war, he never goes on leave. He is always on the prowl.

Christians who possess poise have stability for the changing circumstances of life. This stability comes from their ability to apply truth to any situation of life (vv. 9-10). If we take truth into our minds without applying it, this is not balance or poise.

Our gatherings must sharpen our spiritual vision, intensify our alertness, and help us to be more awake than ever before. Our words and manners, our attentiveness and contributions must be of assistance in this matter of being sober and vigilant. When this happens, the Holy Spirit will use our various ministrations to enliven and strengthen us. Jesus Himself will be among us to minister. Such assemblies no doubt summon bands of holy angels, who are devoted to the support of God’s people. “Be sober! Be vigilant!”

 


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Scripture of the Month – May “We Are More Than Conquerors” Romans 8:35-39

Romans 8:35-39

35 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:“For your sake we face death all day long;we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

To be more than a conqueror means that before you ever get a problem, you already know that whatever problem comes your way, you can overcome it through Christ. You live with confidence that God loves you no matter what and He will never leave you nor forsake you. And when you have this kind of relationship with Christ, you aren’t constantly afraid of bad news or of things that may happen that aren’t in your plan. When the unexpected happens or you’re disappointed, you won’t be devastated by it.

It’s so important for us to get this truth down in your heart and see yourself as more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus. If not, then Satan will frustrate and confuse you and keep you from victory. And all the enemy wants to do is kill, steal and destroy what God wants us to have John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”. He wants to diminish you – make you small-minded and small in spirit so you’ll live a small, frustrated life.

I encourage you to learn who God really is. Get a deeper understanding of His character and His heart for you. Know that He loves you unconditionally. He is good. He wants to bless you and help you. When we know this truth, we don’t have to be tormented by doubts about whether God cares or whether He will take care of us.

Whatever your situation is today, God knows about it. He sees you and hears the cry of your heart. And if you will give Him your problems and do what He tells you to do, you will access His overcoming love, grace and power and be more than a conqueror. Because in Christ, as He is, so are we in this world!


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Scripture of the Month – April “The Gift of Life” John 3:16

Monthly-Scripture-Focus-April

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

There is one type of gift that you can have that doesn’t cost you a thing and that’s life.  Parents wait anxiously for nine months to see the gift that God has blessed them with, but how would they feel if they knew that eventually they would have to sacrifice that gift to save someone else? In John 3:16 notice who the giver is in this verse – it is God Himself. God Almighty gave the greatest gift ever given – His Son, Jesus Christ.  The Son had always been with God the Father from eternity past. They were never apart and never out of fellowship. In John 1:1-2 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning and verse 14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Yet God gave His only begotten Son… All of us have lost love ones over the years and we know how tough it is. Think about God giving His Son who had been with Him from eternity past. Who did God give His Son to? To the world, to us. The greatest gift ever given, and God gave it to us. What an honor! This is why 2 Corinthians 9:15 declares, “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” A gift that was given without any strings attached.  Most of the gifts we give have no awesome or incredible results. Most of our gifts either wear out or rust out or get thrown out eventually, but not so with this gift that God gave to us. The results of this gift are life changing. Notice the verse says, “…should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  How long is everlasting? That is forever. How would you like to live forever and never die? You can – John 11:25-26

Christ stood in the gap that existed because of man’s sin. There on the cross, He made a full and complete payment for our sins. Romans 5:6, 8 He made it possible for you and me to be reconciled back to God. Colossians 1:20-21. God gave the Son, and the Son gave His life. This was all part of salvation’s plan so that we could receive forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.  But in order for a gift to become yours, what must you do? Simply receive it. God will not force this gift upon you. He allows you to decide. The moment you believe with your heart that Christ died for your sin – the moment you trust Him alone to save you, God gives you the gift of eternal life. In Acts 16:30-31 a man asked the apostle Paul, “…what must I do to be saved?” Paul answered, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…” Romans 6:23 is very clear. We deserve death, but the gift of God is eternal life and He gives this gift through His Son, Jesus Christ.


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Scripture of the Month – March “Let us Run with Patience” James 1:2-4

Monthly-Scripture-Focus-MarchLet us Run with Patience

James 1:2-4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” NIV

James begins his letter by consoling believers about the difficulties they face. He explains that God uses those difficulties to make us stronger in faith, mature and pure. These are things to be happy about in spite of the hardships involved with attaining those qualities. He encourages the reader with a reason to have hope in the face of adversity. He lets the reader know that while yes, we are tested, that testing is a good thing and has good results. Steadfastness, perseverance, and patience – whichever word you prefer – are all good and noble qualities. Most importantly they are qualities that make it possible for the believer to endure hardships through the course of life and to be able to lay hold of the eternal life which they’ve hoped for all the while. As for me, I think “stubborn” might be just as good a word as “patience” or “perseverance” or “steadfastness.” I want to be stubborn for God.

Picture an athlete who pushes himself to build up strength and endurance for an upcoming race. If it’s a 10k run, he may start with 5k and gradually extend his distance and speed. If he’s serious about winning, he will be running farther than 10k before the race, so that the race will seem easier than what he is conditioned for. In the same way, when we endure trials by faith, our faith is stronger for the next trial. We know that we can endure, because we’ve already been through previous trials. And when we endure trials by faith, with joy, it brings glory to our Lord and Savior.

Thus when we encounter trials, we should adopt the radical attitude of counting it all joy. We should understand the reassuring truth, that our sovereign God is using it to develop enduring faith.


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Scripture of the Month – “Love the Lord” Matthew 22:37

Monthly-Scripture-Focus-February-REVISEDMatthew 22:37 “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Today some people understand “love” as merely a happy feeling of friendliness or good will.  They think that, provided they feel good about the idea of God, they may do as they please.  This is not a Biblical conception of loving God.  Love does not replace Commandments.  Love gives us the right motive so that we genuinely can obey the Commandments.

When you think about it, how do you love the Lord with all of your heart, soul and mind. Jesus stated that this is the greatest commandment in the Law.  Heart, soul and mind are not three distinct small pieces of ourselves that we may offer. They all point to what we really are.  The Bible indicates that our heart is central: “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart.  For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 NIV).  Everything we are and have, beginning with our inmost commitments and all our thoughts, we must devote to loving, adoring, and serving God.

Really loving God means honoring Him, revering Him, and paying close attention to His desires as expressed in the Bible.  And not only are we to pay attention, but we are to obey.  The Bible warns, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves.  Do what it says” (James 1:22 NIV).

If Christians take the command given in Matthew 22:37 seriously, we are to love God though our thinking and reasoning, and not just with our emotions. We are to think of Him and even use logic in discussing Him and defending Him with unbelievers. This scripture encompasses the entirety of what we are as Christians.  We are to love God with everything we are: heart, soul, and mind. Nothing is left out in these three encompassing terms.


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Scripture of the Month – December “Rejoice” Philipians 4:4

DecemberPhilippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”

Rejoice in the Lord always – Be continually happy; but this happiness you can find only in the Lord. Genuine happiness is spiritual; as it can only come from God, so it infallibly tends to him. The apostle repeats the exhortation, to show, not only his earnestness, but also that it was God’s will that it should be so, and that it was their duty as well as interest.

The book of Philippians is filled with exhortations by the apostle Paul to the saints at Philippi about having a good attitude. In chapter one he talks about his own attitude of desiring to magnify Christ whether by life or death, and in chapter two he encourages the brethren to have the mind or the attitude in them that was in Christ.

We all experience trials, difficulties, and problems in life that make us unhappy, and there is nothing wrong with feeling unhappy in such situations. But as Christians, we can still rejoice even when we are sad. Remember, Paul said, “Rejoice…always.” But how is that possible? We can rejoice always “in the Lord.” Paul helps us understand what this means in Romans 12:12 when he says, “Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer.” No matter what happens to us in this life, Christians can rejoice in their hope. Did not Jesus say, “For great is your reward in heaven”? Children of God can get through whatever tribulations we face because we have hope. Charles Wesley put it this way: Rejoice in glorious hope! Our Lord the Judge shall come, And take His servants up to their eternal home. Lift up your heart, lift up your voice, Rejoice, again I say, rejoice!

 

Soror Terri Maynie

National Ministries Director