Love Your Neighbor

by Sheri Schofield

Don’t you just hate it when the neighbor’s animals mess up your lawn? Me too. It wouldn’t be so bad if my neighbors had something sensible like a toy poodle or even a beagle. But no—my neighbors have… drum roll… COWS.

The neighbors drove their herd up the mountain about a month ago, much too late in the season to entice the cows to stay there. On the first cold night, the herd trotted back down to our place and began camping out here. Our lawn is now a disaster.

I guess some of the other neighbors are complaining to the owners, because two men from that family came up to our place today and drove the cattle off our lawn. They said, “We’re sorry about the cows, but we can’t do anything about them for another ten days.”

The words “I’m sorry, but—” are meaningless. I would have liked to hear, “I’m sorry. We’ll bring our shovels back and scrape the manure piles off your lawn.” But that won’t happen. So, I have two choices: I can either accept the problem and let it go—clean my own lawn when the cattle are gone—or I can remain upset. I chose to let it go.

On the positive side, I’m learning a lot about driving cattle.

Remember what happened after David killed Goliath? He was chosen to carry King Saul’s armor into battle. That could get dangerous, but it was a respected position. Most evenings, David would play his harp for Saul, so the king could fall asleep at night. Cushy job? Yes. But then Saul became jealous of David and started throwing his javelin at him at totally unpredictable times.

David quit. No job was worth that! He fled into the wilderness to the springs of En-Gedi next to the Dead Sea. Saul hunted for him, but no matter how intense the hunt, he never found David, though he came close at times. Once, when Saul went into a cave to relieve himself, it turned out to be the same cave in which David and his men were hiding. David’s friends urged him to kill Saul.

But David would not. He said, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the LORD,” (1 Samuel 24:6, NIV).

Peter wrote, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9 NIV).

I don’t need to make my neighbors feel bad about their cows. Who is that going to help? If they can’t get the family together to herd the cows for another ten days, that’s just the way it is. I don’t need them to feel bad about it. But God wants my neighbors to know I care about them. So, taking this attitude of acceptance a step further, I think I will bake some chocolate chip cookies for them. Who knows what God might do through a batch of cookies?

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 the first…’Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments,” (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV).

This article brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Award-winning author, illustrator, and Bible teacher Sheri Schofield ministers to children and their families through her ministry, Faithwind 4 Kids. After serving Jesus through children’s ministries and personal evangelism for many years, she understands how to communicate God’s plan of salvation clearly to those who are seeking God.

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Her first book on salvation, The Prince and the Plan, was designed specifically for children. But during COVID, Sheri sensed the need to also provide help for adults. Her new book for adults, God? Where Are You?, tells tells who God is, how we became separated from him, and what he is doing to bring us back to himself through Jesus. At the end of each chapter is a section called “Food For Thought”, which answers questions many unbelievers have, such as—If God is good, why do terrible things happen?—Is anyone too “bad” for God to want to rescue them from sin? This biblically based book is short and easy to read. 

Join the conversation: How do you love your neighbor?

Love Freely Because You Are Loved Freely

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?                                                                                                                 Matthew 5:46 NASB

When Jesus said the above words, He was talking about a kind of love contrary to what His listeners had heard before. It would be like someone telling you, “Do you want to go to Mars? I have one ticket left.” What? Are you kidding? That’s dangerous. How do I know it’s safe?

Jesus’ original audience must have been thinking the same thing. Are you kidding? Loving those who don’t love me is dangerous. They will take advantage of me. After all, then I should love the Romans and those who help them like the tax gatherers. Jesus can’t mean them. No way.

But Jesus dug into their motives by asking, What reward is there for loving those who love you? You know the tax gatherers fake liking you to get on your good side and then take your money. When you love others who love you, you are just like the tax gatherers. You love for selfish reasons. I’m asking you to love everyone, even to your possible detriment.

Jesus’s teaching stood in opposition to what the rabbis and other religious leaders were teaching. The Pharisees used Leviticus 19:18 (at least part of it) to prove they didn’t need to love their enemies: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (NASB). They promoted the idea that only fellow Jews were technically neighbors. And even some of them were exempted, like the tax collectors and other “sinners.” Love everyone but those people—and the wicked Romans, of course.

Jesus challenged His listeners’ motives. They must have been wondering, I should love the guy who robs me when he overcharges me on my taxes? But then I won’t be able to complain about him. I won’t be able to feel superior to such a worm. Then I won’t feel justified to hate.

We can find a crucial insight from Jesus on this in the verse just before Matthew 5:46. He said, “For he [God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45 NASB).

Jesus was saying, I’m God, and like my heavenly Father who is such a good God, we give common grace and blessings even to those who are unjust. Why can’t you trust me to provide whatever you, my chosen ones, need as you face a scary, sacrificial opportunity? If I provide for those who don’t honor me, won’t I provide for you who is my favored one? You’ll have enough love to share with others.

At this point, those listening to Jesus didn’t know anything about the great sacrifice their teacher would be making within a short time. But we do. We can tell ourselves, If God loves me so sacrificially, providing salvation at such a high cost, then I can love others no matter the cost.

If it feels like you need to protect your heart by loving only those who can offer you something good in return, consider God’s unconditional love, modeled for you through Jesus suffering the ultimate humiliation and sacrifice.

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Love Freely Because You Are Loved Freely – @KathyCMiller on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Kathy Collard Miller loves to study God’s attributes. As a result, her latest two books are devotional books about God’s nature: God’s Intriguing Questions: 40 Old Testament Devotions Revealing God’s Nature and God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature. These are co-authored with her husband, Larry, and make a wonderful couples’ devotional study. Kathy is also the author of 55 other books and has spoken in 9 foreign countries and over 35 US states. Check out her website: www.KathyCollardMiller.com and YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2SwiL03 or Facebook.

Kathy’s most recent book is God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature from which this devotion is excerpted. Kathy and her husband, Larry, of 50 years, co-wrote God’s Intriguing Questions.

Join the conversation: In what way has God shown you his unconditional love and asked you to pass it on?

Bread, Salt, Wine, Food, Flavor, Joy

by Nancy E. Head @NancyEHead

 “Bread, so that this house may never know hunger. Salt, that life may always have flavor. . . Wine that joy and prosperity may reign forever.”

In the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, George and Mary Bailey offer the housewarming gifts of bread, salt, and wine to the Martini family. A large family, the Martinis purchase their home only because of George Bailey’s friendly business dealings.

George heads a wobbly savings and loan, spending his days in a shabby little office believing his life has no value. Recipients of George’s generosity know better. In the end, George realizes the magnitude of his Wonderful Life.

As a single mother of five, I frequently received “bread” from the generous hands of others. Some days were lean, some, dreadful. But many memories from those days reflect the well-flavored life.

One Thanksgiving, a Sunday school class provided our feast. Another year, a fellow churchgoer signed our family up for her company’s Christmas outreach. Sometimes, we would find a box of food on our front porch. But it wasn’t just food and goods. People gave us the opportunity to sit together and enjoy bounty. There was joy in knowing others cared, joy in celebrating our blessings.

After I remarried, life became more financially secure. Now we can be George Baileys to others, offering bread to enhance their lives. But giving never goes in one direction. Giving adds flavor to our lives too.

With ten grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, we decided a few years ago that our dining room table was too small. We yearned for extra room for side dishes and elbows. So we found a carpenter to build a new table with removable leaves to expand or contract as needed.

But in order to use furniture, you first must get it into the house.

Even in its smallest state, the table was too wide for our front door. We would have to hoist the table over the back rail deck. And that seemed impossible unless we could get someone to help.

The best candidate seemed to be the young man who had just moved in next door. He was strong, and he was home. Upon asking for his help, we learned that he is a mover by trade. How perfect! The old table went out the back door and the new one came in.

We had planned to put the old one on the sidewalk with a “Free” sign on it. But we learned this neighbor and his wife had no table. Now they do.

He blessed us by helping. We blessed him by filling a need we hadn’t realized existed. Now his family can break bread as they sit together. Blessing comes in receiving and giving.

We know from Scripture we’re to love our neighbors. Matthew, Mark, Luke, Romans, Galatians, and James all tell us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” It’s hard today for many of us to know our neighbors, let alone love them. Maybe a quick conversation as we come and go will reveal a need we hadn’t been aware of. And perhaps the need is just that bit of time we give to show we care enough to ask how someone is doing and wait for an answer.

We can make a difference in our neighborhoods, in our communities. Christ has made us the salt to bring flavor and life to our world. In our giving, He gives back a flavored life.

And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.                                                Hebrews 13:16, NIV   

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Bread, Salt, Wine, Food, Flavor, Joy – insight from @NancyEHead on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)                                                                         

nancy headAbout the author: Nancy E. Head is the author of Restoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ’s Love Through the Church in One Accord. Once a single mother with five children under the age of 14, she now teaches middle school through college classesRestoring the Shattered: Illustrating Christ's Love Through the Church in One Accord and works in her community to lift those in need toward independence. Nancy is also a speaker at Christian Women Speakers.