Monday, July 16, 2018

The Royal Law

The Royal Law 

Do you obey the Royal Law? Do you know what it is?

Here’s a hint: According to ancient Jewish sages, Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Akiba, the Royal Law summarized and fulfills all the Commandments. 

Recently, I did an unscientific survey on Facebook asking this question: ”Without looking it up, do you know what the ‘Royal Law’ is?” At last count, this post received 625 views and of the nineteen who commented, only two said they knew the answer. So, if you’re unacquainted with the term, you’re not alone.
Most of us are familiar with Jesus’ answer to the question, “Which is the greatest commandment?”

He responded: “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40 NKJV).
A neighbor, according to Christ, is anyone—"irrespective of nation or religion with whom we live or whom we chance to meet.” (1.) 

I don’t know about you, but there are some people in my life whom I find hard to love. One might say, “They rub me the wrong way.”

Side Note: A few days ago, while sitting next to my fifteen-year-old grandson, I asked him if he knew the meaning of rubbing someone the wrong way. He said, “No.”
I then put my hand on the top of his ankle and rubbed upward on his hairy shin to his knee.
He immediately rubbed his leg from the knee downward, undoing my disruption, and tilted his face at me sporting a confused look.
I grinned and said, “That’s what it means to rub someone the wrong way—when you do something that makes the person uncomfortable or annoyed. I just rubbed the hair on your leg the wrong way and you didn’t like it, did you?”
He understood and shook his head.

We all have someone in our lives who rubs us the wrong way. But that person still is among those who Jesus says is our neighbor.  

In the first few verses of The Epistle of James we’re instructed on loving people and treating all individuals respectfully. James doesn’t mince words when he writes, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:8-9).

James encourages us to love like Jesus. He emphasizes that we not place value on a person based on a characteristic or circumstance of that person. In our humanness, this is a tall order, but with the help of the Holy Spirit we can do it.
There it is—the Royal Law. James’ letter is the only place in Scripture where this term is used. He bases his exhortation on the teachings of Jesus as well as his Jewish upbringing in the Torah.

The Royal Law goes all the way back to Leviticus 19:18b: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”

Wow—did Yahweh really need to end that directive with, “I am the Lord”? Humm. I believe He meant it. 

Lawn of the Deltaville Maritime Museum, Virginia - Photo by Connie Wohlford
Loving as you love yourself is also a concept worthy of discussion. “’You shall love your neighbor as yourself:’ the word ‘love’ (Hebrew ahav) could be understood as esteem. Love of one’s neighbor begins with self-esteem. Then one esteems his neighbor.” (2.)
Do you esteem yourself? Self-respect and self-esteem are essential before we can sincerely esteem and respect others. This brings to mind The Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” an offshoot of Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31.

Referencing the passage from Leviticus, writings of Rabbi Hillel prompted a song titled, “Rabbi Hillel’s Golden Rule.”  Here is part of the chorus:

Treat other people how you want them to treat you
This rule is golden, this rule is true
Don't do to others something that would make you feel bad
Think about other’s feelings, no matter if you’re happy or mad

Are we obeying the Royal Law? We need divine help in accomplishing this objective and it is one of many reasons God put His Spirit in followers of Christ Jesus. Let’s do as James instructed and love others as we love ourselves, even without partiality.

Let us pray. Oh Lord, You know me well and You’re very aware that I often don’t have love in my heart for some people as I should. Yet, You want me to love everyone. I know that with the help of Your Holy Spirit, I can obey the Royal Law. Please help me be mindful of others and yield to the flow of love You wish to pour out to my neighbors through me. Thank You, Father. In Jesus’ name—Amen.

©Connie Wohlford 2018
1.; The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon
2.    Spirit-Filled Life Bible; Thomas Nelson Publishing; 1991; Commentary for Leviticus 19:18; page 172
3.;  "Rabbi Hillel’s Golden Rule" by "Miss" Emily Aronoff Teck

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

What’s on Your Mind?

What’s on Your Mind?

Today, I’m re-posting a writing I did a while back. The premise of this piece is just as true today as it was then and for many people I know it’s more meaningful today than it was one or two or three years ago. Please be encouraged. 

I don’t know about you, but I certainly have a lot on my mind these days. We all have personal and family matters to think about. Many of us also make room in our minds for multiple connections with church, friends, jobs, and community. Besides all that, our minds are bombarded with news (good and bad) and events, both local and global.

This very day I concern myself with meeting with friends for Bible study, transporting a grandchild to swim practice, household and business responsibilities, writing responsibilities, and praying that my grandson, who broke his finger, will NOT need surgery. That lists just a few things on my mind today. Most of these things are positive and pleasurable aspects of my life.

Unless we never listen to the news, you and I are blasted with information that can overwhelm our minds, emotions, and spirits if we’re not careful. We truly must take every thought captive—on purpose! (1 Corinthians 10:5)

This very day I was also confronted with much tragic news--- local, national, and global. I’ll mention a few. 

In my community, a five-year-old boy who had been missing for four days was found dead in an old septic system near his home. Last night tornadoes ripped through areas of our nation, destroying property and taking the lives of fellow Americans. It’s been decided that the aircraft, which crashed in the French Alps three days ago, appears to have been deliberately downed by the plane’s co-pilot. And of course, we can’t omit the constant threat of terrorists who seek to kill peace loving, innocent folks all over the world these days. This does not complete the list of negatives that forced their way into my mind today. These kinds of dreadful happenings are powerful forces that can easily dishearten any of us.

SO--What's on your mind today? You may be so consumed with personal misfortune that the calamities beyond your own world have no room at all in your thoughts. Your personal disaster might be related to health, loved ones, financial matters, heavy responsibilities, and on & on & on. Our lists can be endless. It might be so bad that you want to crawl into a protective shell and simply take a fetal position.

But, I’m here to declare today that God’s Word gives good instruction on dealing with a full and troubled mind. One of my favorite methods for coping is to follow the Apostle Paul instructs in Colossians 3:2, where he said, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” 

How are we to accomplish that? It’s not necessarily easy but it is necessarily deliberate. I find that one of the best ways to set one’s mind on things above is to read the Bible. I know that sounds like a simple pat answer but think about it for a moment. Let me give you a personal example.

A few years ago, I was going through several very negative experiences. It seemed that bad things just kept piling on me from many different directions. The helplessness of having no control in trying to alleviate the emotional pain made me wonder just how long I could continue to function. 

I was praying and in the Word consistently, as was my routine. I was even leading a Bible study at the time. But I still found myself dwelling on the negative things that were weighing me down. As I sought God I decided to go to the basics about Jesus, Himself.

I began to read through the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. When I got through that, I read through the book of Acts. No, I didn’t read it all in one day or week or month.
I was doing exactly what Paul had instructed the Colossian believers. I was setting my mind on things above, not on things on the earth. In doing this, God’s Word---studying Jesus—lifted me up to a higher level. 

Those negative situations that kept piling on me did not just evaporate. Some improved, some eventually took care of themselves, some remained pretty much the same, and some got worse. I’ve looked back on that season in my life, a period of about eight months, and see how God used His Word as a tool to help me set my mind on things that are eternal, things that are true, things that are above the earth. During that particular time, I set my mind on Jesus, Himself, as I read through the Gospels. I believe I was led by the Holy Spirit to do exactly that and I’m so glad I followed His leading. 

Let’s look at Paul’s instructions, in its context: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, the you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4).  

Notice that the above passage contains abundant meaty encouragement that can set our minds on things above. It instructs, explains how and why, and then points to our eternal hope—all built on Jesus. 

Here we see a good example of the Word’s immense value in helping us set our mind on things above instead of things on the earth. So, be encouraged as you do just that.

 If you’d like, please leave a comment telling of a time when you set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth, and were thus encouraged and lifted out of sadness, or discouragement, or troubles of some kind. We can all be encouraged by one another’s testimonies. Thanks, and God bless you abundantly today! 

Friday, June 22, 2018

Praying for Our Children and Grandchildren

Praying for Our Children and Grandchildren

     Every day—every single day—my parents prayed for me. Do you have any idea how comforting that is? If you have or had parents like that, then you know.

     I actually didn’t realize this until I was grown, but when I did I was flooded with gratitude. That awareness triggered great feelings of love to well up in my heart—love for them and the receiving of love from them. Only God knows of the bad things I have escaped because of their prayer covering.

     During the last couple years of their lives, when dementia invaded their minds, I came to realize that their daily petitions had probably ceased. Though saddened by that thought, I was confident their prayers still echoed in the heavens and easily be recalled by our Heavenly Father. 

     Have you prayed for your children (and grandchildren) today?

Here are six reasons we should pray daily for the children in our lives:

1. It’s our responsibility. Most likely no one else on the planet will be praying for our child every day. If you’re a grandparent or concerned adult, although you don’t have the responsibilities of parenting, you can still pray for the children you love. 

2. Jesus set the example in praying for children (Matt. 19:13). We have no greater example in all matters.

3. We need to set an example for children. Our children need to know that prayer is important to us and that we pray for them daily. Our own example is our chief teaching tool as we instruct children in spiritual matters.

4. We want our children to have an understanding of their need for salvation and that Jesus is the only way.  Even young children can comprehend this at a level that makes sense to them. The Holy Spirit knows how to work in each young spirit.

Growing up in an evangelical church, I knew at a young age, I needed salvation found only in Jesus. At age nine, I’d been pondering this for months. I remember mentally listing my sins. Then one Sunday I decided it was time. I walked forward and gave my hand to Pastor Rushing and my heart to Jesus.

5. There’s a war going on and the lives and souls of our children are the spoils. In the spiritual realm, warfare is taking place between God’s angels and Satan’s demons. Rest assured, Satan is real and wants our children. Jesus warned that he desires to “steal, kill, and destroy” anyone he can (John 10:10a). That includes you, me, and the children we love.
We can pray with confidence, knowing our Heavenly Father wants our children too. Jesus continued, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10b NKJV). Our children need to know these things.

6. Pray for wisdom in parenting. The role as parent is our most important job. Doing it well pays great dividends. We’d be hard-pressed to be great parents without divine wisdom and intervention. Consistency is key and that takes effort. Help from above is necessary. 

Regarding His statutes, God spoke through Moses: You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.” (Deut. 11:19-21 NKJV). 

Parenting is a daily responsibility that requires daily invoking the help and power from our Creator. God loves our kids and wants the best for our them. Only with God’s help can we do our very best to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6 NKJV).
     Here are seven important things to pray for our children:
1.  Pray that, at a young age, they will realize their need to have a relationship with Jesus and will believe in and receive Him as Savior and Lord. If your children are already older it’s not too late. Still pray they will accept this Great Salvation (Hebrews 2:3-4).
2.  Pray they will develop a keen sense of right and wrong, based on biblical principles and a Christian worldview.
3.  Pray they will love God’s Word and yearn for its daily encouragement and instruction.
4.  Pray they will hunger and thirst for righteousness which will be reflected in their behavior and their thought life.
5.  Pray they will develop a strong prayer life that leads them into intimate fellowship with their Creator.
6.  Pray they will be tuned in to the Holy Spirit’s voice leading them day by day. This will help them avoid such things as being unequally yoked in relationships, especially marriage (2 Corinthians 6:14).
7.  Pray God’s Word over your children. As you read and study your Bible, when you come across a passage you would desire for your kids, pray those words over them. Even speak it out loud. When I do this, I sometimes write the name of a certain child or grandchild next to the verse.
     SO—we need to pray! We need to pray big time—every day—for our children and for ourselves as parents—grandparents—mentors. 
I’ve seen the results of allowing children to figure out spiritual matters for themselves and it’s often not a pretty sight. When we sow to the wind, we often reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7a). It’s true that sometimes they find their way to God without parental involvement. Nonetheless, from what I’ve observed, the results of sewing to the wind regarding a child’s spiritual upbringing has reaped the whirlwind indeed.

      Examples I’ve witnessed have reaped addiction, sexual promiscuity and confusion, prison, mental and emotional insecurities, animosity toward God and parents, spiritual confusion, and all manner of chaos.
      So, let’s pray. Let’s pray every day for our children and grandchildren. Their eternal destiny may depend on it.

     What is your greatest prayer for the children in your life? Tell God, right now. Release it to Him and take heart in knowing He hears. Thank Him and worship Him because He loves, He knows, He cares, and He can work in ways that astound us.
     On my Facebook page, I post a scripture-based prayer for children every day. Each one is a good springboard for our appeal to God on behalf of the children in our lives. I’d be honored for you to check it out. See the prayers on Facebook at this link:
©Connie Wohlford 2018