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January 7, 2009

GFL Devotional Journey—Day 3

I'm acutely aware of my need for God's help in loving others. Some people seem specially gifted and naturally inclined to love others - even the unlovable. My husband, a counselor, is one of those people. Unfortunately, I'm not. Instead, I seem naturally inclined toward competition, self-protection, revenge, jealousy, and winning at all costs. I sometimes find it hard to love the lovable, let alone the unlovable.

Knowing this, I beg on a daily basis for God's grace to infuse and inform my relationships with others. As all leaders know, every day carries the potential for serious and unexpected challenges in relationships with others, especially those we lead. And God is faithful in answering my prayers and granting me the grace I need.

So in reading today's devotional, I was struck by its reminder that begging for God's help isn't the only way - or perhaps even the best way - to exhibit his love in leading others. In Verses 1 through 3, John establishes Jesus' frame of mind as he sits down to the evening meal with his disciples:

* He knew the time was right.
* He knew Judas would betray him.
* He knew he was all-powerful God.
* He knew he was leaving his human condition.
* He knew his disciples needed a tangible demonstration of his love and an example to follow.

As Sherryl puts it, "Jesus knew who he was, where he had come from, and where he was going." This was no spontaneous impulse driven by Jesus' "natural inclination" to wash feet. This was the intentional expression of what was true about Jesus as a man and as God himself, designed to meet the needs of the people around him.

Jesus called his followers to imitate him, and to follow his example. So perhaps our most effective motivation and power to love others can come from the same place: a knowledge of what is true about us and about God. Steeping ourselves in God's truth - as revealed in his Word and through our relationship with him - may produce acts of love that feel almost, well, natural.

So how do we steep ourselves in the knowledge of who we are in Christ, and who God is in our lives and the lives of other people? How have you found that such knowledge can arm you for supernaturally powered acts of love?


It's so easy for me to apply God's love to myself. When I sin, I find I'm grateful for God's mercy, grateful that He remembers that I am "dust." I'm glad the Word speaks of "love covering a multitude of sins." So, then, why is it so difficult to extend this same lavish love to others?

Truthfully, I think it's because I struggle with pride and a judgemental attitude. Somehow I see myself as deserving of love, while the shortcomings of others are magnified. They need to shape-up before I can love them.

I'm not proud of this attitude.

Fortunately, my Father doesn't allow me to entertain it for very long before reminding me that "while I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me."

In remembering what Jesus did for me on the cross of Calvary, I'm shamed by my hard heart. I confess my own shortcomings, and wait on Him.

No, it's not usually a quick fix, but as I intentionally act in love, God steps in and I find His love is sufficient - whatever the situation may be.

I find that it's really hard to accept the fact that, as Sherryl writes, we need to 'expect others to let us down.' After being hurt, I am cautious for awhile, then revert right back to expecting others to live up to much more than any person would be able to.

What Jesus did that night - to wash the feet of those he knew would betray him - always amazes me. He just loved him. What would it mean to people I lead if I would just love them, even when I know that they are playing politics behind my back, gossiping about me, taking advantage of my hands-off management style. Even then...if I just love them, even if they continue, even if they betray me as Judas did Jesus...what then?

In the big scheme of things, I believe that all that kind of behavior has its own way of working things out - sometimes peer-managed, sometimes by lack of incentives - but what if while it was working itself out, if I just loved.

I honestly can say that I have tried to do it, but I find that I fail at it more than I succeed. I avoid the person, rather than 'moving toward the offender.' It really does take some strength beyond my own to be able to do that. I'm so glad that I have someone to rely on who has that strength. Jesus amazes me - over and over - he moves toward me when I deserve, by human standards, to be avoided!

Thanks for this Devotion Journey - it's touching me in ways that I haven't been in awhile. From a leader perspective, sometimes I avoid thinking about those splinters in my eyes...

As I thought through this reading I was convicted about needing to love others, but it hit much closer to home. The first group of people that came to my mind was my own family: my husband and kids–and others in my extended family. It seems to me that these are often the hardest people to serve and love day in and day out. They’re close, so we rub against each other more frequently. We have greater hopes for them, so we feel the pain of disappointment more intensely. We witness more sin and failure, so we need to exercise selflessness with greater determination. If any people I lead need the love of Christ through me, it’s these. This new year, and each year, I want to pursue the answer to that question: How can God help me love these? And here's a great word from Sherryl to inspire: Let each be "related to, not according to their future failures, but according to Calvary’s incredible grace and forgiveness.”

Tangible love. That's what it's all about, isn't it? Jesus with skin on.

So how do we steep ourselves in the knowledge of who we are in Christ, and who God is in our lives and the lives of other people? We abide. We BE and not DO. We go the Mary route. And we ask for His eyes and His heart. So that we see ourselves and others and love ourselves and others they way He would. And the abiding is what we find SO difficult, especially me as a Martha type.

How have you found that such knowledge can arm you for supernaturally powered acts of love? It becomes more natural. Less striving.

Some how I missed the "mercy and grace" endowment and as I have gotten older have seen the awful results of not accepting either in my own life and the lives of loved ones. I strive to exhibit that first now.....not easy...

I'm one of the ones that Amy says is "naturally inclined to love others—even the unlovable." So I have to read today's devotional carefully. I am quick to wash other's feet, even if they kick the water in my face as I'm doing it. I've had to find a balance so that I am not being abused by those I am trying to help. That said, today's devotional is a good reminder to search my heart on this matter and make sure I'm not harboring bitterness toward anyone, or protecting myself too carefully now.

I once listened to a tape titled "A Mouthful of splinters." It was about what can happen when we kiss the cross. It spoke of serving the Lord and realizing the results are sometimes not the joyful glory we expected.

As I contemplated this day's reading, I was struck with the idea that God so loved us that he sent His son and Jesus so loved us that he endured the cross.... So why should I expect that when I love others they should love me back? Or at least NOT hurt me.

I need to commit to living more like Jesus who while dying in extreme pain could say, "Father forgive them for they know not...."

This was a challenging devotional for any Christian...not just those in leadership positions. By defenition I am not currently in a leadership position, but after reading this I found myself asking, "Who do I lead?" The answer: my small flock of 5 little ones that are my children. This passage applies to them as well.

I read through the passage given and made a list of the things that Jeusu did on that last night...knowing He was going to be betrayed by these disciples of His:

1. Loved them until the end (v. 1)
2. He washed their feet (v. 3-11) Translated: He was a servant to them.
3. He continuted to teach them (v. 12)
4. He tells of future events so that they will believe that He really was the Christ even after He is gone (v. 19)-He equips them for what is to come.
5. He becomes troubled over the one who will betray Him. (v. 21) I find this intereeting for personal application. Am I troubled over those who betray me...or just bitter?
6. He gives them new commandments (v. 34). Again He equips them with what they will need to survive the great journey ahead.

This was a challenging devotional because I am in the middle of a situation which tests my ability to be Christ-like to people I serve with. I have been convicted of my attitude and find that when I am willing to pray FOR rather than ABOUT the people and situation, things go better.

I am also finding that God is challenging me to deal with my attitude and behaviour rather than focus on what others are doing.

As a child/teenager, I did not struggle with the issue of forgiving others there sins as much as I do now. What happened?
I guess I was just friends with people that had a personality like mine. It tends to be people with certain personalities that give me a hurt that becomes a struggle.
I just realized that as I wrote that question.
I have been struggling with this issue for a while. There are hurts that cause me to run far away from that person. There are two people in particular that come to mind. One of them, the Lord has helped me work through and has changed my mind to make that person more approachable again, but that is still not in accordance with God's will. I still carry the shield with me when that person is near. The other person, I attempt to mkae contact with, but it is still very ackward. God has a lot of work to do with me on this issue.
I wish all my hurts could roll off my back as they do when it comes from my immediate family. I have generally forgotten those hurts within hours and espeically days.

Sorry for posting this so late!

Gosh. Donna's comment hit home, hard. I, too, can honestly say I missed the mercy gene somehow - I am so direct with people, thinking that it's just the way I am - being direct. But I have lacked the mercy to see what my words - even if said with the right intention, really - were delivered in a really hurtful way. Delivery. How I say things. That's what I have to bathe in prayer anymore. And I, like Donna, have seen the consequences of not doing this for many years - particularly with my daughter. Wow! Thanks, Donna, for opening that up for me.

I don't have a problem loving people, I actually never had a problem with that. I do have a problem forgiving myself after I have sinned. All I'm going to ask is, for prayer for my boyfriend and me, I would really appreciate it. And, if you have any encouraging words, feel free to share them with me. Thank You!

This article was rather hard for me to read. I am one that loves, I really do, friends, family, people on the street... It used to be one of my great joys, loving. Years ago I was deeply wounded, more like devastated, by one who struggles to love. It has been 7+ years, and I wonder how much joy was lost, and how many friendships never were made because of the walls I erected in response to that hurt. Not just because I would like to have more people in my social circle, but I worry that because of those walls, perhaps I wasn't a friend to someone who could have used a little love.
Those walls came tumbling down this fall when my husband was diagnosed with cancer, and we were in the middle of a cross country move. I thought I could do it a lone, and I tried. I failed, thankfully, and found there were a lot of people who were ready with love.

I may not ever run headlong into friendships like I used to,(I am not incapable of learning) and I am sad about that, but I know too that I never have to go it alone and I pray that others may know that joy as well.

Thanks for writing this article, Amy, and I pray that those acts of love you are asked to do may someday feel not just "almost natural", but completely so.

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