Love Extravagantly

“We do not qualify as biblical simply by quoting the Bible.
“We are biblical only when we share life in the wilderness with those who are tempted and fall, when we carry the cross of Jesus, and when we love extravagantly in Jesus’s name.”

Today is Tuesday, the fifth of April, 2022, in the fifth week of Lent.

Peace be with you!

Day 23,399

We had some “weather” last night. Thunderstorms rolled through a bit later than originally expected, hitting us late in the evening, and going on until around 11:00 PM or so. As far as I know, we just got heavy rain and wind. I never heard any hail and didn’t see evidence of anything else. But it rained quite a bit. There were tornado warnings southeast of us.

I don’t have much on my agenda today. I’ll go out and get Subway for lunch for S, Mama, and me, and will include dinner for them and C, because I will be at work this evening, from 4:15-8:15. Typical Tuesday, in other words. I’m also really close to finishing my current read, an ARC of When Earth Shall Be No More, a science fiction novel by Paul Awad and Kathryn O’Sullivan. I’m 92% through, and, unless something drastic happens, I can already tell you it’s getting a five-star rating. I’ll also try to get in an episode or two of The Stand miniseries.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Everything comes from him; 
Everything happens through him; 
Everything ends up in him. 
Always glory! 
Always praise! 
Yes. Yes. Yes. 
(Romans 11:36 MSG)

“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.”
(Luke 6:27-31 NLT)

Today I am grateful:

1. for the rain received last night, and that we had no damage from the storms
2. for the "golden rule"
3. that our Father delights in us, and surrounds us with His shield
4. that God gives me songs to glorify Him in thanksgiving
5. for the hope and ability to love extravagantly

Today’s prayer word is “favor.” That’s a dangerous word, there, and I feel it is misused by many. But let’s see the referenced Scripture verse.

Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
(Psalms 5:12 NIV)

This is also a word that is dependent upon a particular translation of the Bible. NIV has “favor,” ESV has “favor,” and KJV also has “favour.” But the NLT says this:

For you bless the godly, O LORD; you surround them with your shield of love.
(Psalms 5:12 NLT)

And here is The Message:

You are famous, GOD, for welcoming God-seekers, for decking us out in delight.
(Psalms 5:12 MSG)

Interestingly, when I look at “KJV+” in my Bible app, it shows that the Hebrew word translated as “favor” in most translations can also mean “delight.” Well-played, Mr. Peterson.

My problem with the word “favor” is that, to many people, it indicates “special treatment.” Even the writer of the reading, the ubiquitous “Bob,” says, “Even so, I beg for Him to single me out and toss me a rose, so to speak.” (You would have to read the rest of the reading for that rose bit to make sense.)

I’m not comfortable with that. I’m not comfortable asking God to single me out. It’s like asking Him to help me “win.” Of course, I want to win. Who doesn’t? But the Christian life isn’t about “winning.” It’s about sacrifice and giving.

Side note: Part of my dislike of the concept of the word has to do with one particular person who, when asked a simple greeting question that we all usually ask one another, “How are you?”, would respond with, “Blessed and highly favored.” Ugh.

So when I think of the word “favor,” or “delight,” I see God delighting in all of His people! In the NIV, it is the “righteous” who are surrounded by God’s favor, or decked out in delight, as The Message says. “The righteous” is a group of people. It is all of the followers of Jesus.

I will, occasionally, pray for favor, but not so much for myself. I might pray for someone to find favor when going for a job interview or something like that. But I prefer to think of this one more in terms of “delight,” as Peterson rendered it. God, our Father, delights in us, in all of us! And, in that way, He shows US favor.

(From Pray a Word a Day)

Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.
(1 Chronicles 29:13 NIV)

I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.
(Psalms 69:30 NIV)

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
(Psalms 100:4-5 NIV)

My regular readers will note that I have a gratitude list up at the top of the devotional section each day. There are always at least five things, sometimes more. This has been a practice of mine for several years, now, and it launched out of dissatisfaction upon seeing people suddenly get thankful because it was November.

That’s the month in which Thanksgiving occurs in the United States, for my readers who live in other countries. I find it somewhat . . . I don’t know what the word is . . . it’s not “hypocritical,” necessarily. But it chafes me that people who grumble and complain the other eleven months of the year are suddenly all thankful for thirty days.

So I took that and ran with it, and kept it going, and have done it ever since. Every day. It’s not for show; it’s not to appear “religious;” it is not to appear more “favored.” It is to inspire others to be thankful. It is to display an attitude that, even in the toughest of times, I can find something for which to be thankful. Some days, it is hard to come up with five things. Other days, it is hard to keep it to only five. Because frequently I find that I have the same mindset of the composer of Psalm 23. “My cup overflows.”

At some point, a few months ago, I decided to wade into the murky waters of TikTok, and I started publishing a short video of my gratitude, where I read the Scripture passage that is before my gratitude list, along with the points of gratitude. I also post the list on Facebook, as well as a daily post asking, “What can I pray for you today?”

Again, I want to be clear: I am not “tooting my own horn,” here. I am not attempting to look like I’m super-spiritual. I am anything but super-spiritual. I sin; I fall short; I do grumble, much more than I should; I forget about the many blessings that I have in my life (see yesterday’s blog). But in my imperfect state, I want others to see that you don’t have to be perfect; we just have two jobs to do, you know. Love God and love people. You can make that as complicated as you want, but it still boils down to those two jobs. And that’s what I’m trying to do.

In today’s reading, Shawnelle Eliason (one of my favorites) writes this prayer. “Lord, forgive me when grumbling lives where gratitude should. Amen.” I heartily echo that plea.

(From Daily Guideposts 2022)

And to kind of go along with what I said up there about the two jobs, here is this from Eugene Peterson:

“We do not qualify as biblical simply by quoting the Bible.
“We are biblical only when we share life in the wilderness with those who are tempted and fall, when we carry the cross of Jesus, and when we love extravagantly in Jesus’s name.”

(From On Living Well, by Eugene H. Peterson)

Father, I thank You for making me grateful. Yes, I am grateful that I am grateful. But it is because You have placed that spirit of gratitude within me. I could never do that by myself. Everything I do, at least anything that is positive and worthwhile, comes from You.

I praise You that we, Your people, are covered by Your delight. Yes, You “favor” us, You delight in us. But let us not get all selfish and self-centered about that delight, because it is not about me, an individual. It is about us, Your people, the saints, the Church, the Body of Christ. As an individual, I have a place to fill in that Body, so I pray for the ability to fill that place. I do not pray to be singled out, to be thrown a “rose,” or to receive special favors. I don’t want that. But I do desire to know that delight that You have for all of us, and I desperately want to pass that delight along to others.

Which brings me to that last bit. Lord, help me to be truly “biblical,” in the sense that I “share life in the wilderness with those who are tempted and fall,” that I can successfully carry the cross of Jesus (which, no doubt, means different things for each of us), and that I can “love extravagantly in Jesus’s name.” That last one, to me, is the most important and the most desirable.

Help me, O my Father, to love extravagantly.

Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

"Love one another;
This is how they know you're Mine;
Love one another."
(Inspired by John 13:34-35)

Grace and peace, friends.

Larry Norman can be heard on this song.