“Walking Forward Together in Christ’s Love”, from L.Willows (Justice, Humility, See Jesus, Love)

“Walking Forward Together in Christ’s Love”, from L.Willows

We are called to love one another. I remember many teachings that reminded me that it was no special thing to love the ones in my life that were easy to love. The true measure and test of love was if I could love the ones that were most challenging for my heart. Could I love and include into my faith and prayer, the one that feels like “the enemy”, “the obstacle” , and even “the thorn” that I desire not to experience? ” How can my own heart be love walking forward in unity with all, in the heart of Christ Jesus? 

I am praying with you today that we  walk forward in the love of Christ. I pray for our hearts, that we are not only transformed by love but let forward into a time of deepened hope and unity. How can we get from here to there?

We need to Love One Another Earnestly and with Humility.

According to God’s law, our call is to love, to love more than we ever knew we could. There is no end for love, no moment when the Lord turns away from His Beloveds.

In the fellowship group that I was a part of, we often studied the teachings of Jesus that reminded each of us that love covers a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8 –“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”

Initially as I soaked in these words, I thought that it was the sins of the “other” that needed God’s grace. I also thought that must work at loving others more. I thought that the strength of  this kind of earnest love came from me. Effort to love caused our mortal means frameworks in the mind to be our perspectives. We get lost. The way to love earnestly is to lift our hearts to the Godly perspective. We need His Holiness to pour into our hearts. Loving one another earnestly is loving from a Godly perspective.

Loving One Another Earnestly is Loving from a Godly Perspective

After time, and prayer, I realized that God’s Holy Love had to pour through my heart first before I would be able to “give it” gracefully and generously to someone else. The sins that His love covers needed to wash me first. I needed to be a recipient of purification and forgiveness so that I was more able to love others more. This ability to love could not come from my own effort or works. It was given by the power of God’s grace. He is the transformer of our hearts. We respond with actions that display the fruit of that transformation. I Pray that we each live in ways that bear the fruit of actions that display Christ’s love in our hearts.

When love “covers” a multitude of sin, it means that we become covered by Love. To be covered means to conceal, to be blanketed by- here we allowing God’s love to conceal all trace of an offense. It is the generous grace. We “keep loving one another earnestly”…honestly and with hope that as Christ covers our own sin with His Love and calls us into repentance, we in turn lovingly cover the sins of others.– I Pray with you, that we live each day longing that Christ inspire our hearts to forgive as we have been forgiven.

We Love One Another and Forgive as We have been Forgiven by God.

John 13:34-35 —A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

After a season of living in isolation from COVID,  I was anticipating summer. I longed for reunions with friends and the opening of church doors. Yet by early June, it was clear that this was not the way it was going to be in the region that I live in. This has been a new season of protest, of calling out injustice and of unrest. There are no in-person fellowship gatherings and the church doors are still closed.

We hear calls for justice in our times. We gather and listen in new ways.

Crowds have poured onto the streets in protest of injustice. I have witnessed a motion towards change that is historic.  We are caused to review our hearts, revisit perspective and even search the stories that we carry from the past before walking into the future. We learn to listen attentively to others with humility. As it says in 1 John 3:23, “God abides in us and his love is perfected in us”.  When God’s love is perfected in us, we see our own lack of perfection. As we listen to the Heart of God, we are called to repentance and led into purification by His Holiness. 

As we listen to the Heart of God, we are drawn into a deep Listening. Our hearts are Humbled.

 We are imperfect beings with hearts that are being transformed into God’s nature which is a love that shines with His Glory upon all.  We have all been stirred by the isolation of the Pandemic. We need to listen to the lament of the suffering and broken-hearted of the world. The love of Christ is one that is humble and it is one that listens. It is anointed with His Spirit.I Pray with you, that we each submit to the spirit of humility and are anointed by the Spirit of the Lord.

Luke 4:18 –The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.

Throughout all, I am certain that God’s plan is for good. I look back and forwards trying to imagine that I am a bird in the sky that can fly in time through many years. God’s Plan is for Good, His Love pours into our lives for Good. We can take refuge in that.

God’s plan for good. It a plan for His Grace; a plan that all come to know His Love, to enter His Kingdom and accept the invitation to know Him. God’s Good is all that is aligned with His purpose. His good is the fulfillment of His will. As His will is fulfilled, Love pours abundantly for good. We can take refuge in that. — I Pray with you, that we soak our hearts in our faithful refuge in God’s Good, that we seek His will and long for His purpose each day.

1 John 4:11-13 –Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

I am learning each day, new ways that I need to continue to learn to love others and that God’s love abides in my own heart. This walk with the Lord is one that is ongoing and constantly being “perfected” in me. It is the journey of sanctification. Even as life offers strong challenges-  we are given new tests and the ability to “see” parts of our own hearts that need deeper exploration. God’s Spirit, the Holy Presence is there to guide us and give our hearts deeper strength, faith and promptings so that we can walk according to God’s purpose and make our paths straight.

We are flawed, imperfect being molded and refined by the Refiner’s fire. We still have much to learn and we are humbled. Our hearts, as 1 John 4:11 says, “ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us.”– I Pray with you, that we find our treasure in the inexpressible values of Life with, near and for Jesus Christ- seeing Eternity and His Love as Near and dearly in our Heart’s Grasp.

We join together walking forward in love because of the riches of Christ’s love for us.

I pray with you, that we join in a fellowship of love for one another, able to listen and able to renew heart perspective in the unity of God’s Spirit.

I pray that we see Jesus in our midst, leading us forward as our Great Shepherd whose compassion sees each heart and hears every cry for mercy and justice.

May the Lord lead the way to healing and restoration.

I pray for the children of God, that they know themselves named “Beloveds” and hear His call.

May their hearts be filled with His love and His peace.

May we all, the Children of God, walk forward together in Christ.

© 2020 Linda Willows

“And So We Pray”, from L.Willows (repentance, reconciliation, restoration)

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Christians everywhere are praying. We are called by the brokenness that our nation is experiencing and by the cries for justice. We need to examine ourselves before God with humility and seek Him in Prayer. I would like to share with you what my church sent out to us almost two weeks ago –and so we pray. L.Willows

We are praying and fasting together as a church family in response to the brokenness our nation is experiencing. May these thoughts and scriptures be helpful to us as we seek the Lord honestly, openly, and expectantly.

We pray for hearts of repentance.

We are called to lives of faith and repentance. If we avoid repentance, we
undermine our faith. That’s why we confess sin in worship regularly at APC.
Confession, and the assurance of pardon, are necessary components of worship dialogue. The more we repent, the more we see and comprehend the Father’s mercy, Christ’s sacrificial love, and our dependency on the Holy Spirit.

We confess our personal sin

We deeply want to believe we are not guilty of racism. Yet ethnocentrism,
prejudice, and racism exist in every human heart. Lord, help us see it, without fear or self-justification! Even Peter, an apostle, was guilty of this sin. Paul rebuked him (Gal. 2:11-14) for racial prejudice, for refusing to eat with Gentiles. Peter’s personal sin led others to follow his example, even Barnabas. That’s why…

We confess systemic and historic sin

God sees sin as a comprehensive and corporate, as well as personal. All of “creation was subjected to futility.” (Rom. 8:20). Everything is broken. Our individual hearts, and the communities we form. It is not a sin to be white, or any other ethnicity. But we must not be blind to our history and how it persists today.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

We thank Jesus for taking our sin on Himself Jesus moved proactively toward us (Phil. 2) and humbled himself, taking upon himself sins that he did not personally commit. We give thanks that although Adam’s sin was imputed to us, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us when we repent and believe. “For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 5:17)

We pray corporately, covenantally We cannot look away from the despair of our neighbors of color, for they are made in God’s image and violence against them is an assault on His image.
We do not close our ears to their cries over the centuries. We do not deny the sin of a nation that has shown preference for people of one color over another—and then labors to deny this preference even exists, doubling the pain and insult. Instead, we “weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15) and we pray Psalm 106:6—”Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness.”

We also pray corporately with Daniel (9:3-6), with Jeremiah (14:20), with Isaiah (6:5), and with Nehemiah (1:5-7; 9:1-37).

We pray that repentance leads to reconciliation

Relationships are important to God. They are the only things that last eternally. Jesus tells us if your brother feels you have offended him, you must not worship until you proactively pursue reconciliation with him. (Matt.5:23-24) Because our vertical relationships and horizontal relationships are connected.

So we pray for reconciliation between individuals, families, neighbors, fellow believers, in our denomination, our nation, and our world. Such reconciliation does not come from us, but flows through us, the fruit of reconciliation with God. (2 Cor. 5:16-20)

We pray for peace

We are called to “open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Prov. 31:9) We pray for peace in the streets, that voices are heard and violence is prevented. We pray for safety for both the protestors and those who enforce the law.

We pray with hope

We grieve over the world’s brokenness, and give thanks that the restoration of all things is not our work, but Christ’s. We live between the Garden and the City, looking with hope to the day when God Himself “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore.” (Rev. 21:4)
We long to see people “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages…standing before the throne and before the Lamb…crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:9-10)

Alexandria Presbyterian Church (Alexandria, VA USA -A Day of Fasting and Prayer, June 7, 2020)

“Mercy, Full Mercy”, a worship poem from L.Willows

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This, they are calling, this they agree.
Mercy, full mercy, see each heart’s plea.
From here to yonder, from far to most near.
Lives seek love’s tender, soft pouring on fear.

Not one alone nor, kept from God’s heart.
Each in His goodness, life from the start.
This we, they- all call, for His Spirit does hear.
The Alter of His Kingdom, so dear, so near.

Count us in the blessing, let all be called.
Bring full His mercy, let our hearts be enthralled.

From here to yonder, let all be Love filled.
As we, and all call, may His Spirit be tilled.

© 2019 Linda Willows

James 4:1
But He gives us more grace. This is why it says: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

 Isaiah 41:10
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 Exodus 15:2
The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory.