Love Wins

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Do you find it hard to love people different than you? People with different gifts or those you imagine are not believers? What about people that don’t believe just like you? Jesus’ call to us was to love one another as He loved us (John 13:34), and our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31).  It’s a tall order, as we approach Easter, but challenging ourselves to love more like Jesus is good.

What follows makes the point from a different angle. I share this from another blog called JackassTheology. The name may offend, but the thoughts are good.

“It’s easy to see the Spirit of God working in someone who is all about the things you’re all about. But what happens when the Spirit is working outside of the boundaries you carefully maintain?

John Calvin insisted that we ought to learn from and appreciate the insights and skills of everyone around us. This goes for those you admire and those you don’t. It goes for Christians and non-Christians. This is a bit surprising, perhaps, given Calvin’s emphasis on human depravity. But he insists that the knowledge and abilities of human beings—including unbelievers—are gifts they received from the Spirit:

“Whenever we come upon these matters [skill and understanding] in secular writers, let that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God’s excellent gifts. If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God. For by holding the gifts of the Spirit in slight esteem, we contemn [deride, demean, blaspheme] and reproach the Spirit himself.” John Calvin (1509-1564)

Did you catch that? Not only do we need to acknowledge that everyone—including non-Christians—have “that admirable light of truth shining in them,” but we had better be careful to heed and appreciate their insights lest we blaspheme the Spirit. Jesus told us that anyone who speaks against him will be forgiven, but the unforgivable sin is “blaspheming against the Holy Spirit” (Luke 12:10). There’s debate about what that means, but let’s agree it’s a strong warning. John Calvin isn’t Jesus, but in this passage, he’s connecting the demeaning of another person’s gifts with the unforgivable sin.”

My take away is to meet every person that crosses my path with honor and appreciation for them as an image bearer; though they, like me, are broken and sinful. They may not praise His name or think of Him as I do, they may offend me or just rub me wrong (that’s about me). Yet, how can I not show them compassion and kindness and love? Christ Jesus carried a heavy cross to Golgotha and suffered and died for my sin. And His love won me.

Today, let love win in you and through you.

 

 

Spent for good

Friday, April 5, 2019

Friday. The. Week. Ends. Are you tired? It’s spring break for some, so maybe not. I am spent. Too much travel, too many plates spinning, too many self imposed expectations.  My mind and body are tired.

I wonder how Christ felt with the weight of the world’s sin and His crucifixion just two weeks away. It’s unfathomable to imagine the desolation He was experiencing as a man.

God, You are my God; I eagerly seek YouI thirst for Youmy body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate, and without waterSo I gaze on You in the sanctuary to see Your strength and Your glory. Psalm 63:1-2

My humanity is painfully obvious to me. My limitations are real. Yet He is with me, so…

My lips will glorify You because Your faithful love is better than life. So I will praise You as long as I live; at Your name, I will lift up my hands. You satisfy me as with rich food; my mouth will praise You with joyful lips. Psalm 63:3-5

In the midst of being beyond my limits, I know He is my satisfaction. The choice is always the water of life or not. God’s satisfying presence or not. Something false, fake – a facade of the fountain of life. That is always the choice – spent or not.

When I think of You as I lie on my bed, I meditate on You during the night watches because You are my helper; I will rejoice in the shadow of Your wings.  I follow close to You; Your right hand holds on to me. Psalm 63:6-8

I cannot hold on to much, yet I know He holds on to me. I rest in the shadow of His wing, I trust and confidently hope in the Lord. He will renew my strength and satisfy me.

Wherever you are, whatever your strength in this moment, He is calling you in to a deeper relationship with Him. In Him there is sustaining life and the joy of His strengthening presence.  Maybe being spent and thirsty for living waters, deep satisfaction, is really for my good.

Whatever your lot, what will you drink of today?

 

 

Real Power

Thursday, April 4, 2019

What is powering you? Is it a desire for success or money? Is it a fear of failure? Is it living up to others expectations? Is it your reputation? Is it the joy of using your gifts? What is it?

So I ask you to make full use of the gift God gave you when I placed my hands on you. Use it well. God’s Spirit doesn’t fill us with fear and cowardice. The Spirit gives us power, love, and self-control. Don’t be ashamed to speak for our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, just because I am in jail for serving him. Use the power that comes from God and join with me in suffering for telling the good news. 2 Timothy 1:6-8 (CEV)

Sometimes we plug into false or inferior sources of power. Like disposable batteries, they work for a time and then are worn out. When we attach ourselves to inferior sources, worldly sources, we live in an illusion and stifle the power of God.

Paul tells young Timothy that God has gifted him with power and love. The power he speaks of is not intellect, athleticism, musical gifting or leadership capabilities. It is not a way with words or persuasive skills. So what is it?

Paul says it is the Spirit’s gift of love and power within him. Jesus said when I go, “I will send you the Spirit who comes from the Father” (John 15:26). Paul tells the Colossians, “the glorious riches of this mystery, is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27).

Our power, our sustaining and motivating power, the power to love, is anchored in the Spirit of God within us. The ALMIGHTY God, the One with all power and might, has taken up residence in our souls. His power is accessible, now. It is a power he delights to give us because his desire is for his children to thrive and impact our realm.

Today, will you trust in His power and love, and the gift of the Spirit within you? Will you risk believing He is with you and delights to work in and through you? Use the gifts he has given you, enjoy His power and love and His glory and let that alone power you.

 

Unleashed

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Years ago we had a beautiful Golden Retriever named Bud. As a puppy I spent hours with him on a leash training him. He learned boundaries and understood my commands. He knew what was expected and was rewarded with lots of ball chasing and treats. He was a great dog and we had fun with him. When Bud grew up, he rarely needed a leash.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things. For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known. Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.”                                                                                 1 Corinthians 13:11-13

As we grow in the grace and love of God, we are unleashed. Unleashed to love and enjoy Him. To mature in His love is to see the kindness, patience, goodness, security, mercy and joy He has for us. By faith, this takes root in us and we grow up in love. We set aside childish rebellion or ungodly desires, seeing more clearly the joyful satisfaction of Christ’s love alone.

I realize I’ve loosely compared us to a dog. My apologies, but if a puppy can grow to welcome the loving commands and joyful presence of his master, maybe we can too. Why would we run from Christ? Why would we leave Him? Why would we chase a squirrel and violate boundaries?  Could anything possibly be more satisfying than the love of God?

Today may we live unleashed in love and enjoy the blessing of our Lord.

 

Unrelenting

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

“For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery…”  Deuteronomy 7:6-88

Israel was set apart for the Lord. He chose Israel as His treasure, not because they were special of especially good. In fact at times they would show themselves to have less sense and moral integrity than the pagan nations around them. Yet God does not dump them. The Father does not wash His hands of a prodigal son and change the locks on the house.

God’s love is unrelenting – it is unconditional. He is not dependent on you earning His affection, following the rules, or behaving better. Of course there are 10,000 reasons – His blessings and overflowing joy – to live in God’s boundaries and love Him. But your actions are not the cause or catalyst for His love for you.

His love springs from HIS loving nature. His covenant commitment to love the ones He made in His image. He set His affections upon Israel, and then through Jesus Christ, the whole world.  He gave His only Son that we might know Him and have eternal life. Not because we deserve it but because He desires it. “The LORD is trustworthy in all he promises and faithful in all he does” Psalm 145:13.

Today, know that God holds you in His unrelenting love. Let it fill you afresh as a treasured vessel and may love flow through you to others.  Thanks be to God for His unrelenting love.

Foolishness

Monday, April 1, 2019

Consider the words of the Apostle Paul:

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”

So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.                                                               1 Corinthians 1:18-23

Holy Week is less than two weeks away. The most profound expression of sacrificial love ever. Yet to some it is foolishness.

Today as the jokes and the pranks come, may we be reminded by all the foolishness that we are heirs of unconditional love, sure hope and everlasting glory. Today may our hearts be full of the love of Christ and may that fullness of love overflow to every wise, wonderful, foolish and faithful soul that crosses our path.  Glory be to God.

Temptation

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Consider the last verse of the Lord’s Prayer:

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Matthew 6:13

Bob Hudson share’s these helpful thoughts on this verse.

Spiritual Warfare: “We acknowledge that there actually is a spiritual battle and it is not against people, but rather with forces dedicated to separating us from God, His presence and His love. That is the temptation – push away and separate.The consequence?  We are divided.  The enemy’s mission is to destroy by diverting us from God’s will – love and unity (John 17).  Here is a sobering thought. By yielding to division with one another – or anything contrary to God’s will – we are cooperating with evil.  Praying for God to deliver us from evil is central to our awareness of the spiritual battle that we all participate in consciously or unconsciously.”

Today, may we commit to love and unity. May we willingly receive the power of God to stand against the schemes of the enemy and pursue love and unity with all.

Relational Maturity

Friday, March 29, 2019

Continuing our look at the Lord’s prayer and the theme of transformation, consider again the Lord’s words from Luke and Matthew:

“Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.” Luke 11:4

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”          Matthew 6:12

I share again my friend Bob Hudson’s take on the Lord’s Prayer as it relates to Relational Health and Maturity: “‘Forgive us as we forgive.”  We come to God in our brokenness, in our imperfect humanity, acknowledging our need for mercy and grace.  There is a correlation between our receiving God’s mercy and grace and our willingness to offer it to others.  To withhold forgiveness – mercy, compassion, grace – is to demonstrate our own inexperience in receiving what God offers us.  The healthiest persons and relationships are those where there is an abundant experience of the love and mercy of God for self – and for others.  “We love, because He first loved us.'”

Let me ask you, do you see yourself and your flaws with the compassion of Christ, or are your critical and judgmental of yourself?  What if today you gave yourself the love and compassion Christ has already extended to you, and choose to share that same compassion with others around you? We might experience true transformation and growth in our relational maturity.

Relational Transformation and Healing

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Jesus’ incarnation and earthly ministry show us that transformation is relational. The brokenness or wounds we’ve experienced, and sin, are relational. And relational wounds are healed in relationship. Jesus chose to come to forgive and heal and reconcile a relationship, through a relationship, with you and me.

We, too, have a choice: hang onto the wound or seek reconciliation. Let it fester and become toxic and destructive or seek to embrace the healing journey. Healing is often a  journey entailing a lot of emotion – pain, denial, anger, sadness, grief. But we hope ultimately for forgiveness that leads to wholeness, reconciliation and joy.

I’m experiencing the choice now. I received a phone call earlier this week that opened up a 45 year-old wound that has had painful repercussions all my life. I am dealing with grief and deep sadness. It is calling me to healing and forgiveness on many levels. Two verses are hitting me:

Now Jesus began to go all over Galilee…healing every disease and sickness among the people.                                                                                                     Matthew 4:23

Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.      Luke 11:4

Today I chose to welcome Jesus, His love and forgiveness. I trust His loving power to meet me deeply and relationally in my wounded-ness and bring healing – though I know it is a process, a journey.

Is there a wound, a sin, a brokenness that you need to invite Jesus into today? If so, would you take a minute now and just breathe deeply. Welcome the breath of life – the healing love of the Spirit of the Living God – and welcome His healing and transformation.