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?

 

 

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.

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.

Saying, “Yes God”

Monday, March 25, 2019

You are a tapestry woven together by the hand of God. Every weave, every thread, every stitch, every color and even every snag is part of the beauty. Glory is woven, over time, into the work of art that is you. Beauty and glory are magnified as we welcome the Artist’s hand.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.  (Hebrews 13:20-21)

It is His work for His glory – glory that He is pleased to invest in you and me. Our role is to welcome His equipping hand upon us. Yet we will only welcome it to the degree we are convinced “that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him” (Romans 8:28). Do you believe this?

Below is the Welcoming Prayer for your contemplation. It is a challenging prayer that may offend your senses on first reading, but the invitation is to say “yes” to God – and welcome his artistic hand in every fold and facet of life.

Welcome, welcome, welcome.

I welcome everything that comes to me today 

because I know it’s for my healing.

I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, 

situations, and conditions.

I let go of my desire for power and control.

I let go of my desire for affection, esteem, approval and pleasure.

I let go of my desire for survival and security.

I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person 

or myself.

I open to the love and presence of God 

and God’s action within me. 

Amen.

 

March Madness

Saturday, March 23, 2019

In the middle of our Lent Journey comes the NCAA basketball tournament- March Madness. I love the underdogs, the Cinderella Story teams. Murray State University and the University of Buffalo are not typical Big Dance teams, but they have played well, and won. These teams have great spirit and are tenacious competitors. Simply getting to the tournament is victory.

Our journey is better than a Cinderella story. We don’t belong at the big dance and we have not earned the win. Yet the Bible says:

“No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours [we are conquerors] through Christ Jesus, who loved us.”                                                                                                   Romans 8:37

We are winners because of Christ alone. The victory of Jesus over death and sin has been credited to us – we are the Cinderella Story! The power of Christ’s love conquers every foe; No hostile power, accusation, enemy, or sin can keep us from the overwhelmingly victorious love of God that is ours in Christ Jesus.

Today, breathe deeply of the victory that is yours by the grace of God. In Christ, you cannot fail, you cannot lose, you cannot be defeated.  Thanks be to God who delivers us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!!

Was That Intentional?

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Did you do that intentionally? Did the guy in the brown SUV just intentionally cut me off?  Did she intentionally snub me? Do you wonder if the challenging and hurtful things happening around you are intentional? Maybe you attribute intentionality to those who offend you. But maybe it’s not intentional, maybe they are just unaware.

I’m convinced there are a lot of folks who are radically unaware, including myself at times. In my unawareness I have offended, cut-off, overlooked and inadvertently wounded. It was not intentional.

Jesus said to pray like this:

“Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”      Matthew 6:10

This is a prayer of radical intentionality. It’s calling you and me to kingdom awareness, willful awareness and intentionality. The intention is to place the kingdom of God, the will of God and the ways of God first.

Jesus prayed a similar prayer of radical intentionality when His life was on the line in the garden of Gethsemane:

“Not as I will, but as You will.”                                                                            Matthew 26:39

His love, life, struggles and sufferings were intentional.

Sometimes I stagger through my day unaware, without intentionality, and it is not rewarding. The model prayer of Jesus, and the focus of His life, was that of intentionality. Intentionally putting his Father’s will first, intentionally giving His life for ours, intentionally humbling himself for the wellbeing of others, intentionally taking narrow roads, making sacrifices, and pursuing hard people in love. It was Jesus’ intention to impact others with his life and love.

I will live with intentionality today. What are you going to be intentional about today?