Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

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“HAVE YOU SEEN JACOB THACKSTON?” – March 6

March 5, 2017

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” Galatians 5:6

Have you seen Jacob Thackston?  Is that name recognizable?

Google will not readily yield an accurate association.
The trappings of fame are not its acclaim.
Familiarity does not come from notoriety.

The name, Jacob Thackston, has a particular importance to me.  It is a name that has come to transcend even the owner in my mind.  I associate this name more with a characteristic than a particular personage.  It represents a potential that resides in each and every one of us.

We are all potential Jacob Thackstons.

Four years ago, Jacob Thackston was one of the top Lincoln Douglas debaters in Region II of the National Christian Forensic and Communication Association (NCFCA).  He won several tournaments and qualified for the NCFCA National Championship.  However, I don’t remember Jacob Thackston for these reasons.

I don’t remember any of his speeches;
I don’t remember any of his cases;
I don’t even remember what he looks like.

In fact, Jacob Thackston had thoroughly faded from my memory when an event just five weeks ago brought his name flooding back to my remembrance.

It was my family’s first year of involvement in NCFCA that I became familiar with the name Jacob Thackston.  My son was 14 years old and we were at our second tournament.  We were still figuring out this whole crazy, one-clap, NCFCA experience.  My son was struggling with some learning challenges.  He was doing cognitive therapy and we were simply thrilled that he was doing one speech, an Illustrated Oratory speech.

The first time I heard the name Jacob Thackston was as we were leaving the tournament and a young man walked out of the building and yelled:

Hey Kyle, I want to see you doing LD next year.

My wife and I, were “who was that”?  And my son said, “That’s Jacob Thackston”.
It was a long ride home and that name came up repeatedly.

Jacob Thackston was a senior and he had won the Lincoln-Douglas final debate at that particular tournament and my son was a fan. My son had followed Jacob Thackston around the whole tournament and timed all of his rounds.  Yet, I discovered that Jacob Thackston had done a remarkable thing as a senior to this novice speaker, my son.

He showed kindness to my son.  He encouraged my son.

What I heard from my son the entire ride home was:

“Jacob Thackston thinks I should do LD”;
“Jacob Thackston said that he would help me”;
“Jacob Thackston thinks I can do it”.

I must confess that I did not agree with Jacob Thackston.  I thought this whole LD idea was a bad idea.  My son had learning challenges; he was going to get slaughtered…but we tried to be good parents, sucked it up and said, “Oh I think that will be wonderful.”

That made what I saw five weeks ago so incredible in my eyes.  Five weeks ago at the NCFCA Spokane Open, my son walked across the stage the winner of a NCFCA national open in Lincoln Douglas debate.  I was astounded.  Honestly, it was a sight that I never thought I would see while driving across the State of Washington and hearing my son first tell me about Jacob Thackston.As my son received his trophy, I was as proud as a Dad can be and I was grateful to a lot of people.  Like most NCFCA competitors, my son has received a lot of help and encouragement along the way.  Yet, Jacob Thackston specifically came to my mind because it had all started with him.

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It had all started with his kindness.

Consider what his words could have done.

He could have been harsh or condescending;
He could have been indifferent or aloof;
He could have said nothing;
He could have discouraged my son…
to the point that our second tournament was our last.

Now, you may not think that showing simple kindness is a big deal but I will vehemently disagree with you. It may have been a simple thing but just because it was simple does not negate its tremendous impact.

Jacob Thackston’s simple kindness changed our lives.

  • Kindness changed my son’s life. His life is different because of his involvement in NCFCA; profoundly, positively different.  Kindness tilled the opportunity of participation to be planted in his life.
  • Kindness changed my life.  I am on the board of directors for NCFCA.  The simple kindness of a teenager started a whole series of events that have brought me to participate in a way that I had never aspired.

That is the profoundly powerful impact of kind words.

The kindness of Jacob Thackston was more than a good guy being friendly.  The spirit of God can be recognized in his action. I believe that his actions were the result of the faith of a child of God working through love – specifically love in the form of kindness.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (Galatians 5:6)

What do you think counts from the second tournament that my family attended?  Do you think the trophy Jacob Thackston took home all those years ago counts for more than the change his kindness made in my family’s life?

The kindness of Jacob Thackston is an example of how to combine what we do with how we do it, for the glory of God.  Jacob Thackston competed with intensity; he pursued excellence; he was focused; he was prepared; he was ready to address life issues from a biblical worldview.  He was successful.

However, what he did at that tournament in Washington did not eclipse how he did.  The kindness shown to my son demonstrated a faith working through love and that made all of his actions count.  It was his faith working through kindness toward a novice teenager that has continued to bring glory to God.

Kind words do not cost much.  Yet they accomplish much.
~ Blaise Pascal

Therefore, my encouragement is to never underestimate the power of simple kindness.  Speak what needs to be spoken.  Do what needs to be done.  Yet, always speak and do from a heart that loves God, a soul that hopes in God, a mind that is set on God and an attitude that loves your neighbor as much as yourself.  May our words accomplish much and may our legacy be a legacy of kindness for the glory of God.

Have you seen Jacob Thackston?
Have you been Jacob Thackston?

May we all become Jacob Thackston!

PRAYER: Lord, I thank you for the how you have used and continue to use the kindness of Jacob Thackston.  Father, help me to be like Jacob Thackston.  Help me to live a life characterized by simple kindness.   May the fruit of you Spirit flourish in my life in a love for you and for all those with how I interact for your glory.  May we all become a people who glorify you through our kindness.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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MASTER OF OFFENSE – July 25

July 25, 2014

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all thing, endures all things. Love never ends…” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

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“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you have emotional expectations, I can tell you I have limited means to fulfill them. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a life time. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you walk away, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will be your friend, I will be your confidant, and I will offend you.”

I have a particular set of skills; skills meriting a warning as ominous as that given in the movie Taken.

All who share my particular skill set understand the latent hazard that we represent.   We are a very dangerous subset of the population, easily blending into the masses.

However, our skills are often exposed despite our best attempts to befriend. The practitioners of the art of offense tend to be naturally gifted. We rarely have to think about our art.

We have an ingenious ability to select the most inappropriate combination of words.

 Our simple mis-timed questions can re-infuse the socially diffused.

We can build the harshest of corners by a mere sequence of honest observations.

We can block  social cues in a focused demonstration of our skills.

And that is without even trying.

The reality is that all humans are skilled in the art of offense but there are a special few who are masters.  The masters of offense have a unique ability to separate thought and love. Love should pilot thought. However, the truly offensive allow their thoughts to range far from the constraints of love.

Thought can be freed to search the bounds of circumspect.
It can peer past emotions and formalities for dispassionate assessment.
Thought can fly free beyond reality into blissful imagination.
It can dive deep into the depths of hidden meanings and intents.

Yet, thought unguided by love is destined to the shackle of disdain; the prison of all offensive masters.
Love is what frees thought to become all that it was intended.

Love allows thought to persuade.
Love soothes accurate assessment.
Love returns fragrance after thought’s searing.
Love hinders speculation.
Love binds lips opened by thought.

imagesCAENI4DCDespite my skills, I don’t want to be a hazard to others. I don’t want unfettered thoughts, freed to practice the skillful art of offense. I have tasted too often the bitter loss wrought by those skills. Since I can be naturally offensive, my focus must be on yielding to the mastery of love. My thoughts must cling to the course set by love. Love will faithfully guide thought to kind and patient response.  Love pulls thought from envy or boasting and away from arrogance.  Love enables thought to accept someone elses way and soothes thought’s resent and irritation.

Thought produces wonder actions.  Thought gives life to all of our gifts but it is love that produces the fruits of the Spirit in thought because love always returns to the Father – the source of love. Love delivers our thoughts to the Father; thoughts set upon the Father produce more love for the Father and our neighbor.

God is glorified only when Love and Thought are connected.

Thought and love cannot be separated for the Christian – it is our DNA.

Therefore, no Christian is obligated to live a life dominated by their offensive skills. Our warnings can fall away as our thoughts yield to His love because we are new creatures, created with a new DNA of love and thought.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for making me a new creation.  Thank you for bonding my thoughts to your love.  Forgive me for breaking those bonds and allowing my thoughts to wander unrestrained.  Forgive me for not loving my neighbor as you do. I don’t want my thoughts to wander from you.  Tune my thoughts to sing your praise.  Let thy love, like a fetter bind my wandering thoughts to thee.(Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing)  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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I LOVE YOU…THERE I SAID IT – April 27

April 27, 2014

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

 “I love you!”, my friend professed as I turned to leave.

Oh, man…why did he go there?

“I have a profound appreciation for you, also,” was the perfunctory reply I dared not utter since  “love”  hung in the air.

I struggled for an appropriate response as milliseconds turned toward awkwardness.

Why could I not respond with, “I love you too”?
Why does professing our love from a brother in Christ seem so weird?
Why couldn’t we  just hit each other on the shoulder and that be enough?

I mustered up a weak, “me too,” as I made for the door.

Endless loveFew phrases cause me more social angst than a profession of brotherly love from a non-confidant. I might have been scarred by the Bud Light commercials from the mid-90’s (I Love You Man).

The problem arises from my cultural interpretation of the implied meaning of love.  Love as defined by Dictionary.com:

  1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person.
  2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.
  3. sexual passion or desire.
  4. a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart.

I know intellectually what the Bible teaches regarding love.

The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  (Mark 12:31)

These things I command you, so that you will love one another.  (John 15:17)

Love one another with brotherly affections.  (Romans 12:9)

Owe no one anything, except to love each other…  (Romans 13:8)

Let brotherly love continue. (Hebrews 13:1)

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart… (1 Peter 1:12)

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

Greet one another with the kiss of love…  (1 Peter 5:14)

Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.  (1 John 2:10)

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11)

If anyone says, “I love God”, and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  (1 John 4:20)

Motherly Love

Our culture has skewed the meaning of love to such an extent that I struggle with the emotional aspect of love. I can intellectually know that I should tell my brother in Christ that I love him but a mental checklist suppresses my feelings:

Do I have a profoundly tender, passionate affection for this other person?
…Nope.

Do I feel a warm personal attachment or deep affection for this person?
…Not really.

Do I feel a sexual passion or desire for this person?
…Definitely not.

The inevitable conclusion is that I don’t feel the profound emotional response of love for this person as I have come to know what those feelings should entail. This conclusion makes any reciprocal profession of love seem less than genuine (Rom. 12:9). How can I love them…I barely know them?  That makes it weird.  Weirdness goes off the scale in trying to tell a sister in Christ that she is loved by me.  And to just complicate it more, consider the implications of the command to love our enemies.

But I say to you who hear, Love our enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.  (Luke 6:27)

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? Fore even sinners do the same.  (Luke 6:32)

If they truly are our enemy, than all the inherent meanings of love are turned upon their head. Our love must be genuine. It must flow from a heart that truly feels love. Therefore, we need to change our definition of love.  C.S. Lewis has aided my personal definition transition. He defined love as:

Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.
~
Answers to Questions on Christianity,” God in the Dock .

When we remove the societal demand for emotional affection from the definition of love, we begin to gain a better understanding of how to practically live in genuine love for those who are acquaintances, distant neighbors, or an enemy.

When I love someone, wishing for that person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained, my actions become those defined by love (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

Love is patient and kind
…because that leads to their ultimate good.

Love does not envy or boast
…because that will not lead to their ultimate good.

Love is not arrogant or rude
…because that will detract from their ultimate good.

Love does not insist on its own way
…because that is the way to their ultimate good.

Love is not irritable or resentful
…because that will detract from their ultimate good.

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing
…because that will not lead to their ultimate good.

Love rejoices with the truth
…because therein lies their ultimate good.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things for the ultimate good of those we love.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish
but have eternal life.

(John 3:16)

God loved us while we were yet enemies because He desired our ultimate good and He accomplished it.

I  genuinely want that for everyone. I genuinely wish that all would come to Christ. I genuinely wish that all my family, friends, acquaintances, and enemies would come to their ultimate good. I don’t want to do anything that would be a stumbling block to anyone’s salvation or sanctification.

Based on this more appropriate definition of love, I do love people even though I find it sort of weird to express it.  However, expressing our love for one another is important.

Therefore, I want to express to all those who are reading this blog:

I LOVE YOU!

PRAYER: Father, thank you for first loving me.  Thank you for desiring my ultimate good and working out everything to that end.  Thank you for enabling me to love others – even my enemies.  Help me to to desire their ultimate good.  Lord, I lift up my enemies to you in love – give them their ultimate good, which is to know you. Father, make me a loving person in all ways and at all times.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

Just to clarify, I love you …in an unromantic, less than platonic,  non-sexual, slug you in the shoulder sort of brotherly love …
that genuinely and earnestly wishes  the ultimate good for you,  that Jesus Christ, will flow in and through your life.

I know … it just seemed a little weird.
(I am working on it.)

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“RULE OF LOVE” – August 20

August 20, 2013

“It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me.”  Jeremiah 27:5

All representative societies have the rule of law as a cornerstone; a compilation of rules to ensure that the weakest of citizens are protected from the powerful.  The powerful are always  tempted to do what is right in their eyes.  Regardless of motivation, the rule of law intends to limit the exercise of power.

In a similar manner, I have a tendency to try and subjugate God to my concept of the rule of law.  I conjure a rule of love by which I seek to constrain the power of the divine into a paradigm that is acceptable to my sensibilities.  My rule of love encompasses all that is lovely and kind and pleasant.  I easily attribute all the byproducts of this rule of love to God.

However, my concept of the rule of love gets me into trouble when I read books like Jeremiah.  The prophecies of Jeremiah crush my feeble boundaries of love.  God’s wrath confronts my sensibilities.  I am tempted to retreat back into my little paradigm of love and turn away from the reality that the wine of God’s wrath has been and will be poured out upon a rebellious people.

Thus the Lord, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send to you drink it.  They shall drink and stagger and be crazed because of the sword that I am sending among them.  Jeremiah 25:15-16

Babylonian captivity

Babylonian captivity (Photo credit: jimforest)

The sword that the Lord sent among them was the nation of Babylon.  The creation of the Babylonian empire was a brutal and horrifying saga of conquest.  Love was not the message of the Babylonian armies.  Death, misery, and suffering were the result of resisting the armies of Babylon.  Yet, it seemed right to God to give the Babylonians their empire.

Babylon was neither the first nor the last empire to gobble up vast portions of the earth.  History tells us of the Aztecs, Inca, Assyrians, Persians, Egyptians, the dynasties of China, the Mongols, Romans, Byzantines, Ottoman, Nazi, Soviet, British, Japanese, and American; just to name a few.  God has allowed them all.  He was the one who determined it was right for them to rule.

The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem (Ti...

The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem (Titus and the Roman legions in 70 CE) – painting by Francesco Hayez (1867) …item 3.. Josephus claims that 1,100,000 people were killed during the siege, of which a majority were Jewish and 97,000 captured. (Photo credit: marsmet543)

Consider all that these conquerors have done to the conquered in the name of empire.  The savagery that humans have done to one another in the name of conquest turns my stomach and confounds all that I understand to be right and wrong, good and bad.

Conquest does not fit into a warm-fuzzy concept of the rule of love.

Many have turned from the God of the Bible when their concept of a loving God will not fit into biblical portrait of God that includes His wrath.  “A loving God would not do that”, is a statement that I have often heard.  Others refuse to look upon those scriptures that teach of God’s wrath.  Still others create theologies that make God respond to the development of empires, the atrocities perpetrated on the conquered, and all other forms of evil in this world.

These are all attempts to subjugate God to a rule of law that we have created; a rule of love that elevates God’s love above His wrath.

We forget the world that we live in.  This earth is not a world of love.  It never has been.  If it were a world of love, then we would not need a Savior.  The evil and sinful acts that happen every day in this world testify to our need of a Savior and remind us that we live in a world facing God’s wrath.

I believe that it is revealing that God’s wrath can be seen in the actions that are most clearly absent of His love.  When God’s love is withdrawn, the evil of man’s rebellious heart can be clearly seen.

It is a terrifying thought to live in a world without the love of God.  It is a fearful thing to face the wrath of God.  Jeremiah was prophesying of God’s impending wrath through the Babylonians so that God’s people would turn back to Him:

Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard.  Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you.  Jeremiah 26:12-13

Likewise, it is good for us to behold a world without God’s love that faces only His wrath.  We do a disservice to all who walk in the flesh when we focus only on God’s love and ignore His wrath.  The warnings of God’s wrath are intended to persuade the lost to mend their ways and deeds and obey the voice of God.

All the evil that is perpetrated on this earth should remind us of our need for God’s love.  That is why Christ came to this world.  He did not come to make this world a nicer place.  He came to save sinners from the just wrath of the Father.  God’s most loving act was the sending of His own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin to condemn sin in the flesh.  That is how God showed His love to the world.

The full revelation of God’s love is what is necessary to satisfy the final demonstration of God’s wrath.

We either accept all of God’s love through Jesus Christ or we get none of it.

That is the rule of love.

PRAYER: Lord, I fear your wrath.  I fear it for myself and for my enemies.  I fear a world that is absent your love.  Thank you for sending your son to save a sinner like me.  Thank you for showing such great love to this rebellious and sinful world.  Lord, I want all of your love.  Forgive me for those times that I have not valued your love for me as I should.  Forgive me for those times that the joy of my salvation, the joy in your love, does not radiate from my being.  Thank you for reminding my of your wrath and turning once again into the loving arms of your embrace.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“REAL LOVE” – June 24

June 24, 2013

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have love you, you also are to love one another.”  John 13:34

I was recently going through some old papers and ran across a list of goals that I had written shortly after graduating from the University.  I was newly married, had a new career, and was on the cusp of the adventure called my life.

I remember making that list.  I remember the reasons for making most of those goals.  Through the last couple decades, I have been successful in achieving most of them.  I find it interesting that the reality of now standing on the future side of that list does not match the anticipation felt when condensing dreams into goals and writing them on paper.

I have found that to be the universal case.  Reality has a hard time living up to my dreams.  My mind creates theater.  It does not create documentaries.

My mind creates a stylized version of reality, past or future, that can be mesmerizing.  My mind can direct a whole world of utter fantasy.  The mental special effects of this world can be so convincing that reality blurs with the make-believe.  I can become so enamored with the theater of my mind that I love it more than what is real.

The real is the present.  The real comes to us with all of its flaws and imperfections.  The real has uncertainty.  The real can hurt us and make us unhappy.  The real can disappoint.  Our minds often create elaborate sets to soften the stark documentary quality of the present.  However, the present is the only thing that is real.  Everything else is a dream or a fading memory.

The battle for the real has tangible consequences for how we love.

We all love much and in a variety of ways.

We can love our family as they are or

            We can love our family as we want them to be.

We can love being married or

            We can love what we thought marriage would be.

We can love our job or

            We can love what our job is when we get that promotion.

We can love where we are or

            We can love what we were.

We can love where we are or

            We can love what we will be.

We can love what we have or

            We can love what we will obtain.

We can love others where they are or

We can love them based on what they should have done or did not do.

Our love can easily slide from what is real to a theatrical concoction of our mind.

God loves me.  He does not love a future me or a past me.  He loves the present me.  He loved me before I loved Him.  His love is not conditioned upon me becoming the someone I long to be.  His love is for the real me; the present me.

In the same way, God has called us to love others.  We are to love real people.  We are not called to love a person who we hope someone will become.  We are not called to love someone who used to be someone else.  We are to love real people.  That means we are to love people as they are.  We are to love real people with all their faults and failures.  We are to love people with all of their blemishes and bandages.  We are to love people in their weaknesses and through their wanderings.

This does not mean that weaknesses are irrelevant.  Weaknesses are the touchstone of the real.  It is only in the dream where a weakness drives one away from another.  A weakness will destroy a dream.  Therefore, the love of the make-believe is fragile and can be easily crushed by the weaknesses of a real person.

However, a real person’s weakness can truly be conquered when we love that present person.  When we love the real person, we are drawn closer by their weaknesses.  The love of the real person becomes our motivation to strengthen them in their weaknesses.  We pick up their cry when they have disappointed, once again.  We lift them up when they have stumbled, once again.  The love of a real person does not have a limit since it does not rely upon the conditions of a dream.

“When in loving it is a duty to love the men we see, then is there no limit to the love; if the duty is fulfilled, the love must be limitless, that is, unchanged, however its object changes.”  Soren Kierkegarrd

This is the way that God loves us.  We are justified in Christ.  He has given us His Spirit to overcome the weaknesses of our flesh but the love that He gives us today does not depend upon what we hope to be.  God loves real people.

May we love like He has loved us.

PRAYER: Lord, help me to love others as you love me.  Forgive me for loving dreams.  Help me to love others where they are today.  Help others to love me where I am today.    Father, I want to have a limitless love for You and other people.  Fill me with the love that only can come from you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

Reference: “Works of Love”, Soren Kierkegaard

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“WHAT’S UNDER THE HOOD?” – June 14

June 14, 2013

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging symbol.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”  1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Cool SSWhen I was a teenager, I bought myself a sweet ride.  It was black and shiny.  I added chrome rims with wide, low profile tires making speed bumps a hazard.  I bought a stereo that was more for the listening pleasure or displeasure of those outside the car.  I swapped the original steering wheel out for a small custom chrome wheel that made sharp turns a work-out.  I fussed over that car.  I washed it.  I buffed it.  I polished it.

I was so cool cruising the streets of my small,  rural town in my ’69 Camaro.  It was more than a mode of transportation from my home to school.  It served a purpose that was beyond a mechanism to speed the activities of my day.  My car was a representation of how I wanted my little world to see me.

However, there was a problem with my car.  It was a problem that was beyond my financial abilities to fix.  My Camaro rolled off the assembly line with a deficiency that belied its exterior.  My Camaro was powered by only six cylinders.  This is not the standard Camaro.  Chevrolet did not build the Camaro brand on six cylinder cars like mine.

2010 Camaro

2010 Camaro (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Camaros are known as muscle cars.  The title does not come from having the same amount of horsepower as a family sedan.  Muscle cars have the kind of power that will pin you to your seat with each stomp of the accelerator.  They have an enticing guttural purr that speaks of their latent power even while idling.  A muscle car earns its moniker by what cannot be seen.  My Camaro did not earn any such moniker.  It had no muscle under its hood.  That is probably why my parents allowed me to buy it.  My car was a sham.  It looked the part, but it was not what people thought it was.

I would go on the Friday night cruise and drive really slow.  Often, I would find myself sitting next to real muscle cars.  They would rev the engine of their real muscle car and I would feel horsepower envy through my very being.  I was forced to play a cool indifference in my refusal to race; like they were a contender not worthy of a response from my beast.  All the while, I knew that I had a kitten under the hood.  I hated the appearance of power without anything to back it up.

My car was all show and no go.

I wonder how often I have lived in a manner that my faith is more like a poser for the real thing just as my Camaro was.  How often has my faith been all show and no go?

The Christian life is a response.  All that we have has been given to us.  We were saved despite ourselves while we were yet enemies of God.  There is nothing that we can earn through the practice of our faith.  We walk in a newness of life due to the grace that has been shown to us by our Father in Heaven.  The only appropriate response is love.  All other responses are a jumbled confusion of conflicting motives.  Motivation originating from anything other than love is just another example of our old flesh trying to get back into play.

The power plant that drives the actions of a child of God is a heart in love with their Redeemer. 

It matters greatly what is under our spiritual hood.  We can be motivated by many things but love is the only attitude that unleashes the full power of the Spirit in our lives.

I am hesitant to even suggest the number of Christians who are living under-powered lives.  I know my own heart.  I know that my own selfishness slips into the motivations for many of the activities that I choose to do for the Lord.  I can do all the right things for all the wrong reasons.  I have done that.  I struggle not to do that.

I think this is terribly common among us who are striving to follow Christ:

I have seen teachers whose ministry is contingent upon appreciation.
I have heard indifferent worship given between snippets of the last week’s events.
I have known elders who operated with an ongoing list of  wrongs done to them.
I have seen ministry leaders whose staffs feel beleaguered and taken for granted.
I have watched obedience offered to please a parent.
I have heard offerings being given in order to purchase privilege.
I have known accountability resulting in writing off a person who made a mistake.

Many of us look really good from the outside.  We have all the appearance of power but what we really have under the hood is suspect.  I think that it is very good to check one’s motivation.  I think it is good to listen to what our lives sound like.

Why are you going on that mission trip?
Why are you helping at Church?
Why are you giving your money?
Why are you giving your time to ministry?

If you are doing it for any reason other than out of love for your Redeemer, then you are probably doing it in your own power.  Consider how severely under-powered you will be and it will still gain you nothing.

Power is something that cannot be faked.  At some point, our poser bluff will be called.  Maybe, now is the time to check what you are running under your spiritual hood.  A swap of motivations can be as easy as falling upon our needs in confession and crying out for help to our Father who has been waiting for the right attitude to flood us with the power of His Spirit.

PRAYER: Lord, you know my heart better than I do.  You know that I do so much from the wrong motivations.  I know that I am probably more of a clanging symbol than a beautiful melody to your ear.  Father, help me.  Help me to walk in a love for You and for my neighbors.  Forgive me for allowing my selfishness to get in the way.  Forgive me for all the right things that I have done out of the wrong motivation.  I don’t want to be fake.  I don’t want to pretend to be living in the power of your Spirit.  I want to know the real thing.  I will to live in your love and your power.  Strip me of any motivation that is not pleasing to you. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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LOVE OF YOUR LIFE – Feb. 14

February 14, 2013

“So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.” I Kings 11:6

Education is the answer to our society’s problems.

That statement is often explicitly made or it is implied without question when leaders wrestle with the difficult blemishes of human communities.  Our communities are awash in violence, unkindness, hurt, heart-ache, lost dreams, and crushed hopes.  Education is the remedy in which many will place their confidence.

If people are informed, then they will be able to restrain themselves.

If people have better decision-making skills, then they will make better decisions.

If people know the consequences of their actions, then they will make right choices.

If people know the help that is available to them, then they will choose not to participate in destructive activities.

 I am not opposed to education.  I do believe that we should inform and educate individuals on the ramifications of their actions.  However, I think that we should be realistic about how effective education can ever be.  Our society’s problems are not due to social-economic conditions nor are they due to a lack of information.  Our society’s problems are due to a heart problem.

Education cannot solve a heart problem. 

Solomon was the smartest man ever.  People came from around the world to listen to his wisdom.  God educated Solomon on the cause-effect of his actions:

“And as for you, if you will walk before me, as David your father walked, with integrity of heart and uprightness, doing according to all that I have commanded you, and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish you royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your Father, saying, “You shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel.”  But if you turn aside from following me, you or your children, and do not keep my commandments and my statutes that I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them, and the house that I have consecrated for my name I will cast out of my sight, and Israel will become a proverb and a byword among all people.” (1 Kings 9:4-7)

That lesson seems pretty clear.  I don’t think that it is possible to misunderstand God’s lesson to Solomon.  Solomon was a smart man and he had a clear and concise lesson.  If education was the answer then Solomon would have made the right decision.   Solomon did not make the right decision.  “So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.  Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.” (1 Kings 11:6-7)

The man who was responsible for building the magnificent temple to Yahweh is at the end of his life building places of worship for false gods.  How can that be?  He is a person who knows better.  He is informed.  He knows simple cause-effect logic.  He wrote books on wisdom.  Yet, he makes these horrible decisions.

Education is always trumped by a rebellious heart.  Solomon proves that.

Romantic Heart form Love Seeds

Romantic Heart form Love Seeds (Photo credit: epSos.de)

Humans will always do what they love most.  Solomon loved women.  Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines.  That is a man who loves women.  That is a man with a serious problem.  We are told that Solomon clung to these women in love.  He loved these women more than he loved God.  He was more concerned about pleasing these women than being obedient and pleasing to God.  He was willing to sacrifice his throne and the entire kingdom of Israel to have his appetite for women satisfied.  He gave up everything for what he loved the most.

Solomon’s rebellious heart trumped all his intelligence, wisdom, and knowledge.

We should not be foolish enough to think that we cannot go down the same road as Solomon.  Jesus told us that the greatest of all commandments, “you shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matt. 22:37)  We must be careful of what we allow our hearts to love.

We should not miss what Jesus is teaching.  The most important thing that any follower of Christ should be doing is making sure that they are obedient to the most important commandment; the great commandment in the law.  If you are going to get any of the commandments right, then get this one.  It is the great one and it has to do with what you love the most.

I would imagine that Solomon, while he was building the temple in Jerusalem, never thought that he would do what he did on the high places.  He did not guard what he allowed his heart to love.  This is why we are told to examine ourselves.

We do what we love the most.  That is why the great commandment is to love God with all that we are.  When you love God more than anything else then following Christ is merely doing what you love.  We do what we love the most.

What do you love?  What do you love the most?

Is there someone who you love more than God?

Is there someone who you would compromise your faith to keep?

Is there someone who you want to please more than God?

Where are your affections?   Your heart will always trump your mind. 

Be careful of where you allow your heart to wander.

PRAYER: Lord, I know my heart and I know that it is prone to wander.  Father, keep me bound to you.  Lord, show me what I am allowing into my life that is drawing my affections away from you.  You are my all in all.  Lord, soften my heart so that I will seek you first in all that I do.     Amen

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