Posts Tagged ‘Love one another’

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“THE LOVING SAPPER” – Nov. 25

November 25, 2017

“Just as the Father has loved me, I have also loved you; abide in my love.”  John 15:9

Enthusiasm waned in perfect inversion to the length of the day’s shadows.  The time had finally come to end the work and return home, which was dictated by both light and energy.  The path he walked seemed inclined in all directions as he began the long walk home.  Each step trudged along with heel barely higher than the sole.

The workman had been poured out.  There was nothing left.  He had given his all. Effort and more effort lay all about him but he was glad to be done at least until dawn.  He was well accustomed to the long treading of the trail home and happily started upon his routine.

Within sight of rest, random ruminations were rudely ruined by the wreckage caught in the corner of his eye.  A familiar plot, normally flourishing, lay ravished.  He had never paid much attention but he had remembered this small garden as blooming and inviting, well maintained and refreshing but that was not this evening.

The workman did not know when it was wrecked.  Had it been today?  Could it have been some time ago?  He did not know.  It was not his plot.  It was not his responsibility.  He could walk on by and no one would care.  He could turn the other way and no one would stare.  He could leave this destruction for another without despair.

But that was not his way.

The workman lived amongst destruction.  He knew it well.  The gardens he tended were strewn with munitions; bombs buried beneath every patch.  Inattentive tilling could trigger untold devastation with years of lost effort.  The workman knew that some bombs were buried deep and hard to trip while other were  exposed and ready to explode with a breath.

He could see several mines that would inevitably be tripped by someone less attentive and unaware.  He could not simply move on.  It was not his way.  With a sigh, he wearily stepped out of his routine and into the blast zone of this particular plot.  It was now his problem since he too would be effected by any mis-step.

 

The workman moved quickly with the skill of a sapper and defused all that he could readily see.  It was not hard.  It simply took care and gentleness to remove the danger. Yet, his heart broke over the destruction.  This plot had been stripped of all pleasantness; left barren and uninviting.

U.S. Air Force Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician

The workman returned to the pathway where he had left his satchel.  He removed a small delicate flower.  It was all that he had left and it was all that he could give.  He carefully opened the soil in the heart of the plot and planted this small gift…a flower.


A believer’s heart is the garden where Christ has planted this sweet flower of his love.  It is the channel through which the golden stream of his affection runs.  ~ Thomas Watson


It had been a long day and the last thing he wanted to do was to stop for some fuel.  However, he did want to get home so where wasn’t really a choice.  So, he broke his routine and reluctantly swung his pickup into the gas station.  A swipe of the credit card through the fuel pump produced the annoying message “See Attendant”.  This was not the desired result for someone who just wants to get home.   Another swipe of a different card produced the same results.  “What a waste of time” was all he thought as he wearily trudged toward the store with heels barely higher than the soles.

He saw the familiar face of the attendant standing behind the counter as he entered the store.  However, her faced somehow seemed to be a mere shadow of itself.  As his turn in line came, the workman gave his usual greeting.  The reply was far from usual.  It was terse, verging on rude.  A quick glance into her eye caught a tear turning into a glare.

Clearly, something had happened that had wrecked her normally jovial spirit.  Had it been today?  Could it have been some time ago?  He did not know.  He didn’t really know her.  It was not his responsibility.  He could walk out and no one would care.  He could not engage and no one would stare.

He could leave her in despair but that was not his way…he said a prayer, it was time to get to the real work of the day, for he was a loving sapper.

PRAYER: Lord, I thank you for your love.  Help me to love others as you have loved me and your Father has loved you.  Help me to not ignore the hurting around me.  Help me to not selfishly protect myself from other’s issues.  Give me a heart the feels and desires to heal.  Give me the desire to share the sweet flower of your love that it may flow with your affection into the hearts of the hurting.  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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“ENTICED BY TOMORROW” – Nov 4

November 5, 2013

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” 1 John 3:2

Tomorrow plays an enticing melody.  It is a melody that every person cannot help but hum during the day.  We plan in a chant of tomorrow.  We daydream in the croon of the future.  We fix goals in a serenade to what might become.  The necessity of tomorrow brings us all into the choir.  However, the allure of what is just around the corner can grasp our attention like acrophobia can steal a view.  Tomorrow has a perpetual rhythm whose powerful grasp is difficult to escape.

mendhak / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

My plans, goals, hopes and dreams, all inhabit tomorrow.  A goal intersects with the presence for a preciously short instant where it is either accomplished or not.  A plan evaporates upon implementation.  Hopes and dreams are recast once they are realized.  Tomorrow provides an escape from the physical bounds of the presence to the ethereal possibility of what may come.

It is easy for the promise of tomorrow to eclipse the duty of today.

Waiting for tomorrow is how I have spent the majority of my life.  I have lived preoccupied by planning to make tomorrow better.  I daily make investments of time, money, and energy into tomorrow.  The majority of our lives are spent striving for tomorrow:

Secondary education were years spent in preparing for college or work.
College was spent in preparation for graduate school or a career.
A career was spent in preparation for advancement.
Advancement was spent in preparation of retirement.

Tomorrow provides a consistent rhythm for most of our lives.  We live for the weekend.  We live for the next holiday.  We live for the next vacation.  If we are not careful, we can end up living for tomorrow and miss duties of today.

Garry – www.visionandimagination.com / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

An unhealthy focus on tomorrow can steal our confidence and contentment in the presence.  As we study and learn all that we don’t know, our lack of qualifications can keep us sidelined.  Past failures can cause us to doubt our capabilities in the present.  Our esteem for the mature can lend to prolonged deferment.  Our investments in tomorrow can deprive the profits of today.

Thomas Hawk / Foter.com / CC BY-NC

For a follower of Christ, there is an aspect of tomorrow that will never be improved from today’s reality.  For all who are in Christ, we are children of God, today.  A decade, century, millennium will not improve upon the title that we have, today.  We are children of the most High God.  We are fellow heirs with Christ, today.  The reality that we experience today allows us to cry, “ABBA! FATHER!”, through the Spirit of adoption that we have received.

Beloved, we are God’s children, now. 

The reality of who we are today should change how we view the present.  Who we are today, frees us from the enticing song of tomorrow with all of its promises for a better future that keeps us from being active in the present.

Beloved, we are God’s children.

What we will be tomorrow has not yet appeared but we know that someday we will be like Christ and we shall see Him as He is.  That will be an incredible tomorrow.  The reality of this incredible tomorrow should provide perspective to all of our planning, goals, hopes and dreams for our personal tomorrows.

Beloved, we are going to be like Christ and we shall see Him as He is.

We all have a duty to plan for tomorrow. We all are filled with hopes and dreams for the future.  Who we are should inform all of those plans.  It should shape every hope and dream.

Beloved, we are God’s children.

We are free to accomplish our Father’s business in all its varied forms, today.  No child of God has to wait for tomorrow to do our Father’s will today.

We don’t need a position or permission, degrees or pedigrees, time or dimes, acceptability or civility to:

…love the Lord your God with all of your heart and
with all your soul and with all your mind.

We do not need to wait for tomorrow to love the Lord today.  We can love God regardless of the condition of our today.

…love your neighbor as yourself.

Our neighbor’s heart can be encased with our love today.  Love does not need to wait until tomorrow.

Beloved, love does not need to wait for tomorrow
because we are God’s children today.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for allowing me to be your child now.  Thank you for allowing me into your family today.  Father, I look forward to the day when I will be like Christ.  I look forward to the day when I will see Christ as He is.  I long for that day.  Lord, you know that I get distracted by all the cares of this word.  You know that I can make an excuse not to be loving out of my addiction to my dreams of tomorrow.  Change my mind to the reality that I do not need anything from tomorrow to do your will today.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“MARITAL SPIRIT” – Oct 28

October 28, 2013

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since, they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”  1 Peter 3:7

Mall food court

Mall food court (Photo credit: Gaulsstin)

When I accompany my wife on a clothes shopping trip, I have an abundance of time.  I seek out the bench or chair, tucked away in some corner to make husbands feel less self-conscious of their surroundings.  While my wife beats every sales rack for the elusive prey of reasonably fitting jeans, I watch people.

You can learn a lot about a person by watching how they treat people.

Particularly revealing is the interaction of couples.  The shock of high divorce rates will no longer be a surprise once you spend a little time in the mall.  I sit in my little observation corner, watch, and shake my head:

I have seen a man marching down the middle of the aisle, barking orders over his shoulder to the mother of his children and their progeny.  I see a loud, manly, man with little regard for the impact of words.

I have seen a fashionista ricocheting down the aisle, enamored by the glamorous contents of sales racks with passing concern for the burdened man-servant kept in waiting.

I see a group of couples meandering along.  I hear a boy make a joke.  I see the payoff of laughs that he receives and I can see the impact on his girlfriend, who has to pay the bill.

I watch a family with every hair in place and every shirt tucked in.  There are obvious exacting standards at work within the family.  I wonder if those standards are held in place by one of the spouses demanding and unrelenting obsessive compulsions.

I watch a pack of young men ogle someone’s daughter with the same demeaning assessment as they make when purchasing a steak.

I watch young women freely displaying their produce in the proud manner of a farmer.

I cringe at what I hear.  The grate on my nerves comes from both what is spoken but also how words are expressed.  The honoring word is a rarity.  The respectful phrase seems endangered.

Couple talking on the Seine bank, Paris

Couple talking on the Seine bank, Paris (Photo credit: Laurent Scheinfeld ;-))

We should not be surprised by the difficulty that we have in our relationships when you consider how elusive the gentle and quite spirit seems to be.

Peter encourages our marriages to be characterized by honor and respect.  Men and women have different roles but honor for one another should be evident as we conduct our lives together.  Consider all of the problems that arise when we fail to honor each other.

I will inevitably hurt my wife if I am rude to her.
I will inevitably alienate my wife if I am indifferent to her.
I will inevitably crush my wife’s feelings if I am forceful to her.
I will inevitably devalue my wife if I refuse to listen to her.

When I respect and honor my wife as a fellow heir of Christ, it makes it easier for her to be respectful and honoring of me.  Her subsequent response to me makes it easier to honor her more.  The cycle of honor can become a wonderful catalyst to oneness between a man and woman.

I know of only one spring that produces this precious catalyst.  Marital honor flows from the spring of a gentle and quiet spirit.  Peter encouraged the women:

Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.  1 Peter 3:3-4

However, this is not just an encouragement for women.  Men are encouraged, multiple times, to have the same spirit; to be gentle and to be slow to speak.  The admonition to have a gentle and quiet spirit is for both men and women in our specific God ordained roles.  We are encouraged to have the same spirit because it is the fruit of the Spirit of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control Galatians 5:22-23

How much our relationships would improve if we were more gentle with one another?

How many conflicts between men and women would be averted if more self-control was employed?

This is why you can learn a lot about a person by watching how they treat other people.  The fruit of our spirit is on display in how we treat other people, particularly our spouse.  No one can hide their spirit within the closeness of marriage.

We have problems in our marriages because we don’t have enough respect and honor.

We don’t respect and honor one another because one or both spouses lacks a gentle and quiet spirit.

We don’t have gentle and quite spirits because we lack the fruit of the Spirit.

We lack the fruit of the Spirit because we are not walking in the Spirit.

couple

couple (Photo credit: Michael Sarver)

For those who are single, do not be blinded by your desire for a relationship.  A prospective spouse should be evaluated on the fruit of the Spirit in his life.  You should know where he walks before you join him.  Is he walking in the Spirit or does he spend more time walking in the world?  There will come a time when the fog of romance burns away.  If you want to be in a relationship that is built on honor and respect, then it has to start on the sure foundation of Christ.  Do not settle for second best.

The same is true for marriage.  Marriage is a beautiful dance of individuals, maturing through time.  There are times when partners can get out of rhythm.  The beauty of a marriage between fellow heirs of Christ is that there is a unity of Spirit that can be relied upon.  It is the fruit of the Spirit that sets the beat of our hearts.  When our steps are in concert with the Spirit, the catalyst of honor and respect will start to spring forth in glory to our Father as a couple lives as servants of God.

The honor and respect in our relationships tells us a lot about our walks with God.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for my wife.  Thank you for her gentle and quiet spirit.  Thank you all the work that you are doing in her life that has produced such wonderful fruit from your Spirit.  Father, continue to do that work.  Continue to do that work in me.  Lord, give me a gentle spirit.  Give me a quiet spirit.  Teach me how to honor my wife like I should.  Help me honor her in my thoughts, actions, and words.  May our marriage bring glory to you as we strive as a couple to serve you.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“SILENCING CRITICS” – Oct 25

October 25, 2013

“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.  Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.  Honor everyone.  Love the Brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the emperor.”  1 Peter 2:15-17

Killjoy, prude, wet blanket, spoilsport, party pooper…

Christians have been called all of these words and many more.  We have been mocked in movies, television, and political speeches.  We have been cast as being repressed, oppressed and regressed.  Popular culture frequently paints the landscape of Christianity with rigid lines, stark geometry, and drab colors.

I hate the representation of my faith that is commonly presented in the current culture.  I feel so misunderstood when my hope becomes lumped in with religions of works.  I cringe when I see grains of truth twisted in the legalism of a fear of the world that does not demonstrate the freedom that I know in Christ.

I understand that secular society and the media are not friends of Christ.  What is our basis to expect them to be fair in their presentation of Christianity?  Why would I expect them to give a fair and balanced presentation of what I believe?  Much of what is shown in the realms of entertainment and journalism comes from the ignorance of people who have not had their eyes opened to the reality of the God of the Bible.

We can shout until we are blue in the face about the injustice of our image.
We can fight a media campaign to spin our message into the world.

I think that all those attempts will fail.  Peter tells us how to fight the good fight.  We will put all those naysayers to silence by doing one thing – doing good.

church_lady_could_it_be_satanSo much of our Christian lives are spent saying “no”.  Many are saying  “no” because they are afraid that there is a demon under every bush and if they don’t keep a prescribed set of rules they might be thrown with the chaff into hell.  That is not living in freedom.  That is not doing good by saying “yes”.

We are to live as people who are free.  A free persons does not say “no” to enticements from a fear of the world.  A free person’s abstinence from the things of the world is a “yes” to living as a servant of God.  Therefore, our lives should be awash in doing what all people will recognize as good from a motivation of freedom.  Our good works are to come from a joyful response of getting to serve God.  Our good works are a response of love.

That is how the ignorant portrayal of the followers of Christ will be silenced in this culture.

When our friends and neighbors fail to recognize what is presented by Hollywood as the Christians that they know, then they will reject the culture’s portrayal of a twisted and false faith.

The problem is that even I see truth presented in many of these derogatory manifestations of my faith.

Consider a world where followers of Christ were consistently living as free servants of God:

 

Honoring everyone:  Those offensive signs condemning the lost would be gone.  The rude and insensitive debates would vanish.  Honor everyone does not mean that we have to agree with everyone but it does mean that we follow the “golden rule” and treat others as we would like to be treated.

first-ame-church-lawsuit-against-former-pastor-p1-normalLoving the Brotherhood:  The incessant bickering amongst the followers of Christ would be replaced by loving debate and respectful disagreement.  We would not be in the courtrooms of the world having our disputes settled by common law rather than the Word of God.  I don’t have the answers to how we work through theological differences that do really matter but I know that we can do it so much better than it has been done.  We should be cognizant of the reality that a lost world is watching how we treat each other.  Why would they want to be part of a faith that espouses love but whose members can’t even love each other?

Q9Fearing God:  The high profile scandals of the tabloids would not include the children of God.  Christians do a lot of really stupid acts that earn the title of hypocrite and diminish the power that we profess.  I know that we are all on the road of sanctification.  We all stumble.  However, the colossal moral and public failures of Christians should be much rarer than they actually are.  If we all lived with more of a fear of displeasing our Father in heaven rather than pleasing ourselves, we will be a better representation of what we claim to believe.

Barack Obama / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Honor the emperor:  The vilification of political opponents would not be cast in the mantle of the Church.  There are few topics more divisive than religion and politics.  There is nothing more divisive that the combination of religion and politics.  I realize that we Christians should speak out for many of the moral affronts and persecution that governments do.

DonkeyHotey / Foter / CC BY-SA

The issue is how we do it.  President Obama should feel honored by the religious right even though he knows that they disagree with his direction.  Our Facebook pages and discussions should not be strewn with disrespectful and offensive caricatures of our leaders.  Our obedience to Christ should extend through all aspects of our lives, even honoring and praying for leaders we don’t agree with.

Just imagine if these characteristics were the common experience of the world for a person who professed Christ.  It sure seems like the ignorance of false representations would be silenced.

I would love to see that.

PRAYER: Lord, forgive us for not living as a servants of God like we should.  Father, do your work in me; fill my life with good works that come for a heart that just wants to serve You.  Help me to be honoring to everyone.  Help me love those brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I have disagreements.  Help me to fear you as I should.  Help me to honor and pray for all my leaders, especially the ones I don’t like.  Lord, be with your church.  May I be a part of a larger working of your Spirit that silences the ignorance of foolish people.  May the good works of a people set free in Christ be a beacon to a lost world.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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