What’s Love Got to do With It?


Proverbs 16:2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
But the Lord weighs the spirits.

God is always searching our hearts and motives for those things that please Him,glorify Him, and show obedience to His Word and His calling for our lives.  We can’t fake it. God is not mocked.

Love has EVERYTHING to do with what honors God and shows obedience to His Word and His ways.

What Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:1 speaks volumes to what we should do and how we should think and behave towards those we might normally hate (that is if we aren’t guided by the Holy Spirit).

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Let me be perfectly clear on this: Wrong motives render righteous acts unrighteous!  What does it mean to be righteous?  When we follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Who reveals righteousness to us by prayerful reading of the Scriptures, which is the divinely inspired Word of God, we find that righteous motives (1) Spreads the Word, (2) Ends contention and (3) glorifies God. Remember what John the apostle said:  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend[a] it.

If God is love, and He is, everything that is said in John 1: 1-5 is done out of love, also. It is a logical inconsistency to suggest that anything that is not of God, to possess love. He created the universe, and all things GOOD! And He created them out of love.  This is why what the Lord says to Samuel  in 1 Samuel16:7 is so important for us to remember: But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees;[a] for man looks at the outward appearance,but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Take a second look at John 1:5. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness did not comprehend it.  We are called to be light in a dark world. Hatred, striving (a form of the word strife),contentiousness, paranoia, and just about every negative emotion you can think of contributes to the darkness and cannot shed light on anything. 

What is in our heart is a key to being light. And motive is everything. Motive shows God whose side we are on.  We need to be careful of unrighteous motivations in our own lives.  Things like:

·        Doing things out of vanity (even things we think are good)

·        Self glorification

·        Worldly ambition

·        Fear of man

·        Greed

·        Demand for instant gratification

·        Approval of man

·        Envy

·        Deception of any kind

Can discredit our testimony and reflect poor intentions to a world that wants to paint every Christian as a hypocrite.  Jesus had this to say in Matthew 6: 2, 5, and 16:

Therefore,when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

16 “Moreover,when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.

When we walk closely with our partner the Holy Spirit, none of these things should be taking place. The Holy Spirit is the one that fills the heart of every believer with the Love of Christ whose very characteristics Paul gave us in the“love” passage in 1 Corinthian 13:4-8:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

Jesus never hated anyone. He put His love in us to use for the glory of His kingdom and for this He died a horrible death, the greatest example of love ever. He understood this when He patiently answered His worst critics, the Pharisees and correctly identified them as “of your father, the devil”. He took some of those very same Pharisees, particularly Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea and gave them insights into what salvation really meant.

Think of these points the next time you go to a meeting, the next time you engage an embittered friend or co-worker, the next time you pray and ask the Lord what to do and then ask yourself, better yet ask Him, to create in you a clean heart and renew the Spirit that honors God first, and loves all to the exclusion of no one. Even when you don’t want to.

We didn’t deserve His grace but we got it anyway. Give it away!

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Living for the Next Crisis

Image


images images1 images2In my last post, The Risky Mission, I talked a lot about what obstacles successful people had to overcome in their lives to become successful, by anyone’s standards and how it didn’t matter what background they came from.

Whether they came from wealth, poverty, whether they had to overcome racial, national or gender barriers they all had a few things in common that separated their lives from the commonplace life. You might recall, if you read  that post, that I said that in God’s economy all lives matter and God uses all life for His glory, which is why we were created.

It’s my opinion alone that God uses some folks as shining examples of what His power can accomplish and other He uses as object examples and not always of glowing behavior. There are many examples where these lives have been turned around from object examples to great victories wherein God gets all the credit and glory. I’m certain He earned it each time!

Back to the matter at hand. You might recall one of the points I made had to do with one of the most common characteristics of people who fail to thrive in life or repeatedly fail to reach goals or even formulate any that would give their lives joy, peace, or some sense of God’s blessing upon them or the people they care for.

I always go back to the prophet Jeremiah and his wonderfully hopeful prophecy that so many of my brethren have come to love today:

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Unfortunately, too many of us fail to see that our relationship with God, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit requires more than the wistful desire to see something wonderful happen in our lives. If this is all that’s needed, there would be no need for the day to day relationship we must have with the Lord, would there? Of course not.  In this way, we reduce God to a rabbit’s foot, a vending machine, or Santa Claus.

The trouble with this is is that the rabbit’s foot gets lost, and the vending machine gets stuck after it steals our coins. Santa only comes once a year.

And then what? As often happens with those who have not developed the relationship the way Scripture has laid out for us, the immature fall away, they put the relationship on hold or worse, they even curse God Himself.  It is sad to see, but as an elder in my church many come up for prayer with a misunderstanding of the nature of the relationship and what really is needed.

People in crisis tend to stay in a state of crisis with little relief, if any, until the next one.  In my profession, we are seeing multiple generations of families in crisis. They know no other way and this is a screaming tragedy begging for God’s intervention!  This is why Jesus had to die as He did. This is what He told His disciples 2,000 years ago and He meant it for all of us:

If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.  John 14:15-19

Crisis living is not living. It is slow, hopeless, lingering death. Death of the spirit, death of the body , and often death of the soul.  This is not God’s plan for anyone. 

It starts with the Holy Spirit. If He dwells in you, you must draw close to Him. He promises that if we do this, He will draw close to us.  You must be born again to have Him in you.  Jesus was talking about this when he told the disciples that He would not leave them as orphans.

The Holy Spirit will help us develop Godly wisdom to plan and seek God with all our heats, mind, soul, and strength.  He will help us to put the carelessness, pain, and suffering of crisis living behind and lead us into that which is truly important and eternally valuable. The pastors in my church lead hundreds by their daily example.

This example is S.O.A.P., meaning Scripture, Application, Observation, and Prayer. We have cards with chapter a day readings. Each reading follows this four step process and helps us do so many things God’s way, in His strength and not ours, always leading to fulfillment. Because The Word is everything in our lives. If it is not and you;re a Christian I want to encourage you right now to refocus and renew your mind putting His kingdom first.

Don’t waste a minute!  The great preacher Charles Spurgeon said it best:

If you are idle in Christ’s work, you are active in the devil’s work.

There’s time for rest, but we are here for God’s glory and not for any other reason. If you are living in crisis and feel your life is not yours or is not the life filled with God’s wonderful plan for you get into the habit of lathering up.

S.O.A.P.!  It’s not just reading. It’s reading with a purpose. To draw closer to God, to glorify Him, pray to Him for true revelation, peace, and grace.

You can do it. Surrender your life to Him and get lathered up!

Strength for the Stumble


If you read my post Drinking Poison yesterday, I was struggling with my attitude last week when it revealed itself in unflattering ways at work.

Today was a good day to put some of my most natural attitudes and behaviors to rest and I found comfort in doing this in a couple of ways.

First, I spent a lot of time praying that the Holy Spirit would show me ways of glorifying God in EVERY situation and not just those in which I saw an opportunity to glorify Him myself. 

Second, I acknowledged to God who I am in this prayer, flaws and all, and did what I have been doing in prayer the last several days: I repented and focused on the wonderful life He has given me and repeatedly did so throughout the day.

Sometimes it meant being away from my staff more than I would have liked. I’m a hands on leader and being visible and connected is an important part of that.  This is O.K., though, because it is also important to allow some distance that gives my people a sense of the fact that I trust them to work independently but that they can seek me out for any reason and I will be there for them.  There have been many times in the nearly three years I have been with these officers where this has been tested, but I believe they know this.

The important thing to recall here is that these spaces of time where I am not with them is a time that is best used for strengthening myself. Not physically, or emotionally, or mentally but spiritually. Little moments of time where I remind myself that He is greater and dwells in me and He is greater than he who is in the world to torment, divide, and conquer us with treachery and deceit of all kinds.

I am very fond of a quote by C. S. Lewis which reminds how to go in moments of solitude, few and fleeting though they may be.  It is the kind of thought that reminds me of who I am trying not to be and also Who dwells in me:

As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people. And, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.

Here’s my advice to those who struggle with unflattering attitudes like I do:  Surrender and keep praying to be surrendered to God. His Son Jesus died so you would be able to do this and Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to take the place of the carnal spirit that we were born with.

That Holy Spirit is in the heart of every saved believer and surrender is the freedom we all seek. If you are not seeking this, DO!  You will never for a moment regret it. Here’s how:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:8-9

Once you have made this commitment, the Holy Spirit can and will act but you must call on Him. He will act. No more self-induced sorrow acting in our own strength. That strength causes us to stumble and fall, often.  The strength He provides powers us out of our nature and into His.  I like His nature much better. You will too.

Go ahead now and put the Kool-Aid the world wants you to drink down.

Drinking Poison


 

A friend of mine at work has a poster on her bulletin board that makes me laugh for the irony of it, especially considering where we work.  The poster is of a bundle of matches lighting up with one sticking up in the middle of them all. This match is brighter than the rest.  The large caption underneath says, “BURNOUT” and in smaller letters below it says, “Attitudes are Contagious”, and in still smaller letters it says, “mine might kill you”.

Now I know it’s all intended in fun and once in a while we can share a good laugh at no one’s particular expense, but let’s think about this a minute.  Is there an “expense” that goes with sarcastic messages? After all, it’s only a poster with a funny, albeit ominous message.  I know the person pretty well. She’s Christian. So am I. We’re both nice people, I think. I also think most people think the same of us.

The other day I was participating in a teleconference with my supervisor and a peer. This teleconference seemed to drag on interminably and my impatience was starting to become visible to the point that it annoyed my boss. She’s also a Christian and one whom I respect a great deal because she really struggles to “make her audio match her video” as the saying goes. I fancy that I do but when I fail, as I did on that day,  it is not always apparent to me.

Well, as I said, it became evident to her and she justifiably called me on it.  I’m grateful that she did and I immediately knew that there was only one correct response for me to make at that moment.

Before I get to that, here’s the test for you, whether you’re a Christian or not: What was the only correct response?  Ask five people this question and you will, no doubt, get five different responses.  Here’s what I did.

I apologized in the presence of the peer to my supervisor.  It was obvious that my sarcasm in the teleconference distressed her, more so because of my walk.  Later, I returned to her office by myself to have a Christian to Christian talk about anything else she might have noticed about my attitudes or behaviors that she thought I should look at, and correct, so that I could become a more effective leader at work, and a more effective and repentant Christian.

The key to this talk hinged on being truly repentant and turning hard from the poisonous attitudes I had been indulging in, “all in good fun”.  It was important to me to do this and it was important to my supervisor. We have an office that functions extremely well, despite the poisons we drink in from time to time.  Staff work well together and support one another with only a few clashes of attitudes popping up now and then.

For my part, I now know that the imperative becomes not just to do my job, but to glorify my God in the process and this is entirely about attitude. No longer will I drink the poison of sarcasm which the world calls “wit and wisdom” or “good fun”.  No longer will I associate with those who target me for abuse, because of my walk with the Lord. The walk in which I occasionally stumble.

Like my supervisor, I will gently, lovingly seek to set straight those who are drinking the slow acting poison of sarcasm, and poor attitudes that drag them and others down in hopes of creating a place where God’s glory has a chance of manifesting itself.  By the power of the Holy Spirit in me, I will not allow myself to fall like many who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk.

 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…Romans 1:21-22

I challenge you, dear reader, to do the same. Glorify God where you are always!

Expressions of Gratitude


As I start this post, I hearken to my childhood when we would go around the Thanksgiving table and give a short list of the things we were grateful for. With 10-14 family members and friends, this could take a while but it was always a good exercise.

Funny thing, though. Since our walk with the Lord had not begun in earnest at that point in our lives, to whom were we being thankful? We would say, “God” and meant it but we had very little Scripture guiding our lives at that time and the idea of loving God was more of an abstract concept than a close walk in relationship with Him.

When I really got serious about walking with the Lord about five years ago, my priorities in life started to change, more and more radically, with each passing day. Who I am today is not who I was five years ago. This would not have been possible in my own strength, of which I have little on my own. This is the first thing I am truly thankful for-the realization that without Him, Jesus Christ, I can do nothing, am nothing and have an eternal goal to achieve that can only be reached by obedience to Him.

First and foremost among my priorities, I am a child of the Living God and by Him do I derive innumerable and immeasurably deep blessings in this brief, human existence. This is the Shadow of Almighty God, whose wings guard me, guide me and give me and my family abundant joy, peace, and salvation. This safeguards all of the other relationships and priorities in my life.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!” Psalm 91:1-2

Because of this, I am wonderfully blessed by a loyal, loving, hard-working wife who honors me in every way. I honor her, too. Our relationship has always been blessed from the time we first met in church on Resurrection Day, 1989 to this morning.  We have been guided, blessed, and led from danger by the power of the H0ly Spirit.

Perfect lives, you may be thinking? Far from it! But our lives are guarded and blessed despite our mistakes, laziness of spirit and discipline to consistently follow Him as He wants us to.

My relationship with Tim, my nearly 18 year old son, has been a blessing from the start. That has been entirely in God’s hands and mainly because of the blessings the Lord provided me through my wife, a truly wise woman. Tim loves us dearly, shows it, and brings honor to us by his behavior. He knows that our love for him will never change and that we are proud of him. Not because of our strength as parents, but because of His faithfulness in using us.

Then there’s the job. If you have read anything I’ve written the last 11 months, my work has been turned over to my loving God, who manages my career far better than I ever could and prevents me from making my work my idol, as it once was. There are still negative influences all around there but my strength lies in my Lord Jesus and He promises:

A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it shall not approach you. You will only look on with your eyes, and see the recompense of the wicked. For you have made the Lord, my refuge, even the Most High your dwelling place. Psalm 91:7-9

For these blessings, procured to me by a loving, living, holy God I am most grateful. And now I know with certainty from whence I have been and always will be blessed, protected, and loved.

As we arrive at the time of year where the natural world celebrates its feast of consumerism and debt, I welcome the celebration of the birth of The One through whom all blessings truly flow: Jesus Christ. This is the debt that I will gladly carry until I see Him face to face. Amen.