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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Have You Prayed for Success Today?

Success is the greatest job security. Your job is very secure if your place of business and you are successful. Yet, many people think that their success depends upon Karma of fate. They fail to recognize that God is working in the world. They fail to see that He will participate with them in success. 

So, let's look at what praying for success will mean.

Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac. That servant could clearly define success. He was shooting at a bullseye and would know if he hit the center. Many people fail to know what success will be for them on any given day. They have no todo list. They flow with the crowd. They let circumstances determine whether or not they have had a good day. They can't pray for success because they wouldn't know what it looked like.

You must be able to define success in order to pray for it. God may change your definition but let Him show you that He has rather than merely claiming anything that happens is His success. A few years ago people were praying "the prayer of Jabez." They shared their testimonies online of how God had blessed them. They attributed it to their prayer but I don't see how. It is easy to hit the bullseye when you draw the target after the arrow has landed. They were defining their blessings based on whatever happened. Abraham's servant was defining his success before it happened.

Success requires that you do your part. Abraham's servant went to the right place. He looked for the right things. He did not take credit for the success later but he was certainly doing what he could to ensure that success.

You may think that you can do nothing to establish success. You do what you are expected. Your time is not discretionary. You have to answer the phone, assemble something, place packets of materials on desks for "successful" people to look at. Yet, you can. You can make sure that you answer the phone in such a way that people want to call again. You can assemble things quickly and better than others. You can put your packets out and ask if there is anything else that is needed. You will be in the right place for success when you are doing what you should be doing. God blesses faithful people. Successful people never merely do the minimum. Minimum people are always the first to go in an economic downturn. Do your part in your success.

Success must be recognized. Abraham's servant prays, gives God the sign he needs to know he has found the right woman and, yet, wonders if she is the one. I suppose success can come so quickly that we don't want to call is success. God has a way of bringing that success to fruition rather quickly. However, don't be tempted to call something success when it isn't.

True success depends on your faithfulness to God. Abraham's servant could have stood in this area where he found Isaac's wife and declared, "My master is very rich and is looking for a wife for his son. Are there any of you who want to marry a rich man's son?" I am sure he would have received some takers. In fact, he would have cheated in the process. It may have looked like success for a short time but ultimately it would have been a failure. Honesty is a virtue which also makes us faithful to God.

So, have you prayed for success today?

May God grant you this success.

Genesis 24:12 (NIV)
12 Then he prayed, "O LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today, and show kindness to my master Abraham.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

What Is the Christian Life?

Did Jesus come so that we would go to church for the rest of our lives? Did He die on the cross so that we would wait until our own deaths to be with Him? Should the Christian life be boring?

Not a chance!

Jesus came to give us life here and now. He didn't sacrifice Himself just so that our own lives would be longer or that we would go to church. He came to give us life and that life has the characteristics of all life.

Life has a metabolism. It takes in oxygen to burn fuel. It changes the fuel into usable energy for the body. It eliminates that which it cannot use. The Christian life is no different. We live in the world but we are not of the world. The world may take in many of the things around us but we do not have to become a part of all of those things. We eliminate the bad and use the good. We breathe in with our prayers and exhale out the exhaust of our energy. We have a metabolism as Christians. We get spiritually sick when that metabolism isn't working right. The lack of prayer will choke us to death. The lack of the elimination of the bad will poison us.

Life has growth. We are born and grow fairly rapidly. New cells are formed. New muscle and bones make us stronger and taller. We really have little to do except eat and exercise so that growth can be expected. The Christian takes in the Word of God. The Bible calls it milk in one place and meat in another. It is our food that gives us growth. Our growth stops when we stop taking in this Word. Our growth will be stunted. Many Christians stand on boxes to look taller when they haven't grown in their spiritual life. Our growth, however, isn't to get taller but to look more like Jesus.

Life has movement. Even plants move. I love watching time lapse photography which shows flowers blooming in a matter of seconds. It is so easy to see how these plants move. Often plants turn toward sunlight in their movement. The Christian has to move. God has given each of us spiritual gifts so that we can do His will. Our action in those gifts is the movement we need to prove we are alive. The exercise of these gifts is exciting. We see a union of God and us working together. We participate and we see more than we could ever have done without Him. Of course, the lack of movement results in atrophy. Many non-moving Christians give the example of being called the "frozen chosen."

Life has reproduction. Reproduction is wired into life. It is natural for all living things to want to reproduce. It is natural that Christians want that too. God called us to share our faith so that others will become Christians. He did not call us to adopt. He did not expect us to call on our preachers or Sunday School teachers to reproduce for us. He expects us to have our own. There is nothing quite like producing a physical baby. The whole process is a miracle. The birth of our own children captures us. The birth of spiritual children is no different. It takes a lot of miracle and a little of us to see people come to know Christ.

Life has adaptation. Plants and animals adapt to the environment they are in. They respond by going where water is. They migrate, get planted in favorable places and further adapt by growing longer coats in the winter or even sleeping through those cold months. Christians have to adapt to truly have life. Each and every one of us is different. We are all God's children but He treats each of us differently. We respond to our environments differently. We are special in our adaptation. It makes us unique. 

The Christian life has the characteristics of the physical life. You are either metabolizing, growing, moving, reproducing and adapting or you are dying. In fact, some people may think you are already dead. 

Life is exciting. 

1 John 5:12 (NASB)

He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.

Friday, February 26, 2010

How Do You Trust in the Lord But Prepare for Tomorrow

Some people think that you either trust in the Lord or prepare for tomorrow. I believe that you trust in the Lord by preparing for tomorrow.

For example, I believed that God wanted me to be a pastor. I knew that I needed more education and experiences preaching to do the job. I went back to seminary to get a doctor of ministry degree and preached everywhere people would permit. I trusted that God would call me to a church but prepared myself for the day I would serve in this capacity.

God gives us opportunities to prepare for the future He has planned for us. He gives us the opportunity to get more education and experience. He molds those events in our lives to prepare us for our futures. 

Let's say a person wanted to get into the music business as a performer. Let's add that this is something he believes God wants for him. Should this person sit at home and hope that God will have a music producer walk by their house while the potential performer sings in the shower? Should this future superstar hope that he or she will be discovered without auditions, a fan base or any experience?

No, the performer performs in every place he can. He makes CD's for sale and for distribution. He writes songs and performs his own. He studies music, takes voice lessons and accepts critiques of his performances. He works hard at developing a fan base locally which will get the attention of a producer regionally or nationally. It doesn't make it any less God's action or will when we participate with God.

Now let's say you were in the typewriter repair business twenty years ago. It wasn't a bad business but word processing was beginning to take the place of the typewriter.  More offices had less typewriters. Should you say, "I'm not worried. God will take care of me. I don't need to prepare for my future. It's all in His hands?" This sounds very spiritual to some. I think it is foolish.

The Bible uses the example of the ant which stores its provisions in the summer and gathers its food at the harvest. The ant prepares for the future when there is an opportunity to prepare. It saves when the times are good so that there will be provisions when the times are bad. We should understand what this means.

God provides all that we have. It is His work that makes the good times good. However, He doesn't expect us to take His provision for granted. He uses the lean times for His people to be a testimony to others. He gave Joseph dreams so that he would understand what to do when he was in Egypt. He told Pharoah that there would be seven great years to prepare for seven years of famine. Joseph's entire family was saved because of his preparation for the future.

Today, we find ourselves in bad economy. Should we have prepared for this time? Were we living on the edge of our income so that losing our jobs would leave nothing to live on? Did we take opportunities to get education or experience when the times were good so that we could transition to another job once the one we had no longer existed? Did we make excuses why we can't do these things so that we never do them even when the times are good? Did we say, "We'll just have to trust in the Lord," when we should have been preparing for the future?

I believe God gives us the good times to prepare for our tomorrows. I don't think He wants us to simply live off the good times. I believe that we are trusting in Him when we prepare for tomorrow. 

Remember these two scriptures:

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)
5  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 6:6-8 (NIV)
6  Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Faithless in Church

Some people come to church without any faith. They have a verbal acquiescence of Jesus as Lord but no true faith in Him as Lord. They see themselves as good people who do what is morally right but do not believe in an active God. They are deist who attend church regularly. 

These people come to church faithfully. They give and serve. They may even be considered some of the best people within the church. They are often positive on the church's mission. They are often agreeable with mission activity and outreach efforts. They want their children and grandchildren to be baptized members who come to church religiously. 

Yet, these people do not truly believe in the Bible. They do not believe in any of the miracles. They do not believe in the absolutes of right and wrong. They think that God helps those who help themselves and they are not sure about Him helping even when they help themselves. They see their own lives as thinly hopeful for salvation for they have chosen the parts of the Bible they like or don't like. Their god is powerless to provide them with anything they need. He is a figurehead for the reason they attend church. 

Were these people always like this? Did they lose their faith because of tragic circumstances in their lives? Did they pray to God fervently without receiving the answer they believed they must have? Did they decide that He was not such a loving, all-powerful and knowing God if He didn't answer them in their darkest hour?

I don't know. I only know that they are now faithless in church. I know that they do not believe God can do anything for them. They do not believe He is behind anything that happens to them. They do not believe He will bring about anything good for them. They do not believe that they can pray with any confidence that God will answer.

Church has become their social outlet. It is where they see their friends. They can always get along with everyone there with a little pretending to have faith. A few words of "God will take care of you" to another seals their acceptance into the larger group of people called the church. Few expect that these folks have no faith. They are still thinly hoping for some things to happen but have no faith in God to cause them.

Those who are faithless in church cannot see what faith is. They have done what has been expected verbally for they have said, "Jesus is Lord." They have done what has been expected physically for they have been baptized. They have done what has been expected to be a good Christian because they have served, given and attended the church's highest claims of faithfulness. Yet, they do not know Jesus at all. He is merely someone others speak of. They aren't sure that He ever existed and are very sure that He doesn't exist now.

Some day they will die and church members will attend their funerals. No one will suspect that they never knew the Lord. Words will be said of their trip to heaven and how we shall all see them there. There friends will go the their families and tell them, "He is in a better place."

It won't be true.

I wonder how many are pretending though in church. I wonder how many funerals I have done for people who didn't go to heaven. I believed they did but my belief isn't what's important. 

Are you faithless in church? Is this your story?

Micah 6:8 (ESV)
8 He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Does God Always Deliver His People?

There have been many tragedies which have played themselves out over hours or even years. Miners have been trapped underground with hours or days before rescue will be too late. People get cancer and may live years before they will succumb to the disease. People lose their jobs and have a couple of months before their houses are repossessed. 

Many of these people are Christians. They believe in an Almighty God. They pray to Him with all their strength. They enlist others to pray for them. Yet, they aren't rescued, they die of cancer and their houses get repossessed. Why?

Did they lack faith? Was it because they didn't believe God would actually deliver them at the time of their greatest need? Was all their religious fervor just a charade? 

Did God lack the power to do anything about their crises? Were these tragedies beyond His control?

Did God not care? Maybe He didn't love these people. Maybe they weren't important enough to Him. Maybe He only cares for His high rollers.

Was God not completely good? He may have had a bad day and decided to let these people go through their tragedy because His goodness only goes so far. He just wasn't good on the days of their tragedies.

Consider something else: God did deliver each and every one of His children. Some He took to be in heaven with Him. Others He is changing their faith through the tragedy. Maybe someone is watching from the outside and God is delivering them to faith. These who are being newly delivered are watching others' faith while going through tragedies. The ones going through this hardship are doing so as testimony to others who will find their own faith by watching those who are faithful. God is using the tragedy to deliver.

God always delivers His people but not always in the ways we think He should. He always has the strength to turn any tragedy around but sometimes chooses to work through the tragedy. He eventually brings all of His children home. Some come home earlier than others. He always carries those who lose things they think they can't do without. He teaches them that they can live by what He provides. He delivers them from their dependence on earthly things.

Sometimes I pray, "God, deliver me." My prayers do not come because of tragedies but because I must be delivered from my lack of faith, my worries in this world, my fears of foreboding disasters around each corner and my own sinfulness. I hold onto the fact that He delivers His people.

I am ambivalent about how God does this. I both wish He would deliver me the way that I request to be delivered and glad that He chooses His own way. I want my way more before I am delivered and glad for His way once I am delivered.

God delivers His people. He will deliver you.

Daniel 3:17 (KJV)
17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.  

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why Do People Run from the Answer?

People often know the answer to their problem. Yet, only reluctantly do they adopt the answer. They choose to ignore, pretend and run from the answer.

For example, the alcoholic does not go to Alcoholics Anonymous even though he knows that this organization can give him the help he needs to conquer his problem. He denies that he is an alcoholic. He pretends that he can cut back on his drinking. He runs to his drinking buddies for the answer which he already knows. He must admit that he is an alcoholic. He must know he can't simply cut back on his drinking. He must make the AA meetings religiously.

This is true for most problems. We already know the answer but we are reluctant to follow what we really need to do. We know that we have a spending problem but we don't do anything to correct that problem. We don't cut up the credit cards. We don't make efforts to pay them off. We don't stop our current trend in spending. The problem gets so bad that we choose to ignore the bills, the collection calls and the rejections we are getting when we present our cards. 

It is as if we have lost any sense we might have had. It is as if we think that our deliverance will come by doing what we have been doing. It is as if we believe that there will be someone or something that will rescue us. It is as if we no longer have to take responsibility for our lives. We can turn these responsibilities over to someone else someday. They will pull us out of the pit.

Discipline seems to be a bad word when we have a problem. We can straighten things out but it will take discipline. It means we are going to judge what we have been doing as wrong and turn toward that which is right. It means that we will have to grow up.  

We will have to stop romanticizing those who live a life with bills, broken promises and unfulfilled potential. They are a disappointment to those who really care about them. They are a disappointment to themselves. 

This is also true of those who run from the Lord. Many of these are wonderful people who care for others and make a difference in their communities but they will not acknowledge that Jesus died for them. They will ignore how He has pursued them to come into His grace. They will pretend that He either doesn't exist or that they have already come to Him. They will run from anyone who speaks to them, even in a very caring way, about Jesus.

Maybe they are afraid of the peace he will bring like the alcoholic fears living without alcohol. They are afraid that this peace will make them into the Christian hypocrites they already know. They don't want to give themselves to that any more than the alcoholic wants to give himself to a life without alcohol. Their lives are already ordered, why do they need Jesus?

I believe it is easier to get someone whose life is really messed up to come to the Lord than those who have their lives in good order. They are satisfied with life. They are good people but they do not realize that goodness will never get anyone into heaven. They must realize heaven's gift has been purchased by God's sacrifice. No one has the correct currency to buy this gift. It has been given to us by Jesus.

Yet, people run from the answer. I wish they would realize that the path they run down doesn't go anywhere. 

Someday they will.

Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV)
9  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,10  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Monday, February 22, 2010

How Do You Test the Spirits?

John told us not to believe every spirit. We should discern if the spirit is from God or not. This meas that there are those who are preaching messages that are spirit led but not Holy Spirit led. It means that these "spiritual" messages will sound good enough to be believed. They will have a power that is beyond the ability of the preacher to deliver them. They will be from the devil. Evidently, many people will be led away by these preachers.

You do not test them to see if they are false. You test to see if they are from God. You examine anything by putting it up against a known truth. You don't look at a board and say, "I want to prove that this board isn't eight foot long." Instead, you take the board and measure it using a tape measure which is a known true standard. 

This must be constant for all the preaching you hear. You cannot build a house using "supposed eight foot boards." Your house will not be square or strong if you are not constantly measuring to see if each board is true to the measure it is supposed to be. 

John says the standard is whether or not the person preaching confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh. The word "confess" means "say the same words." The spirit leading this preacher must say the same thing that God says about His Son. This preacher must say that Jesus is the only way to salvation. This preacher must say that Jesus has died for our sins. This means this preacher must say that we are sinners in need of God's grace which is found in Jesus, His Son.

Some have said they have confessed Jesus simply because they say they believe in Him. That doesn't grasp the full meaning of what this scripture is saying. It is like saying the person is an American because he can sing all the words to "God Bless America." 

This person "confesses" through their continuing understanding of the words of Jesus as recorded in the Bible. They may make mistakes but they will not be spirit led when they do so- neither Holy Spirit led nor other spirit led. Their confession should come through their own growth in the faith. They will be able to give more Holy Spirit led revelation as they have grown spiritually. They will be better able to discern the Bible, to interpret circumstances for God's will, and discern the truth others are professing when they have grown in the Lord.

You must always be aware that there are those who will lead people astray. They may have huge churches. (Why wouldn't the devil want to build a huge church if it would lead people away from the Lord?) They may be good looking and be able to preach with words that seem to come beyond this world. (As indeed they do.) Many will be taken away from following the Lord because of them. 

Don't be one of them.

I John 4:1-3 (NASB)

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that is coming, and now it is already in the world.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Releasing High Anxieties

(Continued from yesterday)

So you take your anxious, stressful concerns and worries to God. It may help for a couple of moments but soon you are back in the same place that you were. You are still full of anxiety! You wonder what you are doing wrong. You wonder if this is just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo and it really doesn't work anyway.

What went wrong?

You didn't release your anxiety. You just talked about God taking it from you. 

A few years ago I caught some baby raccoons in my attic. They had lost their mother and had no way to survive. I gave them to a friend who took care of them until they could be released into the wild. He talked about releasing them. He knew that he had to release them but he had become so attached to them that it was very hard to do. They would follow him wherever he went. He knew that they were wild and living with him and his family was not good for him or his family. One day, he took them to the woods and let them go.

People know they need to release their anxieties but they do more talking about it and wishing that they would than releasing them. For some reason, they have become attached to their anxieties. They don't know how to live without them. Therefore, they will go to spiritual warfare seminars to release the demons within themselves but never realize that the real oppressor is their own action of keeping their anxieties close to their hearts. 

If you want to really get rid of your anxieties you have to give them to God.

Also, people often focus on their anxieties rather than on God when they are in prayer. They don't acknowledge that God is bigger than their problems. They don't state by faith that God is taking this away from them. Therefore, they make their anxieties bigger than God can handle (in their own minds) and must never give them to God.

Imagine you have a debt of $100k. Your little sister says that she can take care of it for you. However, you believe she only has $100 not $100k. You wouldn't dare give her your debt. She can't handle it and it would still be yours even if you did give it to her.

Your prayers need to focus on God who can and will take your anxieties from you. You need to focus on the fact that He is bigger than those problems and they will not be a burden to Him. Only then, will you release your burdens to the Lord.

Lastly, many people take God for a "fast food god." They think they can drive up to the god window having ordered their "McAnxiety Reliever" without any spiritual preparation. It just doesn't work that way. Some prayers can be said quickly. God does not award us for the length or beauty of our prayers. Yet, some prayers have to be sustained long enough so that our own hearts are changed. This is the reason for persistent prayer. It changes us.

I have told my congregation that some days I have to pray until I can pray. This means I must be changed before my prayers truly come in line with God's will. It means that I must pray until I believe what I am doing is what God really wants in me. It means I must pray until I become extremely honest with God.

Release your anxiety. It is what God has wanted you to do. He will take it. 

And if you take it back, make sure you don't keep it. Give it to Him again.

1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)
7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Why Am I So Angry?

If this is not a question people are asking themselves, it ought to be! I see so many angry people. Can we explore this from a non-professional psychological point of view?

Each of us has a level of anxiety which we live with. Some people can relieve their anxieties with exercise or meditation. They release these anxieties so that their level of anxiety remains low during the day. It takes a lot to get them angry. 

Other people deceive us with their apparently calm natures. They are really anxious but create a facade of calm which gives no indication of the volcano brewing just under their skin. They are collectors of anxieties. They eventually blow. It is usually severe. All of their anxiety erupts at once. No one will see this one coming. They don't even know it is coming. They think they can handle all of their anxieties by themselves.

Still others stay at a high level of anxiety and blow up continually. They are angry with everything that happens. People are very careful what they say or do around these people. It seems that anything will set them off. 

Let's say it takes ten points on an anxiety scale to make a person extremely angry. Let's also agree that most people can look relatively calm when their scale is at a six. Life throws anxieties at us all the time. We can operate rationally if we are operating on a scale of one and life gives us stressful situation which will make our anxiety level go up five points. However, we will not be able to do so if we are operating on a six and we get the same stressful situation for it will make us go past the extremely angry level.

Some people seem to be operating on an eight. They go ballistic when getting behind someone who is talking on their phone and driving ten miles an hour below the speed limit. This minor anxiety producer should only provide a three point rise in their anxiety level. However, three points will put this person over the extremely angry line.

I believe in exercise and I know its benefit for relieving anxiety. However, I don't believe it is enough to relieve all anxiety. I believe there is a more complete solution.

The Bible tells us to pray when we are anxious. It will relieve anxiety.

Tomorrow I will explain how that works.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
6  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Pleading with the Lord

Eventually we all have a time when we will plead with the Lord. It may be for the health of a child or spouse. It may be for the Lord to provide before your house is repossessed. It may be that you have lost your job and you desperately need a new one. We have lost our security, those things which hold us up, that give us purpose. We dread losing someone or something we love. We have  nowhere else to turn so we cry out to the Lord.

Does He know our pain? Is He listening at all? These questions run through our minds if we let them. Somehow we think we shouldn't think this way but the thoughts linger. We are so afraid that by questioning God He won't help us through our distress.

My dad got my children a go-cart when they were eight, six and four. It was a two seater so the older two got in. My oldest daughter drove around and around the yard at full speed while my middle daughter hung on. My youngest wanted desperately to join her older sisters. She ran close to the path where they were going. I ran, grabbed her and yelled, "Suzanne, stay out of their way!" I sat her down out of harm's way and continued to watch my other daughters tear up my parents' yard.

Suzanne stayed by herself and didn't move from where I had left her. I looked over and she was silently crying. Tears were running down her face very quietly. It tore out my heart. She was so hurt that she couldn't join her sisters. She was deprived of that moment. I had scolded her for trying. 

I thought about that moment for such a long time. (Suzanne will be twenty-six in a couple of months.) I can't imagine what God's heart is like when His children are in pain if my heart is torn out when my own children are in pain. I wanted to make it better for my daughter but I wasn't willing to let her get in the path of the speeding go-cart. Yet, I still really hurt for her.

God certainly hears us and knows our desperate moments. He hurts when we hurt. His answer will not come if our desire will hurt us. That makes very little sense to us when we have something we truly need. It seems like He should provide it for us without delay.

God is in the middle of every desperate moment. He has either caused that moment or He has allowed it. His omniscience will not allow Him to ignore any of His creation. His love will compel Him to answer every desperate plea. His power will enable Him to do so.

Yet, sometimes we wait in what appears to be a cold dark room. We cry, we beg, we try to bargain or blackmail God and, sometimes, we curse. Eventually our cry comes to, "Where are You, God?!" Maybe its the silence that really gets to us.

And God answers.

(Maybe you need to send this blog to someone who has a desperate need. God will answer. They may already know that but hearing it again can't hurt.)

Psalm 147:3 (NIV)
3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

If You Are Thinking about Preaching

My professional ministry (ministry I got paid for) began with college students. There was nothing else I wanted to do. I gave my heart to Christ in college and knew this is a very seminal time in the life of young people. I knew that a mentor, Bible teacher and fellow encourager in the Lord would be able to see changes in young people which would last for decades. There was nothing else I would rather do. God had other plans.

I left college ministry to work with Single adults. I loved singles. There were so many unique ministry opportunities. Many of them had children, many were pre-marriage (not married but would be married some day), many would never marry and several were widowed. Their ages were from eighteen to seventy-seven. I enjoyed working with Singles. God still had other plans.

I got the opportunity to preach and something changed in my heart. I really enjoyed it. People encouraged me. I set out to pray and see if this was a new direction in my life. It wasn't long before God clearly spoke. He told me clearly that He wanted me to preach. I asked if I could preach with the same force that another preacher I knew had. He asked if I was willing to drink from the cup that God had him drink from. I said yes without knowing what I was saying.

I prayed to become a senior pastor so that I could preach every week for the next eight years and three months. I prayed in the morning and in the evening. This was one of the most precious times in my life. God used this time to help me mature.

I decided that I needed to act like I was preaching even if I didn't get the chance. I prepared sermons that I never expected to preach. Weekly I prepared sermons. This preparation helped me when I did become a senior pastor. Also, during this time I was ready to preach at a moment's notice. I got the opportunity to do so often. I think God honored my preparation.

Start preparing sermons that you have no reason to believe you will ever preach if you think that God is calling you to preach. Then watch how God will give you the opportunity to preach those sermons. 

God not only calls you but He prepares you. He not only prepares you but gives you opportunities. He not only gives you opportunities but blesses you in these opportunities. He changes you to be a vessel that will be fully useful for His purposes. He changes you and brings the joy of doing what you were created to do. 

2 Timothy 4:2 (NIV)
2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Let's Pretend We Know the Lord

I lived in Nashville for almost twelve years. During that time I met some famous to semi-famous people. Some came to the churches where I served. I used to lean over to a famous person in church service and say, "I'm going to tell people that I once sang with ________." It was semi-true.

However, I don't know any of these famous people. I may have been to some of their houses but they have never been to mine. I may be able to call them by name but they would not be able to pick me out of a crowd of two.

Yes, I can say I have talked with them. Yes, I can say they responded to my comments or questions. I cannot say that I really know them because they don't know me. 

I can pretend. I can drop names of famous people when I talk with others. I can tell of my experiences with them and act as if they were common when they were actually very brief. I might even be able to convince some people that I know these people. 

A brief encounter does not make you life long friends. It does not mean you have a relationship at all. It doesn't matter if you can tell a story of an interaction with that person. It doesn't matter if you can tell something about that person. If you really know someone they know you right back.

So, let's pretend we know the Lord. We can give a time when we served Him. We can tell of a time when we heard Him say something to us. We can tell stories all about Him. Others may believe we know Him if they hear us speak of Him. They may look at what we have done or what we have given and conclude that we know Him. 

In the end it won't matter if other people say that we know Him. It won't matter if we point to our brief encounters with Him and claim that we know Him. The only thing that will matter is if He knows us.

I have stopped pretending I know famous people. 

Matthew 7:21-23 (NIV)
21  "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.22  Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?'
23 Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Make Today Take Care of Tomorrow

Tomorrow has lots of worries. The student worries about the test tomorrow. The home owner worries about tomorrow's mortgage. The mother worries about her child's field trip for tomorrow. For some reason tomorrow is the preferred reason to worry. 

How many tomorrows would be different if we took action for those things today? How many students would do better on their tests if they studied today? How many home owners would make the mortgage payment if they adjusted their other spending today? While it is impossible to say that we will always do the right thing today even when we are trying, it is safe to say that most of our tomorrows would be improved if we took the proper action today.

As children we were told, "Never put off tomorrow what you can do today." This is good advice. Here is another one, "Never borrow for tomorrow if you can pay for it today." 

You can't make your yesterdays any different. You can regret them but you can't change them. You can make your tomorrows different by changing what you do today. 

I have heard of so many people who claim they have the potential to be great writers, great athletes, great speakers, great what-evers but they never did anything about it. They all have excuses why they didn't go to school, didn't get the training, didn't write, didn't work out, or  didn't practice. I suppose they dreamed that one day they would find a magic lamp with a genie who would grant them all their wishes.

This is why the Bible says that today is the day of salvation. You don't know what tomorrow will bring. Prepare for tomorrow by doing what is right today. Come to the Lord while He can be found.

Do what is right today and let your tomorrows take care of themselves. What does the Bible call it when you know what you should do but fail to do so?

James 4:14-17 (NIV)
14  Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.15  Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that."16  As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.
17 Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Should Those Who Refuse to Work Get Things for Free?

We seem to live in an entitled world. We caused this happen. It was not always this way. People took responsibility for their own lives. They helped each other when they realized a need. They would help anyone who would work if he could. They would help the farmers who did not have enough because of a failed crop.  They would help anyone who wanted to better himself. We have left that concept far behind.

Do people do what you reward and fail to do what you punish? I think so. Are we headed for a disaster if we continue to reward people who have made bad decisions by taking from those who have made good decisions? 

Many people think that helping others without regard to their willingness to work is Christian. They will abdicate their own responsibility by saying, "I just give it to them. What they do with it is not my responsibility." What a crock!

The Bible says that those who do not work should not eat. The only way you can determine if someone will not work is by taking responsibility in determining they will not work. You must accept this responsibility because it is just as wrong to refuse those who need help but will work.

Many years ago I served at a church with windows that went all the way to the ground level. We would give a bucket of water and a long squeegy to anyone who came by for financial help We would pay them (this was in the 80's) $10 per hour to clean the windows. They did not have to get on any ladders or take any risks. The work was not hard. After thirty minutes we would retrieve our bucket and squeegy. (Once they were stolen.) (This is no longer possible. The government determines that anyone who works for a wage is an employee. They must be included in your workman's compensation insurance and you must pay the employer's portion of social security. )

At one church we asked people to take a drug test before we helped them. We went to a drug testing center which was located a few hundred yards from the church. We got forms and made an agreement to pay for the drug testing of anyone we sent to them. We gave those forms to those who came by for assistance. Not one of them ever got tested.

At yet another church we had the police come by and tell us that those who hold signs at busy intersections claiming to be hungry with large families make $200 to $500 per day. They said that these people would never get jobs making money like this tax free. The police were telling us not to support them.

Yes, there are people who are willing to work but need help. We need to help them. My problem is that by helping those who could work but don't prevents us from truly being able to help those who really need help. The more we have helped those who can work, the less we are able to help those who can't.

What do you think? Do you think it is real Christian compassion to support bad behavior?

2 Thessalonians 3:10 (NASB)

For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone will not work, neither let him eat. 

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Love Never Fails

Love is an emotion that we have some control over. It also seems to be an entity all to itself.

It reminds me of an infection. If I am around it enough, if my resistance is not strong and if I open myself up to it, I will catch this thing called love. It permeates all my reasoning. It changes my desires. It makes work seem like play. It makes giving a privilege. It is the most powerful substance for changing the world. It changes the hearts of those who catch it.

Love at its apex is unstoppable. It will not quit. It will not fail. It continues until there is no more breath. It inhabits those who have it and moves them with their knowledge yet changes their will. 

Love is a mystery. While people have no doubt that it exists, they can only show the evidences of its presence. They can point to the caress, the gift, the act of service, the time spent together and the words which have lifted their hearts and say this was love but it is really only the evidence of love. Love cannot be detected with the natural senses humans possess. 

The Bible says, "God is love." That makes a lot of sense. I can't see Him either yet I know He exists. I say that I know because I feel it through faith. Is that so much different from saying that I know love because I feel it?

1 Corinthians 13 is God's love. It defines His love toward us. Nothing will separate us from this love. Nothing will stop Him from loving us.

His love should be in those who love Him. Our fallen nature sometimes causes our love to fail but His love never does. Our love returns when we come to Him. He is love.

That's why love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:8 (NIV)
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Love Keeps Loving No Matter What

I sat next to the quintessential "little old man" in a hospital room. He used crutches- the old wooden type that went under his arms. He was extremely thin, about 5'6" and 110 lbs. He didn't say much. His wife was in the hospital. He sat in her room because that was his duty.

I had visited him before in the hospital. His wife was always admitted to the hospital when he got sick because there was no one else to take care of her. Because she couldn't hear, she couldn't carry on a conversation. She was fed, bathed and dressed by her husband every day. He cleaned the house, cooked the meals, paid the bills and took care of her with every breath he took. So, when he got sick, the hospital would admit her too.

Today, she was dying. One of her doctors told me that her organs were failing. No one had the nerve to tell her husband. They all knew him and knew the incredible care he gave his wife. Telling him she would soon die was left to me. I thought he should know before it happened.

"Sir," I began, "Her organs are failing. He looked at me as if he didn't know what that meant. "She doesn't have much longer to live."

Tears welled in his eyes and ran down his cheeks. His next words stuck with me for the last twenty-seven years, "If she dies, I don't want to live another thirty minutes."

One would think that this man's life would get much easier without her. He would no longer be burdened with caring for her. He would no longer have to get her up and bathe her. He would no longer be burdened with feeding her and dressing her. 

But you see, he wasn't burdened by those things. This was his act of love to her. Love isn't burdened when it serves. It endures things that the lack of love will run from. He felt privileged to take care of his wife.

I hoped that I would be the same type of man if my wife became unable to take care of herself.

Not long afterward his wife passed away. 

The little old man wept. They had been married sixty-eight years.

1 Corinthians 13:7 (NIV)
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:7 (ESV) 
7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Friday, February 12, 2010

True Hope Is Found in Love

The mother answers the phone and knows she is going to get dreaded news from her son. He has applied for a job on the west coast. It is what he has always wanted to do and he has a good chance of getting it. He is her only son. He will take with him her only grandchild when he moves. Yet, she hopes he gets the job.

"Mom, I got the job!" Her son explodes with excitement. He tells of how he thought he might but how he was afraid of hoping too much. He feared the disappointment a refusal might bring. He tells of what he will be doing and what he has to do to get ready. He gives the day he will start.

Mom puts on her best face. She tries to act as excited as she can. She tells him that his new boss would be a fool to have passed him by. She is truly happy for her son. However, she already misses him and he hasn't even gone.

This is hope that comes from love. It is a hope that comes with sacrifices. It is a hope that may mean you lose something that you really wanted. It is the hope that your child will surpass your own accomplishments. It is a hope that seeks riches and esteem for your friends that go beyond yours. It is a selfless hope.

Hope that cost me nothing gives little evidence of love. Hope that esteems others more than me gives great evidence of love.

If you are not hoping for the best for others when it will cost you the place you have carved out, when you are no longer the alpha dog, you do not have love.

Love always hopes. It always hopes for the best for others even it may mean something less for yourself.

True hope is found in love.

1 Corinthians 13:7 (ESV) 
7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:7 (NIV)
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Love Believes in Something Better

I have a problem with the NIV translation of 1 Corinthians 13:7. It says that love always trusts.

Does that mean that a woman who sees her husband arrive late at home, watches him hit the trash cans as he drives up to the house, notices how he stumbles up to the door and says to her with the strong smell of liquor on his breath, "Honey, I only had one beer with the boys," is supposed to trust him? Doesn't she have some obligation to herself to admit this is not the truth? Her lack of trust certainly doesn't mean she no longer loves him.

No, this word "trust" must mean more than the traditional understanding. It must mean believes. Love believes a person can change. Love believes in the possibility of a better time. The ESV, NASB and HCSB all translate this "love believes all things."

This is the way I have raised my children. They have not always been perfect. They have not always been perfectly trustworthy. I never thought that any failure on their part would doom them into that failure's lifestyle. I always believed they would do better some day. They have not disappointed me. Yet, no matter what hole they may have dug themselves into I would still have believed they were capable of coming out of it.

Love doesn't condemn. It believes (though I struggle with the concept of believing all things) always. It does not use the crayons of the past to color the future. It sees a new life beyond the old. It sees change as possible. It believes in the one who is loved.

Love believes in something better.

1 Corinthians 13:7 (NIV)
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:7 (ESV)
7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:7 (NASB)
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:7 (HCSB)

7bears all things, believes all things, endures all things.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Love Always Protects

You can't trust someone whose main goal is to protect himself. He does not love you. Love must enter into trust. Love does not draw lines. It cannot say, "I'll protect you as long as I don't lose anything." The amazing stories of our armed forces is that they have gone into dangerous situations. They haven't said, "I'll protect my country as long as it doesn't cause me harm." They have a love of their country and their families and their freedoms that cannot draw lines.

Love always protects. It doesn't put protection on a clock. It defends the one that is loved. It is the husband who protects the safety of his wife by going to her place of employment when she has had to work late so that she will safely arrive home. It is the mother who holds her child during a thunderstorm in the middle of the night. It is the friend who does not enter into gossip. Love holds this line.

Love always protects. It doesn't waver with public opinion. It doesn't itself as a protector one day and forgets the one it loves the next because others, even a majority, have turned their hearts away. Love protects when it must stand alone. It is the one who can be counted on.

Love always protects. Even if the person who is being protected is wrong. It doesn't make excuses. It doesn't shy away from the consequences of the wrongs. It is like the story in westerns where the sheriff protects the criminal from vigilantes who want to hang him without a trial. The sheriff may know he is guilty but protects the criminal so that justice can be served.

Love always protects. It protects when it administers the consequences of sins. It votes for the jury conviction of "guilty" when the accused is proven to be such. It takes that person away from a society that he is hurting. It puts the child in "time out" so that he will learn to obey his parent. It draws boundaries around the spending of a wife whose debt is destroying the family. It protects those who can't protect themselves by standing up for those others are hurting.

Yes, love always protects.

Who has this love that protects? 

Well, God does.

And through Him we have it too.

1 Corinthians 13:7 (NIV)
7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

True Love Rejoices in Truth

Many a young man and young lady have rejoiced over their loss virtue. They have given into their desires. They approach it from two different sides. The young lady (generally) believes she has made a commitment to someone. The young man, who may think he is in love (generally) rejoices at how it made him feel. Of course, some of this may be felt either way but this is the general feeling.

They have rejoiced over the something the Bible says is not healthy. They have declared that they know more than the Bible. They have denied the truth. They are doing damage to their futures but it doesn't feel like damage. Lots of things don't seem to hurt us at the time. It is only later that we discover how much damage has been done.

Love delights in truth. It holds to the truth when everything says that it is ridiculous. It holds onto this truth when others are saying that you should go forward with your feelings. It knows that it is the truth and truth doesn't change.

I suppose this is why we have come to a postmodern age. This age denies that there is absolute truth. The absence of absolute truth allows people to analyze every situation within their own understanding of good and bad. It allows people to do what they want to do at the moment and call it good even if it will ultimately hurt them. 

The continual violation of truth blurs the consequences of evil. You really don't know which action caused the trouble you find yourself in when you have committed so many evils. You don't know that it is a conglomeration of all the evil that puts you in the place you are in now.

What has been harmed by these young people giving into their passions? They have not held to the truth so that later they may not do so again. Later may be when they are married to each other and someone else comes along who looks good. Later may be when things aren't going so smoothly that they decide to go their separate ways. Life lived by hormones will result in many painful days.

Jesus said to those who lived in His words, "You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free." I find that these people who claim to be free from the truth are under bondage to lies. These lies are destroying their lives. 

How can I rejoice when people are involved in evil when I know that they are hurting themselves? How can I rejoice in my own evil when I know that the truth is best for me? 

I can't. I can only rejoice when I see (and do) the truth. That is true love.

Commit yourself to the truth and you'll find yourself rejoicing in it. You will also discover true love.

1 Corinthians 13:6 (NIV)
6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

Monday, February 8, 2010

What Do You Get When You Remember Others Sins Against You Forever?

A lot or my marital counseling concerns the lack of forgiveness. The one who did the wrong thing has lived with this lack of forgiveness for some time. He or she would like to get beyond it. The one who was hurt can't seem to make it over that hill. He or she comes back to their pain again and again. They hold it over the spouse like a weapon. It is used again and again. Eventually, they come come to me. One wants the other to get on with their lives. The other wants the penalty for the sin paid.

The one who won't forgive generally remembers each wrong which was done. It doesn't stop with the spouse. The complaints follow each friend, each co-worker, each neighbor and each acquaintance.  This person cannot let things go. Often this person cannot let things go in his or her life either. This person will either excuse all of his own transgressions or allow his inability to forgive himself manifest itself with the lack of forgiveness for others. Essentially, he holds others sins so closely to his face so that he can't see his own sins.

Many of these people were raised in homes where forgiveness was rare. Performance was paramount. Each and every flaw was to be eradicated without mercy. The only relief is pointing out the failures of others. It is a shell game of misdirection. Others won't see this individual's own sins if they are looking at others. The best action is to point at others because forgiveness is seldom tolerated.

Christian homes don't seem to vary from this process any more than others. Unfortunately, the Christian home may present being perfect as the only acceptable performance. It talks a good game of forgiveness but it lacks giving forgiveness. In fact, it may have a tacit means of payment for forgiveness. There may be an unwritten and unspoken rule in the home of a period of time or method of penance for any failures in character. This hardly presents a healthy view of God who gives forgiveness freely.

There is no love in holding onto others sins. Of course, forgiveness doesn't mean that you immediately give your trust. Letting go of their sins (forgiveness) means you don't bring them up again. You don't keep them in the forefront of your memories. You don't try to exact some payment for the failure. Sure, there may be consequences which allow them to prove their repentance but it is not intended to be punishment which will hurt the transgressor as badly as he or she has hurt others.

On one side, love is saying you are sorry. On the other, love is forgiving. Love lets others' sins go.

Otherwise, expect to live a very cold life.

1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)

It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

How Can We Say We Love Those Who So Easily Anger Us?

Okay, the Bible doesn't say that we can never get angry. Jesus got angry. God, the Father, got angry. Being angry doesn't eliminate love.

The Bible says that love is not easily angered. That's the problem because I am much more likely to get angry quickly at those whom I claim to love the most. Why is that?

I am not sure. I wonder if its because I am not afraid of losing their love so I feel as if I can get angry with impunity. You see, I can get angry with them and they will take me back. Therefore, I will get angry without fearing I have lost anything.

Yet, that is not love. That maybe protecting my rights or my feelings or responding to a violation of my values but it is not love. It comes waaaay too quickly. It comes before there is an explanation of why I am angry. It often comes viciously. 

Unfortunately, it reveals my heart. Not because I don't love these people but because it shows my own selfishness is more important than my love. True love will get angry at times but for the sake of righteousness, not selfishness. Righteous anger takes time to develop.

You know, I would show a whole lot more love if I merely waited before opening my mouth when I respond to those I love. Often I would keep my mouth completely shut if I would realize the love I have for the person before I responded.

Love sometimes gets angry, but not so easily.

1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)
5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Love Does Not See Self as King

The NIV says, "It (love) is not self seeking . . ." I saw those words differently than in other versions. I saw "self see- king" this perception helped me understand love better.

It is hard to know what is self seeking because very few of our actions are purely altruistic. Honesty is the best policy because it is the best way to do business. In fact, it generates business. Benevolence and generosity toward others generates  a positive well being. Most of our actions result in reciprocity from others. Therefore, you can be the most helpful individual in a town and still do it all for your own benefit.

The distinguishable  factor seems to be whether or not I see myself as king. Do I do what I do to engender the affections of my subjects? Am I doing these things for their servitude or their praise? Would I do what I do if no one ever thanked me or paid me back in kindness?

I wonder. This is not my kind of love. This is God's kind of love. Most of His creation will never pay Him one moment of homage yet He sustains the universe. He gives grace to people who will never acknowledge Him. He loves those who hate Him.

I must come to the conclusion that God really never expects me to love others without His presence. This selfless love is beyond my ability. 

Once the disciples could not cast a demon out of a boy. Jesus removes that demon. The disciples were perplexed. Why couldn't they remove the demon? Jesus told them that this type only comes out by prayer and fasting. I believe the demon that I must often remove is myself. I cannot love totally selfless except by being filled with the Holy Spirit, God's Spirit. My spirit must be changed by that filling.

I am in need of a lot of prayer and fasting if I am to have selfless love.

1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)

It (love) is not self seeking.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Who Ever Heard of Rude Love?

Did I really have to be told that love is not rude? Of course, it isn't rude!

Then, why am I rude sometimes?

I am standing near one of the gate agent's stations waiting to board my flight in Atlanta a couple of months ago. A  customer is wearing out the agent. He is asking why he can't board the plane since his flight was canceled. The agent explains that the plane already has all of the seats sold. However, the customer can put his name on the standby list and see if he can board. The customer had not looked at the display which listed the standby customers. There were already forty-three standby passengers in front of him. The customer calmed down and had his name placed on that list. 

I thought, "I don't see a whole lot of love floating around here."

The customer was rude to the agent. The agent had nothing to do with whether or not this customer could get on the plane. He just took the next person in line. He just followed procedures. Nothing more. Nothing less.

However, the agent was also rude the customer. He should have told him about snowballs in hell and his chances of getting on that plane by being placed on the standby list. There is little wonder that people seem to be so angry. When will people stop being rude to each other?

Being rude is easy. It is taking advantage of someone whom you believe cannot overcome your rudeness. It is an effort to devalue them. It is not caring about their needs or feelings. It is stepping on their backs while hoping to look like you have just made yourself taller.

The same day as the earlier story of Atlanta, I also flew out of Memphis. (In fact, I flew out of most of the airports in America that day!) My plane was already so late that I knew I would miss my flight out of Atlanta. The gate agent explained to the customer in front of me that it was going to be a long day because the computers the flight controllers used was down in Atlanta. She asked the customer to be patient.

I approached the agent and said, "I know your job is going to be very hard today and I would like to thank you for your honesty with that customer. Honesty isn't always popular but you have the courage to tell the truth." I then gave her my ticket and explained I would miss that flight out of Atlanta and wondered if she could do anything.

She took my ticket and said, "I already know that this flight is going to be canceled. I'll tell you what I'll do. I go ahead and confirm you on the next flight after that one out of Atlanta."

And that's the reason I wasn't in the line of forty-four people trying to fly standby out of Atlanta.

I know it doesn't always work but showing concern rather than rudeness often encourages others to be concerned too.

Love isn't rude. It shows concern for others. 

1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV)
5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Love Isn't Stuck on Itself

The flight attendants were giving instructions as the plane backed away from the jetway. No one was listening. "Boy," I thought, "am I glad I don't have their jobs." How would you like to go through a routine several times a day with no one listening to a word that is said?

A man and woman began a conversation behind me. It was obvious that they had never met before. At first, they talked about their kids. Eventually, the man began telling how good he was at public speaking. He told what a good athlete he was. He told of his abilities to coach. I thought to myself, "Why does he want to impress this woman? He doesn't know her."

She was listening. (I really expected her to throw up any minute!) He bragged more as she was politely interested. It's strange that he and she didn't know what was happening. He was trying to win her heart. He was talking with her and she was admiring him. This is a dangerous situation.

They parted when the flight ended and went their separate ways. Neither of them had overtly wanted a relationship. Their actions could have led them down a terrible path but their circumstances didn't support it. They were safe.

Men often brag to women to win their hearts. Women often listen to them which makes the men feel admired. Why would a woman think that a man loves her if he is stuck on himself? Yet, she does and marries him. The disappointment comes when he is still stuck on himself after the wedding. He still acts selfishly with smatterings of gifts and acts of service. He does the latter just to keep some peace. She gets the short end of the stick and is surprised. She doesn't know that love doesn't brag.

Love doesn't make you think little of yourself either. Love merely doesn't cause you to think of yourself at all. Love concentrates on others. 

Most people who boast don't realize they are doing so. They brag to justify their faults. They brag to get attention. They brag to be admired. None of these things are accomplished through their boasting. Bragging just won't give you the upper hand.

In Good to Great Jim Collins talks of level five leaders who think of themselves as lucky. They don't attribute their successes to their great leadership but to those with whom they have worked. I suspect that these leaders also love those whom they work with if they are giving them credit for the success. I suspect these workers also loved their leaders back. Its amazing how hard people will work for you when they love you.

"Look what I can do, Daddy," the little boy exclaims as he does a somersault. Dad puts down the paper to give his full attention to his son. Love puts down the paper, takes away from what you would like to do, turns your attention away from yourself and focuses on others.

Do you think that God also loves us like that?

1 Corinthians 13:4 (NIV)
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Love Does Not Envy

The guy working in the office envies the man working outside. The man outside envies the one in the office. We buy the magazines filled with the stories of celebrities and we envy the way they can live. We never think that they may envy the way we can walk down the streets without anyone bothering us.

Envy is a ubiquitous emotion which makes us think that others have life better than us. It separates us. It makes us approve of class distinctions. Let's tax the rich because they have it. Let's take it away from those who have made it. Let's attack the person who is of a different color or has a foreign accent or is too beautiful for the rest of the world.

Have you ever thought that one of the emotions that motivated the religious leaders to kill Jesus was envy? He had something they didn't. He was charismatic with His love and care. He was humble and drew people around Himself. He was powerful without throwing burdens on the backs of those who followed Him. Could their envy make His crucifixion seem justified?

Politicians have always used envy to rally people around them. Jesus did none of that.

Love has no envy. It rejoices in the welfare of others. It praises those who have accomplished great deeds. It admires people. Love lifts the lover and the one being loved. It simply rejoices in the other person's good fortune. Both the lover and the loved are better because of it.

Love is absent when envy is present. Envy is absent when love is present. Love brings us together. 

The world runs to help in a tragedy. They can because those who are affected have nothing to envy. Everyone talks about the love that is present. They enjoy this feeling which will not last because they will return to their world of envying the person next door. 

Envy may be the source of much of our judgment of each other. We disdain the person with the big SUV because he cares nothing about the environment, right? Maybe it has nothing to do with that. Maybe it's just envy that he can afford to pay for the gas that goes in that thing.

Love . . .  it just doesn't envy.

1 Corinthians 13:4 (NIV)
4  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.    

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Love Is Kind

Isn't it odd that Paul would tell us that love is kind? Most of us would say, "Of course, love is kind. Why would you have to state something like that?" It must mean that the love Paul speaks of is more than being kind to those who are kind to you or else he would never have had to make such a statement.

Let's suppose you are driving down the road when someone cuts you off. They do so while giving the single-fingered salute. Should you be expected to be kind to that person? You will if you understand that being a Christian means that you will love people.

Love transcends the actions of others. It is a clear decision to love that person regardless of their actions. It means that you love when you are not treated kindly. It means you respond with kindness. 

Let's admit it. This type of love is impossible for those who try to do so under their own power. This must be a divine love. This is the type of love God has for us. This is the type of love God wants to give us for others. We must live our lives in the power of God's love. Our connection with Him allows us to love. Kindness to those who lack kindness is the evidence of this love. 

So, today I will be kind because I love in God's power of love. 

1 Corinthians 13:4 (NASB)

Love is kind.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Love Is Patient

Does the world lack love if the world has no patience? I think you can say so.

People are in a hurry. They do not want to wait on each other. They push toward the front because they are afraid of either being left behind or not getting what everyone else is getting. They rush to work because they left so late. They rush home because they want the freedom of their own homes. They are exasperated with their spouses because understanding takes time. Their lack of patience can drain the love out of a relationship.  You must admit there doesn't seem to be much love between drivers to and from work. 

Isn't it funny that the people who write so many love songs know so little about it. Most of these songs think of love as a mere emotion. They hardly realize that love is a decision. Sometimes they come together in a tragedy and write a song that comes close to understanding but generally they think that love is something that erupts within you. You either have it or you don't.

One of the evidences of love is patience. That's how people stay married for fifty years. They are extremely patient with each other. Yes, sometimes exasperated but ultimately patient. Yes, nagging each other but still patient. 

I never ask a couple who are getting married if they love each other. I ask them if they are committed to each other. I don't think they know what I am asking. I want to know if they will make the decision to love each other when that isn't what they really don't want to do. I want to know if they will be patient with each other when every bone in their bodies wants to leave, get on with what needs to be done or be understood by the other person. 

This love is more than a feeling. This love is a decision. This love takes more than we have within us to accomplish. This is divine love. This is the love that God has for us. He is patient with us. Extremely so. He has made the decision to love His creation. He has made the decision to love each of us. That takes divine patience.

Love the persons around you by showing and being patient with them. 

Love is patient.

1 Corinthians 13:4 (NASB)

Love is patient.