Archive for the ‘Love’ Category

You Get It, You Give It Away

April 11, 2017

In the world of Website design and business, the best model is the Google model. You go to Google, and it sends you away. Yet, you return. Only to be sent away again. And they make a profit. A large profit.

Have you heard of the two “seas” in Israel? There is the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Guess which one gets water in and then sends it on its way.

Right. The Sea of Galilee is fed by mountain streams. Then it send water southward via the Jordan River to the Dead Sea. Where it stops. The Dead Sea is in one of the lowest places on Earth. Everything goes in. Nothing goes out.

The Sea of Galilee is a vibrant place for water sports and fishing. I’ve eaten fish along the shore. Great place.

The Dead Sea  supports no life. It is so mineral dense that you cannot sink if you go in. You float.

The Dead Sea is shrinking. All the water from the Jordan flows in, and nothing goes out, yet it is shrinking.

These stories are just like us. If everything is about me, if everything comes in to me, and nothing goes out, well I shrink. Emotionally, spiritually.

Thinking first of others before ourselves actually increases our own happiness. Teenagers who serve, whether they want to or not, live better lives, suffer less depression, and are more prone to be servers throughout their lives.

You’ll never deplete your supply of love by giving it away. Hoard it to yourself, and it will shrivel and die.

And The Foundation Of My Faith Is…

April 6, 2017

We received a solicitation for donation recently. In order to stir up our passion and cause us to open our bank account to them, the solicitor assured us that the foundation of their faith was [pick the religious/political topic du jour].

Well, we decided right there that this Christian organization was not going to be the beneficiary of any more of our money.

You see, the foundation of our faith is Jesus. We are followers of Jesus who lived, died, and lived again.

I know, that’s too simple for some people to understand. They want more rules. More ways to separate “us” from “them”.

In the eyes of that organization, I am proudly “them”.

They hit me just as I was studying Paul’s advice about how to live in community as a follower of Jesus.

Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hinderance in the way of another.

I ask and pray daily, why do we continue to do these things? Why keep trying to divide? Why put stumbling blocks and obstacles in front of people? Do they think that more people will become followers because of such hard-hearted attitudes? Or, do they care more about making points than living with-God?

The early church grew because people looked around and said, “I want what they’ve got.” Today, people look at the Christians who get all the publicity and say, “I don’t want that.”

The question is not “do you agree with me” but rather “how can I serve you.”

What a Jesus-Follower Look Like

April 4, 2017

I’ve been writing at the beginning of the year for several years that we should determine who we wish to be, what sort of person we want to become, and then choose actions and attitudes that support that outcome. Many people think this is far better than some of the Resolutions or goals that people make.

The last 13 verses of chapter 12 of Paul’s letter to the Jesus-Followers in Rome paint a great picture of what we should become. It’s like a list–and humans love lists. But it’s not like a checklist where you can compare your “score” with someone else.

Rather this is a description of a person.

I’d like to be that person.

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.
11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I know people who resemble this person. I wish more of them were inside the church rather than outside. I pray that there would be more people like this.

Love Isn’t A Strategy

March 31, 2017

No promises
(No demands)
No demands
(Love is a battlefield)
Love is a battlefield

What is love?

An emotion? Yes, I guess.

A Battlefield? Pat Benatar sang it was.

Battlefields imply strategies. Winners and losers. And losers in the battle often also lose their lives.

Believe me
Believe me
I can’t tell you why
But I’m trapped by your love
And I’m chained to your side

That surely doesn’t sound like the freedom promised by the kind of love Jesus and Paul and John (the apostle) talked about.

Bob Goff, an interesting guy, a “recovering lawyer” and honorary Consul for the Republic of Uganda, writer of “Love Does.” Goff recently said, “Love People isn’t a strategy; when it has an agenda, it isn’t love anymore.”

I guess we all know manipulators. We don’t like them. Even when we fall under the power of one.

No, love just does things for others. Not with an agenda, say, to get love back, or to gain some sort of power over the other. No, just service from the heart. Sometimes love means doing nothing–just quietly being there for someone. It means watching out for others’ needs. Awareness of the other person without thought of ourselves.

Love is a way of living from a heart in tune with God. I think that’s what Jesus was talking about when he said, “You will know my followers by their love.”

Love Ought To Manifest Itself In Deeds

March 13, 2017

“Love ought to manifest itself more by deeds than by words.” St. Ignatius Loyola

Ever heard the phrase “paying lip service”?

Some people talk well. But their actions, well, their actions leave much to be desired.

There was a character in the old Leave It To Beaver TV show called Eddie Haskell. He was a teenaged friend of Beaver’s older brother, Wally. When he saw the parents, he was always obsequious and complimentary. But when it was just kids, then he was an altogether different person.

Who do you know that is like that?

There was a guy who worked for me once. I hired him. Worst mistake I ever made in business. It shook my confidence in my ability to pick good teams. Our team at Automation World restored my confidence. We put out the best magazine in the industry for eight years. But this guy, he was a piece of work. He’d as soon stab you in the back as look at you. But to your face–Mr. Nice Guy.

I could see the long term and knew the company was doomed. So I didn’t fight anything. It was time to get out before the company closed. He got my job–but only for a few months before it was all over and they shut down. Meanwhile, I was off to a better place that really built my career.

What you do speaks so loudly that one cannot hear what you say. What you do had best be love.

Feelings are not always trustworthy. Words do not always mean what they say. But actions. Let your love be manifest in how you act and what you do.

Let’s Pick The Scripture / Teaching We Want

February 20, 2017

It’s like a buffet. You get in the queue. All the dishes are laid out in front of you. Looking through the sneeze guard, you pick the things you want.

A guy I knew who was firmly and proudly in the Religious Right preferred to black out inconvenient teaching in the text. And often blacked out the context, too.

I’m teaching a class focusing on one of Paul’s letters. “I never liked Paul. He said such mean things about women.”

It is so inconvenient. Reading thoroughly for meaning within context, that is. It is so easy to pick out the things I agree with and ignore the rest. 

And when we do that, we hurt people. Deeply.

I even know of people who have deeply held “religious” and “Christian” views that aren’t even in the Bible. Or even in any reputable Christian writing from the early Church fathers to Dallas Willard and Henri Nouwen.

And they deeply hurt people. And drive them away from the church.

Can I ask an existential question? What happens to both people when a self-proclaimed Christian person separates another person from God? Are there any winners? Are there any losers? Who?

I have only one faith–that God raised Jesus from death to life.

And two commandments that I follow quite poorly (geek that I am), namely Love God thoroughly and Love other people as myself.

So there are two responses, peace and justice.

And where lie peace and justice in a world where we draw lines based on buffet-line-style religion? And a world where self-centeredness rules?

How about instead of a buffet line reading of the Scripture we try a wine tasting way? We try some and learn to savor the different flavors and aromas. Discerning the nuances of each grape and fermentation process. And then try some more.

Spiritual writing is to be savored with discernment, not picked over and swallowed without tasting.

Happy Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2017

Today we celebrate love. But what of love do we celebrate?

It’s almost like a “Hallmark Holiday.” Buy a card and a box of chocolates (that neither one of you really need) and escape for a year?

That almost sounds like an inoculation theory of love. You know, get an injection of a little the disease and then you are immune from catching the full shot of the disease.

Many people get confused about love. They get all sentimental, mushy feelings, pastel colors.

I don’t think that is what Jesus had in mind when he said, by this you will know my followers, by their love.

Somehow, I never saw Jesus as sentimental. Tender at times? Yes.

Bet it took tough love to bring together a Trump-loving conservative and a guy who “felt the Bern” into his small group. OK, I’m taking a few liberties on the tax collector and the Zealot theme–but their animosity probably ran deeper.

At the gym the other day I looked up at the TV (hard to ignore flashing pictures). They were showing a rapid succession of happy, attractive people who had used some miracle product. I wondered, do we try to measure our lives by these artificial happy moments? Do we think, gosh, I wish my significant other made me feel that way.

Love is being present in mind as well as body. Watching for ways to help. Being kind mostly, but tough enough to bring them back when they stray.

The Only Thing That Counts

November 9, 2016

You know the type. We all know the type. Unless you are that type, then maybe you don’t recognize it at least in yourself.

One kid like this exists in every classroom. At least one kid. And in church… sometimes an entire church is filled with them. And in other organizations, as well. And in families.

That is the person who knows all the rules. And follows them. To the letter. Other kids in school hate that kid. Or, at least they don’t like them too much. These people love to point out to everyone else what the rules are. “You’re not supposed to do that.” Or “I’ll tell the teacher.” Or “You’ll roast in hell for doing that.”

The Apostle Paul started some fellowships of Jesus-followers in what today we call central Turkey. These were loving, joyous, giving  communities.

Then some strangers rode into town. They taught that these people needed to follow the law before they could be so joyous and loving. In fact, maybe it breaks the laws to actually be joyous and loving.

The particular law that those ancient teachers brought to the people in Galatia was the law of circumcision. They taught that first you had to earn the right to know God, and only then could they call themselves followers.

Paul told his friends that listening to that teaching would end their freedom in Jesus. He said that as soon as you follow one law, then you have to follow all the laws. Except he had already taught them that following all the laws in order to earn God’s favor was impossible. That’s why Jesus came–lived, died, and then lived again.

Paul said, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith made effective through love.”

Paul just taught what Jesus taught, “You’ll know my followers by their love.”

We need fewer “Church Ladies” and more followers. Can we ditch the rule following bias we have and just open ourselves up to finding the freedom to act in love? “Against such there is no law.”


Treating Other People Well

April 14, 2016

Jesus left us with clear teaching about how we are to live in society. Unambiguous. Straight forward. Challenging.

Try–and the second is like the first to love your neighbor as yourself. Whereupon he proceeded to give his listeners an expanded definition of neighbor.

Try–and they will know my followers by their love.

I just saw someone on Facebook (I slipped and actually read through my newsfeed this morning) ranting about discrimination laws.

I thought, why do we have such laws? Well, it must be because we as a society discriminate against other people or groups of people.

Why do we, in a Christian nation (as my friends like to say), discriminate against people or groups of people when the founder and author of our faith says to love our neighbor?

Will laws change our hearts?

Well, laws can change habits (maybe), and a habit repeated can change our heart. And Jesus was concerned with the heart.

But, Jesus’ main opponents, the Pharisees, tried that law path themselves. We’ll make them behave, they thought, by laying out a law governing every aspect of the peoples’ lives.

Hmmm. Didn’t work out for them, did it? Grace won.

So, why do we have laws about discrimination?

Sounds like a vicious circle. We don’t live out our life as Christ-followers, so some bright people say “we ought to pass a law”, and people resent being told to be nice. So we gotta pass another law.

Better to determine, where is our heart.

Maybe a bumper sticker, “Jesus is my cardiologist.” Nah. Bumper sticker theology is so lame.

Maybe I’ll just go out today and love my neighbor.

Lost In The Futility Of Their Minds

January 7, 2016

Have you ever met someone who is so smart that they are actually ignorant? They have so many ideas rattling around inside their skull that often nonsense comes out of their mouth (or computer)?

These people are not only atheist philosophers. I have met people who call themselves Christians who live entirely in their heads. Religion is intellectual, ideas, agreements with propositions.

Sometimes people study things to overcome their own deficiencies. Perhaps I’m that way. For a couple of years at the university, especially the year I wasted in graduate school studying political philosophy, my goal was to be an intellectual. University was all about ideas. In fact, some philosophers who were really all about spirit were labelled “idealists” meaning they thought ideas were real.

Now, I often observe that people think too much. They read too much into other people’s writings.

Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God. They have lost all sensitivity. (Ephesians 4:17-19 excerpted)

After the era of Freud, people seem to like to psychologically analyze other people. They think about others problems. Sometimes they explain away evil acts by saying it’s all their mother’s fault or some other such nonsense. (OK, I like Jung and James far more than Freud from that era, I’ll admit.)

We read the Bible and try to dissect every word as if we were scholars who had lived with the nuances of the language for a lifetime.

Jesus basically said it’s all about the status of our heart. It’s how we live out love. Paul emphasized grace. He also was concerned about how we live out love–but he was worried that people would return to being legalistic about it instead of living in the freedom of grace.

But freedom didn’t mean thinking about whatever you wanted to until you slowly went insane. Thinking that leads to understanding of God is good. Better is getting up every day and deciding to once again live out God’s grace by sharing it with others.

Stop sitting around thinking; start reaching out to others in love.