Posts Tagged ‘Love’

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

January 20, 2017

Do as I say, not as I do.

The memory is as clear as the day it happened. The small cafeteria/study hall in my high school. Group of high school students gathered around a new teacher. She tells them to do something. High school students are prone to questioning things. She uttered that response.

Paul devotes much writing to showing us how we’ll live as someone who believes in Jesus–the gospel, good news, resurrection from death.

People get confused. They think it ends with faith. Faith that Jesus is the Son of God. Not faith in Jesus as our guide and teacher and way to God.

Paul says many times, if we have faith, then we will behave in certain ways.

James says faith without works is dead.

Jesus says the second commandment (of two) is to love our neighbor. Then he shows us examples of love and neighbor. Revolutionary to his original listeners. Revolutionary to most of us.

John talked much of love–not love as an emotion but love as an action.

As I grow older, I listen less to what men say and watch what they do. — Andrew Carnegie

Some people can talk a good game. But they don’t play it.

Beware the person who tells you what to do with their mouth but says something completely different with their life.

Those Darn Other People Are The Problem

January 17, 2017

Ran into a guy the other day. He was so happy that he found a church where everyone believed just exactly like he did. The pastor met the litmus test of disliking (hating?) homosexual people (except that they never add “people” to the phrase) and anti-abortion.

Mentioned something about other sins the people might have. He kind of blew that comment off.

It’s a small church, by the way.

Paul starts his journey of spiritual formation in his letter to the Romans by listing all the sins that humans commit. I always like to ask people who just read the last part of Chapter 1, “how did you feel as you read it?” Meaning, “Did you think about how bad other people are, or how much I myself sin?”

Paul assumes you’ll be answering the first way–all those darn (because I’m perfect, I don’t use vulgar language) other people. They are all such bad sinners.

Paul continues:

Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things.

That’s one of those phrases I should have pop up on my smart phone every time I turn it on. Just as a constant reminder. No matter how much people disappoint me and I call them out. It still points back to me.

Those other people, why, they’re just like me. In need of grace.

What If We Lived Everyone Had A Soul

January 10, 2017

Yesterday I was a little philosophical. But not really if you digest the thought that we are all souls that have a physical body.

What if we took care of our souls like we took care of our bodies? For some of us, that’s not so good. On the other hand, checking out most of the advertisements on TV, magazines, interspersed in your social media “news” streams, and so on, you’d think that we devote hours of thinking about how to get our physical bodies beautiful.

What about our soul?

While I was meditating this morning, I was hit by this vision–what if we treated everyone we meet as a soul loved by a God who dearly wants to draw it (him/her) close?

What if a politician, instead of making an object of an opponent and says things like “it’s just politics”, actually considers that even opponents are human souls loved by God? Maybe despite differing opinions they could work together to solve problems that a government can solve.

Once again while meditating, The Autobiography of Malcolm X came to me. Have you not read that? As a Christian reading it 50 years ago, I was grieved that a black man in the 50s and 60s could not find acceptance within Christian circles but the followers of Islam welcomed him as a brother. Even when he traveled to Mecca.

What if, instead of sitting in our seats in church judging others who come into the room by their clothes or appearance or race, welcomed them as brothers and sisters. Fellow human souls loved by a God who wants to draw them close?

Would that change the way we live each day?

Certainly we must evaluate people and not be led astray by manipulators and people consumed by evil. But how many of those do you meet in a day?

Maybe today I will look at everyone I meet and think about just a little differently.

Freedom But Not Opportunity For Self-Indulgence

November 2, 2016

For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another. For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. –Paul (Letter to the Galatians)

Three sentences. So much wisdom packed into them.

For those who wished to get right with God or the gods at the time of Paul, the work was all on you. You had to do things to make the gods happy with you. If you were Jewish, that meant following each one of the 600+ laws. Every minute of every day. You had to be worried about breaking a law. Other gods had their requirements.

Then Jesus came and set us free from worrying about following laws and doing things to earn God’s favor. In fact,  we can’t earn it, he said. But, God will grant us his grace if we but believe.

So, we have gained freedom. To this day, people everywhere are hoping to gain their freedom however it is defined in their culture.

But Paul knew. Like little children who first taste freedom, we take that freedom as permission to do whatever will satisfy our desires. That is why Paul teaches not to use freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence.

We see results around us. Jails and prisons are full of people who went too far and then lost their physical freedom. Therapists and counselors are kept busy with the emotional/psychological results of too much freedom spent too freely.

People throughout the centuries have hated that word “slave.” They thought it taught weakness. Loss of freedom. They are wrong.

Paul shows us the alternative. To be successful at life, we use our freedom to help others. It is the spiritual lifestyle.

It is also practical. We know–and teach–in business and marketing to focus on solving a problem for our customers. Make the customer’s problem our problem. In that sense, we are becoming a “slave” to our customer.

If we are in a family, group, organization where everyone is a servant, then we have a successful experience. Life in the Spirit trumps living in self-indulgence.

Imagine What A Wonderful World

September 23, 2016
I see trees of green,
red roses too.
I see them bloom,
for me and you.
And I think to myself,
what a wonderful world.
I see skies of blue,
And clouds of white.
The bright blessed day,
The dark sacred night.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.
The colors of the rainbow,
So pretty in the sky.
Are also on the faces,
Of people going by,
I see friends shaking hands.
Saying, “How do you do?”
They’re really saying,
“I love you.”
–Louis Armstrong
Bill Hybels, Sr. Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, once talked about a staff retreat they held a few years ago. They told him that he should be teaching more. He said, “Oh, no, not that. Teaching is so hard for me.”
Well one reason it is so hard is that he tackles difficult topics. He doesn’t go for the easy softballs. And he does it with depth and sensitivity even while knowing that it will be a challenging message for many listeners.
So listening to him talking during his Sept. 18 taking on the topic of hate, I wasn’t surprised.
The amount of hate I see and hear just tears up my heart. People we might suppose to be good people post some of the most hateful things on social media. Even in casual conversations with people I may meet I hear hateful comments.
Much of the time, I think that the people posting such things or uttering such things would be shocked to be told that they are being hateful. Many think it is merely funny. Some think it is only descriptive.
Alongside that emotion is that of anger. Turn on many of the so-called “news channels” and you hear people screaming at each other—all in the name of raising emotions among enough listeners that the ratings are sufficient to attract advertisers.
Hybels opened the Bible to find an example of hate. He found it in Jonah. You know, the fish guy.
God told Jonah to go preach to the people of Nineveh sharing God’s love for them and the right response to that love. He wanted the people of the city to repent so that he didn’t have to destroy it and all the people in it.
Jonah, hated Nineveh. With good reason. The leaders of the city were cruel, warlike people. They sparked fear in all the area. Kind of like an ISIS. Jonah hated it so much that rather than obey God, he ran away in the opposite direction.
We know the story—a big storm out of character for that season on the Mediterranean came upon them; they discovered the reason was Jonah, they threw him overboard; the storm stopped; a fish came and rescued Jonah; took him back to Palestine and deposited him. So Jonah says, “OK God, you win. I’ll go. But I don’t like it.”
So he goes to the city and preaches. Repent and change your ways, follow the ways of the Lord or you will perish. They did. Was Jonah happy? No. He hated them. He went off and sulked. He said to God, I knew this would happen. I knew you would save them. But I’d rather that they were destroyed.
There is the story of God versus hate.
Hybels didn’t leave there. He offered help for avoiding hate. I’ve written about some of these before. Good tips.
  • Fill yourself with the love of God daily.
  • Steer clear of places that are full of hate: Websites, Talk TV, violent movies, cage fighting.
  • Hang out with radically loving people—the vision of the Acts 2 church.
Remember what Paul wrote to the people in Corinth (1 Cor 13), “and these three abide, faith, hope, and love, and the greatest is love.”
Imagine what it would be if we all lived that teaching. Sing it Louis.

Receiving Grace, Giving Grace

August 16, 2016

It was the end of a group meeting. It’s where we pray for each other and go home.

The study for the day was the part of Ephesian 4 where Paul is describing Christian life. About speaking the truth in gentleness and love. About focusing on others.

Then out of nowhere someone erupts in anger, “The church is going to hell. It accepts homosexuals.”

I thought, “Huh? Where did that come from?”

Well, it came from the depths of the things he dwells his thoughts in. He’d never admit hatred, but the tone of his voice betrayed him.

It was a shocking end to a study of grace.

It just shows the distance between your head and your heart. You can “learn” things but it may not change your heart.

I was affected by John Fischer’s latest Catch newsletter:

Grace doesn’t just stop with my receiving it; it goes on in the way I give it out. The way we are treated will affect the way we treat others.

This is an important part of receiving from God; it changes us. You can’t receive God’s grace without giving it out to others. You can’t receive what you don’t deserve and then go out and make everyone else pay.

I know it’s hard to live a life full of grace. And it’s hard to offer grace to other people. And I know that anger is an honest emotion. But anger also often betrays the condition of our heart. It reveals insecurities, prejudices, ignorance.

Those are the moments when I am grieved. What hope is there when people who receive grace refuse to give it on to someone else.

And, wow, our society could use a big dose of grace right now! From everyone.

Unity In The Spirit

August 3, 2016

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience. — Pierre Teilhard

Father Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was a French Jesuit priest, paleontologist, theologian, and philosopher. Those Jesuits, they’re always over achievers. He is also one of my favorite writers.

I love it when people observe something and turn it on its head.

This seems to fit what Paul was praying for in Ephesians that I pondered yesterday. He prayed that we would be filled with God’s spirit.

But Paul continued just after his prayer to say, “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” And “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all in all.”

Teilhard loved that phrase “all in all.”

Paul warns us a little later to remain focused on that which matters. To be filled with the Spirit speaking the truth in love. We are spiritual beings, and Paul keeps trying to show us how to live like spiritual beings.

And we resist.

We don’t want to grow up. We don’t want to break down those prejudices, those walls, within which we’ve grown quite comfortable.

I’ll never forget reading John Calhoun, an early 19th Southern American (US) writer who proved conclusively from the Bible that black people were actually a sub-human race of beings who were deserving only of slavery. In fact, slavery was a step up for them.

Vestiges of that thought line continue among some Christians even unto today. I’ve sat with people who would fervently identify themselves as Christian, yet they disparaged black people, Middle Eastern people, and all manner of other non-white, non-American peoples. And they could blithely continue speaking of Christian values.

Let’s go back to the source. Listen to Paul’s prayer for us. Be filled with the Spirit and then speak in love.

The Discipline of Self Awareness

June 29, 2016

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. — Matthew 7:3-5 New International Version (NIV)

Our conversation must have wandered not having a lot of news to share. I had made my daily call home as is my practice when I’m on the road. Since I’m in Las Vegas, she’s probably insisting on a call just to check up.

Anyway, we got to talking about how hard it is to see your own sins and difficulties. It’s so easy to see what’s wrong with others. Although many people (most? all?) have sins hidden from public  view, many seem to live out their sins in public. Makes for good conversation, I guess. Or interesting Facebook posts. (I have cut way back on the amount of time I scan Facebook posts, by the way.)

It is easy for everyone to fall into this habit. But Jesus reserved his anger (it sure sounds like anger, doesn’t it?) for a specific group of people. These were the Pharisees.

These people made a detailed study of the Law. They memorized it. They interpreted it. To their credit, they tried to live it.

Unfortunately, living the letter of the Law usually means a bad attitude. It breeds contempt. It breeds the attitude that “I’m better than you–here, I can prove it.” Yet, their sins are hidden  somewhere in the depths (we’ll let Freud have a field day on uncovering those). And they act (put on a mask to assume a different persona–therefore a “hypocrite”) as if they are perfect. And they love to point fingers at others who are not so conscientious about following the Law.

Paul picked up this theme in the beginning of Romans. “For all have sinned and fallen short.”

Even if we have trouble identifying where we each fall short, we must remember this instruction before pointing at others.

Connecting With Other People

June 23, 2016

I’m finishing up some thoughts on Henry Cloud’s latest book, The Power of the Other.

In some ways I think that we keep trying to figure out what Jesus meant when he said to love each other and that you’ll know his followers by that love.

One obvious problem of course is the lack of good, specific words in English to describe the great variety of meanings that the word love connotes.

Cloud doesn’t talk specifically about this, but reflecting on his list of what makes for a Corner Four connection fleshes out just what we’d like to be and to experience in our relationships.

  • Connection that fuels.
  • Connection that gives freedom.
  • Connection that requires responsibility.
  • Connection that defangs failure and learning.
  • Connection that challenges and pushes.
  • Connection that builds structure.
  • Connection that unites instead of divides.
  • Connection that is trustworthy.

Standing back and trying to absorb this list, I think that if I could live out all of these then I’d be a long way along the journey of love that Jesus talked about.

The idea isn’t to follow a list. It’s to make the list part of us reflected in the quality of relationships. Then by referring back from time to time during quiet time, we can remind ourselves where we’ve fallen short and need to improve.

I’ve always thought that faith is in the living out toward others not in talking at others. This reminder is an aid.

Concern For All People

May 19, 2016

People of Paul’s world were divided into two groups–Jews and non-Jews. At least it was so from the point-of-view of a Jew.

Taking another look at Romans 10 (and 9 and 11 to put it in context), I’m suddenly struck by Paul’s concern for everyone. Paul spends considerable time talking about God’s grace toward non-Jews (Gentiles). This was revolutionary in Jewish thought.

Paul also spends considerable time discussing Jews. And how God wishes for them to acknowledge the resurrection of Jesus and the reconciliation of grace.

Paul cared for them all!

In the world of that time, a Jewish person was to have as little interaction with non-Jews as possible. Definitely one didn’t eat with them or go into their house.

Yet, after Paul’s conversion and the redirection of his life, he seemed to have no problems being anointed “apostle to the Gentiles.”

Look at the struggles of Peter coming to the same conclusion. It’s remarkable that those internal struggle Peter had before he finally accepted Gentiles as people just like Jews were even recorded and saved.

We keep trying to divide the world today. Every culture I’ve had contact with finds ways to divide people. Even going so far as to label some in such a way as to imply “less than human” status.

Today’s discipline for us to practice is to go out this morning and begin to see everyone we meet (and think about) as people whom God created and God loves. Be like Paul who was concerned for each and every one.

I can hear the “Yeah, but what about” comments forming even now as I type. Cast those evil thoughts out.

If you need to find the strength, read Romans 9-10-11 with new eyes. See how Paul was deeply concerned for the lives of everyone. Go and do likewise.