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Posts Tagged ‘Love others’

followHow many times have you heard someone say that he/she is leaving one church or another because of not being fed. Really! What does that even mean? You see, I can be indignant about this point of view because I was one of those people. And it was stupid and prideful and totally off base.

Honestly, is the gospel message so complicated that it requires years and years of Sunday sermons and adult Sunday School to get it? Is sanctification about learning the words or something else? Is it about memorizing the verses or walking them out?

Paul says, about his own journey . . .

I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go. . . . For now, let’s hold on to what we have been shown and keep in step with these teachings. [Philippians 3: 12, 16; The Voice translation]

It’s application. Plain and simple. It’s practicing the message. It’s acting like a real human being.

How hard is it to understand this: “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” [Luke 10:27] The words are simple, the message is simple, and the doing? Not so much. If I could just love and love love, that is, really love, so many other things would fall into place, wouldn’t they? After all, love covers a multitude of sins.

Here’s another complicated one [NOT]: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” [James 1:27]

Or maybe we’re not reciting the Apostles Creed enough, to remind ourselves of what we believe. Or the Nicene Creed. Or, if that’s not enough, we can review all the ancient creeds and the articles of faith and the statements of faith of most major denominations HERE. That will keep anyone busy for a week or so. Study on.

But will any of this additional teaching make me a better follower of Christ, a transcendent soul? If I “feed” on more messages of some of the greatest theologians or influential preachers of all time, will my heart and soul be on fire for God more than it was before . . . because of the teaching?

Or can it really be more simple than that?

I think most of us get the “message” within the first year or so of a committed relationship with Christ (either through fellowship, church, or bible study). We understand the gist of it from the beginning. We just don’t want to do it, to live it, to walk what we understood from the beginning.

I know I made it all more complicated. I spent so much energy looking for a shortcut or an inside track or a supernatural anointing, as though walking a life of faith is magic. It’s not magic and it’s not about the miracles. It’s just being real and authentic and transparent. And it’s living the paradox! That’s why it’s called FAITH. And for that reason, because the Christ life is woven in with the paradox [another word for true love] (with Bible examples like turn the other cheek, pray for enemies, walk the extra mile, and care about the other person more than self), I keep trying to work the system, the institution, the traditions, the rules.

And Jesus says to me today, “Just walk what you know.” Do that? And your understanding will be sunshine on a Spring day.

 

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I’m not paying enough attention. I know there are upright people around me; there are folks who are choosing each day to turn away from the selfish choice and seek peace. Have I become so jaded that I only see the mistakes, the falling short of a person?

Psalm 37:37
Consider the blameless, observe the upright;
a future awaits those who seek peace.

I place the bar very high for myself and as a result, I tend to give too much credence to the dark voice within who points out my failings, my trips, my secret heart. As a result, I appear to do the same to others. Sorry ya’ll.

It’s time to look with different and gentler eyes. It’s time to mark and consider the good moment, the brave choice, the intentional moments of others. It’s time to look for them and to celebrate them.

At work, I can praise my staff for a job well done, but I don’t offer much encouragement to regular people around me, from my kids who struggle each day to navigate their world to my husband who has become too familiar, a presence who has lost his uniqueness, but has become a habit instead. Like being on auto-pilot, I am not looking for the evidence of good choices, conscious choices, dauntlessness.

Who do I admire? Not for their successes in the world, but for their courage to walk the narrow way of faith, to hold fast to the paradoxes of Christ, to live humbly, to seek peace by turning away from self camouflage, to practice transparency and authenticity. I want to celebrate them.

Keep me mindful today that I might see.

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St. John is obsessed with love and its power. But to speak of it in today’s world sounds trite and cliche. Love has been relegated to movies and teenagers. Do people really believe love is a power so strong, so rich, that it can change a life, a culture, a world, a civilization? Or is it just a Valentine?

I John 4:12
No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

I don’t really feel qualified to write about this topic at length, mostly because of my own anemic love life, and by that, I mean loving the unlovable, the unlovely.

It’s not that I don’t believe God is in the love of family, friends, and loved ones, but I have a sense that loving in the hard places, the paradoxical times, the nontraditional people, the unexpected situations: this is where God manifests more profoundly. These would be the occasions I might actually experience the same God who loved me when I was deeply entrenched in life-killing habits (drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and the like). That love turned me around. That love upended my perceptions. That love was conscious and real, almost tangible. It was one of the reasons I committed my life to becoming a follower of the Christ: I saw God by being loved unconditionally.

For whom can I do the same? Why am I so afraid? There was so much grace in being on the receiving end and yet, it has become so difficult to get out of my safety net and love others the same way, without judgment, without expectations, without strings attached.

Our current church has a lot of buzz phrases, some more meaningful than others, but without a doubt, the one that resonates the most with me is that we offer love and service to others “with no strings attached.” I know that our pastor, Jess Bousa, pulled this mandate out of his own experiences, out of the God-love that was given to him when he least deserved it. The church, Good Cause Foundation, the open door policy he has established, are all an outgrowth of seeing God and thereby showing God through himself. Jess got it and he’s one of the reasons I’m hanging around this young pastor, I want to catch the fever.

It’s all simple: love others if I want to see God. And as I see God, I will want to love others. Infinity. Circle. Mandala. Synergism.

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For years, I have always thought of the “Anti-Christ” as a person. I supposed it’s all that Tim LaHaye & Jerry Jenkins stuff, pre-tribulation, pre-millenialism, and the rapture. Those folks have an entire time line for the appearance of the Anti-Christ. But John sheds a different light on the concept in his letter.

I John 4:2-3
By this you may know (perceive and recognize) the Spirit of God: every spirit which acknowledges and confesses [the fact] that Jesus Christ (the Messiah) [actually] has become man and has come in the flesh is of God [has God for its source]; And every spirit which does not acknowledge and confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [but would annul, destroy, sever, disunite Him] is not of God [does not proceed from Him]. This [nonconfession] is the [spirit] of the antichrist, [of] which you heard that it was coming, and now it is already in the world.
[Amplified]

If John is to be believed, a simple litmus test is the willingness of the spirit to confess that Christ is indeed, the long-awaited Messiah. In biblical times, maybe this was easier to do. After all, the Jewish people had been waiting for the Messiah for centuries, his coming foretold by prophet after prophet. They expected and even longed for that day, anticipating a revolution of epic size that would, once and for all, free Israel from its enemies and usurpers.

Immediately after Christ’s appearance, ministry, execution, and resurrection, the guidelines were clear-cut: a person accepted Christ as the Messiah or not. If there was no Messiah, then there was no Christ, and Jesus was a nice guy who turned their world topsy turvy for for no good cause.

So, anti-Christ is not necessarily an individual per se, but a belief, or rather, a disbelief. And I think it’s called a spirit because belief happens within. It is my spirit that chooses, that part of me that works with my mind and soul, to unify the interior life and direct my actions & choices.

In modern times, this confession or lack of confession, is less understood or accepted. We have more relativism and few people (outside the circles of denominational Christianity) like the “black and white” feel of this mandate. Plus, other requirements have been added such as a verbal confession or attendance in church or getting splashed/dunked with water, just to name a few.

But, I remember vividly, my spirit confessed the Christ, because of statements like these written as the word of Jesus, “If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” [John 8:46b-47] I could not call Jesus the lie. And I wanted to hear God. I wanted to be part of the God equation, the interaction, the indwelling of Messiah through the Holy Spirit.

And so, this is the one confession: I believe the source of Christ was and is God. And as a result, the Holy Spirit dwells within me.

My primary responsibility as a result of this confession is to love God with all my heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love my neighbor as myself. The rest is human confusion.

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Many people like to talk about the “promises of God,” like the various covenants God made with his chosen people from rainbows (not destroying the earth by flood after the time of Noah) to multiplication (the many children and heirs of Abraham). But then, through King David and the prophets, the ultimate promise begin to take shape.

Ephesians 3:4, 6
In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, . . . This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

This singular promise is about relationship to God, the creator and sovereign head of the Earth. This promise is mystical and eternal. The revelation of this mystery has been a slow unfolding.

God began the process with a small group of people in Israel. Although the initial oracle was fairly simplistic (as in only ten commandments), the message grew into a rather unwieldy collection of laws and interpretations that bogged down the initial intent: Love God: Love Others. Eventually, through hardships, exiles, and even silence, another small group of people of Israel grew hungry for truth and looked for the promised solution: the Messiah who would reopen the door to God.

Hidden within the Messiah solution was a greater mystery: everyone would have now have access to God.

There is something about the idea of “everyone” that is not always palatable. If everyone can have it or do it, there is nothing special about it anymore. And what about the bad people, won’t they abuse it? And what about the ugly people or the smelly people or the people of different color or shape or ability?

It would be like a board of directors of a bank: they have the combination codes for the vault. They are the keepers of the depository and they can decide when to open the vault and when to close it. That is, until some guy comes along and says he’s the one who made the vault in the first place. He’s changing the code to make it easier to open. Sure enough, those directors start freaking out when some real low-lifes from town start opening the vault and taking what appears to be more than their fair share. These new folks are so cavalier about the door, they don’t even bother to close it sometimes. The leave the door ajar. Good grief, anyone could get in there and take everything. The directors keep closing the door and changing the access codes. But then, along comes one of the old directors, some called him Paul and some called him Saul, he starts passing out the universal code, even to people from out of town. The most amazing thing happened, instead of a run on the bank, a lot of people didn’t believe the door could be opened, so they didn’t bother to look.

The mystery is that the vault is never empty. There is always enough in the vault.

It’s the law of plenty.

Most of us think, including me, “if I give it all away, there won’t be enough for me.” [I Kings 17:7-15]

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I know I can be a bull in a china shop with my voice. Sometimes I don’t think things through before I say them. In fact, I’m known for speaking just to hear what I’m thinking! It’s not always well-formed. It’s one of the reasons I blog. . .

II Corinthians 4:13
Yet we have the same spirit of faith as he had who wrote, I have believed, and therefore have I spoken [Psalm 116:10]. We too believe, and therefore we speak, . . .
[Amplified]

Writing slows me down (a little) and it gives me a chance to contemplate more thoroughly the verses for the day. It gives me a chance to look for truths in the Word for me. Writing helps me articulate my faith more clearly and ask deeper questions of myself and others.

My faith has grown in many directions, not just wider and longer but deeper. And with that growth has come challenges and changes.

I find myself embracing the simplicity of the message: Love God, Love others. There is much more wiggle room than there used to be. There are gray areas after all. There is acceptance of the mystery and the paradox. There is a willingness to say, “I don’t know.” There is more tolerance for other lifestyles and mistakes. There is greater hope in the ultimate power of God.

Our world is very complex. It’s not the same world of the disciples. It’s much more expansive. We are aware of the tiniest changes across continents and space. We can know and communicate with thousands and millions of people in an instant. We hear of good and evil proliferating around the earth and beyond. Sin and disease abound. Fear builds exponentially. Death is proud.

And yet, it’s still the same message that will stand the test of time: Love God, Love others.

This is what I believe. This is what I am doing here.

My writing comes out of my faith. God is sovereign. Christ is real. And what I am living and learning along the way may help someone else discover the kingdom within.

After all these years, my personal mission still resonates for me: To inspire meaningful change, to build faith in God and to connect people with resources that make a difference in their lives.

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