Wednesday, March 30, 2011

God is Love

So many lies permeated my life as child.  I knew just enough of the word of God to get myself into a world of trouble.  Satan’s lies were coming hard and fast.  One of the subtlest, yet most dangerous was this… that loving God above anything else meant the death of loving anything else.  It was as if I thought that nothing else was allowed to cross my mind, or be important to me.  The loves seemed… competitive. 

The truth is they can be.  Such is the nature of idolatry.  We take something, usually something good, and simply make it ultimate, and thus, an idol.  Yet, as I grow in love, intimacy, and understanding with Christ, I see something so much more wonderful.  It is amazing that I could not see the blatant truth… that with God as ultimate there is no end to love. 

We think.  If I want to love so-and-so or such-and-such to the fullest, I must put them first.  That is our logic.  Yet, when we do so, our love for one another is hindered by being founded on us.  We are weak, selfish, and have a limit to our depth. 

The truth is that when we put God above all else, and genuinely desire Him above all, a crazy thing happens.  He tells us to love others, AND our love for them is now founded in HIM and thus is endless in its might and beauty.  

1 John 4:7 ESV

[God Is Love] Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.

1 John 4:8 ESV

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

1 John 4:16 ESV

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him

Immediately after God shows us that He is to be loved above all else, he gives us the second commandment, to love others.  

Matthew 22:36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"37And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.38This is the great and first commandment.39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets."

Then we look at those who we are to revere.  Paul, Jesus, Peter, they loved others passionately.  A few examples: Jesus wept at Lazurus’ death.  Paul called Philemon his heart. Philemon 1:12.  Peter loved Jesus to the point of cutting off a man's ear.

God is faithful.  Such goes another lie in my heart, not that I won't ever struggle with it ever again.  Yet, its power and sting has been diminished enormously.  My pursuit of God moves forward.  He is above all else.  All love comes from Him, as He is love.  Now I truly love the those I once feared God would get in the way of if I put Him first.  How silly of me indeed.  May He be above all else for you as well.  Whatever idol you are holding on to (and recall, idolatry usually is just making a good thing ultimate.  Even something as wonderful as ministry, marriage, or children can be an idol) will only curtail your true ability to actually even love and enjoy that very thing anyway.  God is the reason we live.  Glory be His name.  

Friday, March 11, 2011

2 Thesalonians 3:11-15

2 Thesallonians 3:11-15 We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat.
  And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.  If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

This verse just captivates me for several reason.  There are several things in here that catch my eye because they say something very deep and meaningful that are, I would think, at odds with who we are as Americans in the year 2011.  

The main reason this verse caught my eye was because of what it says of idleness.  I have been reading and praying a lot about being less Idle.  Yet, I feel as if when I speak of being idle, most people think as I do.  When we think of an idle person, don't most of us see someone poorly kept, sitting on the sofa playing their XBox for hours upon end?  I bet so.  Yet, that is not how Paul is defining the word Idle.  Notice he says that those who are idle are not busy.  That makes sense.  Then he says, "They are busybodies."  (Insert scratching record sound)  They are busybodies, not people sitting on their couch playing XBox.  There is at least an appearance of busyness, right?  This verse immediately took me back to something my mother said before I read this, showing her understanding.  I was talking to her about my desire to become a man who does what he is supposed to do.  She praised such wisdom, and then told me a story about how just a week earlier she had been talking to my grandmother.  She was telling my Ganga how she struggles with being idle.  My grandmother reproved her mildly, saying that no one spent more time doing things than she does (which is true).  My mother replied by saying that she was a busybody.  She was always doing something, but rarely what really needed to be done.  The depth of that notion just smacked me thick in the face.  It is so true.  Not being idle is about getting done what actually needs to get done.  I want to be the type of man that pays bills immediately, being a wise and handy steward of what God has provided.  I want to be the type of man that doesn't clean the house after it gets dirty.  I want to be the type of man that keeps the house from getting dirty in the first place.  I want to pray often and think deeply, be quick to answer my phone when people call, and ready to react or respond.  God has been so faithful.  Slowly but surely the tide has been turning, and I have seen the fruit of my labor on my wife's face again and again.  I see the pride on my parents faces as they sense a deep change that can only come from God, as they have lived my idle behind most of my life. 

I want to write about the rest of the verse, but I must go.  I will pick the mantle up later! (rolls eyes at self)  Anyhow, may your day be blessed.  In Jesus' name, I love you and am praying that you too would be constantly growing toward Christ.  No matter where you are in life, no matter how deep into the you-know-what you are wading through, Jesus' love and grace is there for you.  Nothing is too much!  He loves you right where you are.  Just keep moving toward Christ!  Keep asking, seeking, and knocking!  God cherishes perseverance in prayer.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

My Own "Schindler's List" Epiphany

Matthew 25:23 NIV

"His master replied, 'Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!'

This last month has been wild.  We took care of the ranch while my parents were away.  We mourned the death of my Daddy Jake.  We celebrated the wedding of Kathleen's best friend Rachel.  Thousands of miles have been travelled.  So, it is nice to finally feel mostly settled for a bit (with the exception of another wedding this weekend).  This week has been very refreshing, even just feeling like there will be peace ahead.  Next week, barring something big, I will finish the first draft of my book.  

Anyhow, to get the part where I make sense of the title I have chosen.  I have been looking ahead, as we always do, trying to constantly make sure I am walking rightly in my work for God's glory.  I want to be ever focused.  There is a great sense of desperation in my heart for God to allow me the privilege of getting to serve Him fully, with out reserve.  As I was gauging my own heart, and asking difficult questions, a scene from "Schindler's List" came to my mind.  Toward the end of the movie, Schindler is talking with one of the many Jews who's freedom he was able to buy.  He has already done so much.  Yet, he begins to panic, taking the gold pin off of his jacket, asking, "What could I have gotten for this pin?  How many lives?"  He continues to list things he could have sold.  The end of the story still ends with him a hero, to the point of making a movie in honor of the bravery and generosity he showed.  Immediately those around him console him, telling him how much they appreciate all he had done.  Yet, as much as he had done, there is an element of truth to his panic.  Even the first time I saw it when I was fourteen, I remember recognizing, "Yes, he probably could have.  I wonder why he kept the pin."  Fifteen years later I wonder the same thing about myself everyday.  

Now, the analogy breaks down, in that I cannot buy anybody's salvation.  Yet, I can put everything I have toward such a goal.  My call isn't to save but to obey, and I think about how much I hold back.  Could I have built a well with Charity Water by now, bringing water to hundreds of people?  Yes.  Yet, how often has the "out of sight" element of that problem been overridden by my "I want a frappucino" problem?  Way, way too often.  How much of my talent is being used for his glory?  We aren't even supposed to guard our weaknesses!  He thrives on using those!  Then how about our strengths?  One that seems so innocent is simply... time.  Obviously, most of don't spend enough of our time involved in kingdom work.  We play XBox, or clean our house, or whatever it is that we like to fill our time doing otherwise.  Yet, I also think about the time spent inside my mind.  Now, I believe in the power of prayer.  The beauty of this is that I can minister to all living people from anywhere.  Even that time I want for idle thoughts.  I would rather surf the web and fill my idle mind with information that I later realize I never really wanted.  More stories about how broken we humans are, and how much we hurt each other and ourselves.  In the end, I want there to be as little wondering, "What more could I have given?" as possible.  

Side note.  I am not pushing some ridiculous state of panicked go that results in no sleep or being ascetic.  I believe in rest and leisure.  Those are a part of pursuing God.  They help me know Him.  There is a line in my heart, I would imagine in yours too, where I know I am being selfish with what God has given me.  I am being idle.  That is what I am talking about.    From my own experience, such "sacrifices" end up not feeling so sacrificial, as the reward of intimacy with God through service and hard labor brings enormous joy.  May you and I both no as much of that joy as we can possibly be allowed to take part of.  Amen.