Archives For Love

The Problem with Truth

Steve —  4.10.2014 — 1 Comment

Perception – it’s everything. No really.

How we perceive the world around us is based on our beliefs and if you’ve read anything by Stephen Covey, you know that beliefs drive behavior that produce results that either reinforce or challenge beliefs.

Ponder that for a minute…

Go ahead…I’ll wait.

Truth is like data – meaningless without context. It just sits there – still true – but isolated, waiting for experience to validate.

The context of our lives (summation of our experiences) provides the vehicle of acceptance and internalization of truth. The good times and (especially) the valleys we go through give us something to test the truth – to see if it holds up under the weight of reality. If it does, then a new belief is formed and another dies.

Back to perception. If we hear a truth, even one that cognitively makes sense, and don’t have the contextual experience to validate it, we typically reject or at least table our opinion of it. Our perception is based on belief and belief on experience.

But what about Truth – God’s Truth?

I suggest the same logic holds. When we call Jesus’ name (as a response to Him calling ours) and are saved, that crisis of belief about ourselves and the world around us, cement basic Truth into new beliefs. And from that point forward, the world is trying to kill them.

And most often it works.

We are hounded by achievement-based worth and shaped by shame and condemnation. We strive to be accepted and question everything through stressed and anxiety-ridden days. Asking, “Am I worthy of love? Am I good enough? What if they really knew me – would they accept me?” – scary stuff.

Luckily, God has the vision capable of creating experiences that resurrect, bit by bit those initial Truths until one day, we wake up and feel free and accepted and humbled by His great gift of Grace. That the Creator of the universe loved and loves me – at my worst – and has accepted me just as I am.

No performance needed. No striving. No hamster wheel.

Just love. Period.

And everything seems new and different – like a veil has been lifted or you step out of the shadows and into the warm sun.

MercyMe has a song called, “Flawless” that sums all of this up in just 4 minutes. I hope you’ll ponder the Truths that saved you and step into the sun.

Two Truths

Steve —  5.20.2011 — Leave a comment

My friend Matt and I, from time to time, engage in friendly chatter regarding the core truths of the Christian faith. I love it because he is very grounded in his faith and seems to be able to filter out the noise pretty well. Also, he’s pretty much the only one who will actively comment on anything I say online, which wins him an extra cookie in my book.

The last go around was between two topics and it was a very short serve and volley:

Justification = just as if we never sinned & just as if we had always obeyed

Read it again because you might miss the profundity in the brevity. Now read it one more time. Isn’t that wonderful and so absolutely true!

Whenever I see the term “Justification,” I immediately hear the word “Sanctification” in my mind. It’s like when I hear the name “Marsha”, I hear, “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha…” from the Brady Bunch. So, I replied with:

Sanctification = Proof positive that there’s always room for improvement

Now I sometimes say things to gauge the reaction of someone – especially in church circles these days, but this isn’t one of them. I truly believe that our justified lives are one big work in progress that has no ending point this side of heaven.

The point is that everyone around you is some sort of work in progress. And your Christian friends are being worked by the Creator of the Universe, who can be trusted to finish that work. May the Grace and Love of Jesus abound in how we engage those around us.

I desire a fundamental and wholesale change in approach to how we care for the needy. When we ask the question, “How are you caring for the needy?”, it is being interpreted by most people to be, “Give me your list of activities so I can determine whether or not you measure up.” It’s a loaded question because of how the church reacts when people don’t have an answer. So, I will make sure I can rattle off 3-5 ways that I’m caring for others just so I won’t be judged by the people I want to impress. Do you see the dysfunction in all of that?

That’s not love and that’s not what Scripture teaches us that Christ wants from us. Instead, let’s start digging into and teaching people about how to love God, which begins with a deep understanding of how God loves us and goes all the way back to Genesis 1 and the chasm that Jesus bridged to bring us back into a right relationship with our Heavenly Father.

It’s harder and takes much longer, but the sustainability for real-world impact is far greater than maintaining a list of activities that can be recited at the drop of a hat.

Hear me on this – I absolutely believe that caring for our neighbor is the best and most effective form of expressing the love of Christ, but if we do it in order to check a box on some list rather than out of love, we have become noisy gongs and our efforts honor nobody. If we are going to hold people accountable to something, let it be love.

Being Dad

Steve —  6.21.2010 — Leave a comment

I had a wonderful Father’s Day this year. It was filled with family, fun and good food. In fact, the entire weekend was one of the best in recent memory.

One of the contributing factors was the way I was touched this year about being the father to my wonderful kids. Looking back down the road that led to this moment is like stopping at a vista overlook atop a mountain and seeing the road below that you had just been on. It twists and turns and disappears into the trees and valleys just to reappear where you don’t expect it.

Memories come flooding back of the hard times when we panicked because we thought we were lost and the timid confidence when we finally found our way.

Times when the trees formed a tunnel that blocked the sky only to give way to sunshine that made us squint just to see the road.

The rest stops that let us stretch our legs, grab a snack and prepare for the next patch of road.

The subtle and steady rise in the road as the mountain loomed large in the windshield that made our pulse quicken only to realize just how far away we still were.

The narrow roads with amazingly dangerous drop-offs that made me slow our pace and put both hands on the wheel.

The disbelief of the claimed summit and the view that fills our soul with God’s wonder.

This Father’s Day, my soul was filled with God’s wonder of being a dad and husband to the best family on the planet. In my wildest dreams, I never would have been able to predict just how FULL my heart is and how blessed I feel.

At the same time, there’s a twinge of sadness because I don’t have the chance to celebrate my earthly father. His death when I was a boy has left a hole in my heart that I still feel some 33 years later. But just a twinge…

Thanks are in order to my lovely wife for celebrating me, loving me, respecting me, and placing her trust in me as I place my trust in my Heavenly Father to make the road down the other side of the mountain a journey filled with strength, courage and wisdom. May we keep our eyes fixed on Him as we put one foot in front of the other on our way Home…

Light Your World

Steve —  5.20.2010 — Leave a comment

I love the use of light as an analogy – I mean LOVE it! As a physicist, light is one of the most fascinating elements of our world. But never fear, I’ll keep it light (pun intended)…this time.

I was in Russia for six weeks and we took a trip to the Black Sea one weekend. As night fell, I could see a huge light scanning the water back and forth. As I went to investigate, the search light became bigger and bigger – it must have been ten feet in diameter when I finally saw it up close. The purpose of that light was to search the open water for smugglers from Turkey trying to enter the country under the cover of night and I would say it was effective at lighting up the night for several miles.

The third and final installment of the banner series: Love Much, Live Well and Light Your World – moves us into the realm of influencing those around us. Like I said, I love the use of light in this last piece for two main reasons:

  1. Light overcomes darkness. In all cases (even black holes are defined by the light being captured around them), when light is shone into a dark area, that area is lit up. You never see the darkness able to prevail in that engagement.
  2. Light behaves as both a wave and a particle. Hang with me for a second. As a wave, light can travel vast distances and not be affected by gravity and other external forces. As a particle, light influences and impacts the physical world in real and tangible ways. The coolest thing is that light is neither a wave nor a particle – IT’S BOTH…AT THE SAME TIME. This means it has vast reach and real impact.

So when we talk about lighting our world, what we’re basically saying is that we (you and I) are to be sources of light shining into the dark world. Some questions immediately come to mind:

  • How bright is my light (effectiveness)? If you’ve ever lost power at night and your flashlight needed new batteries, you quickly realize just how ineffective a dim light can be when you need to find your way. I think a Christian’s effectiveness in being a light to this world is how connected you are to the Father. To put it simply, moving toward God means a brighter light and moving away from Him produces dimmer and dimmer light.
  • Where do I shine (intentionality)? Ever needed a buddy to hold a light when you’re working on your car or the kitchen sink? He can never shine the light exactly where you need it because he can’t see what you see. I think at times, Christians point their lights in the wrong direction and waste the lumen lighting up dead ends. Just like a third hand would ensure you get the light in exactly the right spot, I think God desires to use us in the same way. He knows where light is needed and desires to shine us right where light is needed most.
  • To what end? Lighting your world can take a variety of expressions. It could be seeing a need and responding out of love. It could be telling a friend about your faith and life eternal. It could be having hard conversations with your kids about morality. It really is about responding to the world around you based on loving much and living well.

One final point about light – multiple light sources produce a brighter overall illumination. Back in the day, as more and more candles were grouped together, their combined light was more effective in overcoming a greater amount of darkness – thus the term “candlepower” came to be. This speaks directly to making sure we are moving together, in one accord with purpose.

Putting it all together:

  • Be sure you are moving toward God so your light is a bright as possible
  • Ask Him and courageously move where and do what He instructs
  • Seek out and embrace community so we may increase our candlepower

PARADIGM CHECK: If you find yourself frustrated about the lack of response you are getting from efforts to influence those around you, examine how much you are loving and how well you are living. If you focus on step three and neglect steps 1 & 2, you may be shining your light into empty corners.

We’ve come full circle and as I consider the progression of Love Much, Live Well and Light Your World, it doesn’t seem like a linear progression any longer, but a circular one. Each step reinforces and deepens the next, but it all starts with love – may we never start anywhere else and may we never stop doing all three more and more.

Live Well

Steve —  5.19.2010 — Leave a comment

I was asked by a friend who’s life was falling apart why he should live according to God’s Word. After all, good behavior had gotten him nowhere; in fact, he considered himself worse off because of it.

The second part of our banner is Live Well. We covered Love Much in a previous post and Light Your World is coming up. What used to come to mind for me when I heard the term “live well” was keeping my nose clean and staying out of trouble, but I’ve come to learn it’s much more than that.

Just like loving much involves more than taking someone some chicken spaghetti when they break a leg, living well is much more than staying out of jail. Evidence of this is found in the Gospels (first 4 books of the New Testament of the Bible) in the way Jesus talked to those He met. The call was (and is today) to go and sin no more.

That’s it.
Very simple command.
Very difficult implementation plan.
And He knew that!

You see, you can’t go very far down the Live Well road before you understand that you must Love (Him) Much first. Living a life well is a response to His Love and must be rooted in some very weighty beliefs.

First, you must believe that God desires the very best for you. When Jesus talked about the abundant life, he wasn’t talking about a life free of pain and struggle. He was talking about a life that is used to it’s fullest potential to impact His Kingdom. He was talking about life lived with His perspective, not ours. With His priorities, not ours. With His values, not ours.

Second, you must believe that God has a purpose for your life. He uniquely crafted you with abilities, skills and experiences for His purposes. Exploring what those things are, with an eye purpose, is a fantastic way to understand why you are still sucking wind behind your keyboard. Assessments, other people and some good ole soul searching are great tools to uncover this information.

Finally, you must understand that a life lived well typically will mean hard times become the norm. There’s an Enemy lurking for anyone who starts making waves for God. For some, that will be enough to return to status quo, but for those resolute few who really desire to live well, it merely strengthens their resolve. Additionally, there is still Joy to be had when hard times come because we now have a perspective that we’re being used to make a difference.

So, the question about why we should live life well goes all the way back to a response to His Love and moves out from there to being effective in Lighting the world around you. Hmmm…that seems to be the next topic.

*PARADIGM CHECK: Are people asking you about how or why you live life the way you do? A life lived well is different from the world – different decision grids, different actions and certainly different values. If you look, act and smell just like everyone else, perhaps it’s time to examine your life from His perspective and ask some overdue questions…on your knees.