Archives For Love

Love Much

Steve —  5.18.2010 — Leave a comment

My church, Fellowship Bible Church | Little Rock, recently had a sermon series called “Love Much, Live Well and Light the World” – a three-parter that was magnificent. I wanted to spend s0me time telling you why I think so.

First – the combination of the three summarizes perfectly the message Jesus has to mankind. If you spend any time reading the Bible – especially the first 4 books of the New Testament – you will see this message over and over. Jesus was always calling people to love God and others, to live with purpose and integrity and to influence the world around us.

Furthermore, the order is right on. We first need to love – it is the key to everything else. I have a working philosophy about love and it goes a little like this:

The degree to which we can love others is based on how we love God and the degree to which we love God is based on how fully we understand His love for us.

I believe the reason we don’t/can’t love people deeply is because we don’t grasp how incredibly deeply we’re loved by God. A paradigm shift is needed – as with all things related to God. We must examine what’s inside before we can reflect it outside.

One of the best places to start your journey of understanding of God’s Love is the book of Ephesians in the Bible. God describes us as noble heirs to His Kingdom through the redeeming blood of His Son. To be reconciled to God is to return home – right where you belong and the peace and love you feel from the Father will allow you to love people well and extend grace just as it was extended to you.

Being loved by your creator is incredibly life changing, but all too often, we can get in the way. We believe the lies and play the tapes that say we’re not worthy or ready and we resist being embraced. Once again, you have to change your beliefs and it starts with knowing that you are the most valuable thing to God. He sent His Son to die so you and He could have a relationship – what could be more evidence of your worth to Him.

Let that sink in, believe what you read in Ephesians and ask Him to make it all real in your heart. Over time, you will understand what it means to love much and how important that is to living well and influencing the world around you, but more on that later.

May our hearts break for those in the valley, rejoice for those on the high places and may we never forget how He loves us much!

*PARADIGM CHECK: Spiritual maturity is measured in love, not years. We must evaluate ourselves and others against how well we love people.

Continuing the series Meat & Potato (MP) Sermons is a foundational, yet greatly misunderstood part of the Christian faith. The importance of understanding Grace in the context of God’s Love is mind-blowing and life-changing to say the least.

Grace is defined as unmerited favor and it is a gift from God. Gifts are valued by what they cost and I think the lack of understanding of what Grace cost God is the root of the issue for why most people don’t “get it”. In order to process the immeasurable value of Grace, you really have to go back to the garden of Gethsemane and see Jesus wrestling with His destiny of being separated from His Father for three days.

Jesus spent hours asking one question in the garden – are you sure there isn’t some other way – all the while committing that the Father’s will be the leading factor in the entire decision. Think about that for just a minute. Here is the Son of God wrapped in human flesh – the only man to have perfect communion with God 24/7 – wrestling with God over having that communion broken for 72 hours.

If you’re a parent, you can probably remember the first time you left your child with someone else overnight. There was probably multiple phone calls and very little time not wondering how they were doing. That bond is insignificant compared to the bond that Jesus has with His Father.

Grace is a gift that is given at a very high cost and it was Love that propelled both God the Father and Jesus toward being able to present that gift to mankind. Grace is what allows us to respond to God’s call when He wants to save our eternal soul. Grace separates unrighteousness from the person God wants to use for His purposes. Grace is the ultimate expression of God’s Love and is the only way God and His creation can be in relationship with one another.

Understanding the Grace that God gave us should also have a dramatic effect on the way we relate to others.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. ~ Col. 3:12 – 14

You see, we have been forgiven everything and been loved into eternity with God. That Love dictates that we extend that same kind of forgiveness and love to others. May we allow that very Love to compel us to place the highest of value on each and every person we face and consequently strive toward relational harmony always.

Bitterness, strife and hatred are signs that God’s Grace isn’t understood. Likewise, legalism (the strict adherence to rules at the sake of relational intimacy) is a sign that we place a higher value on being right than being close and indicates spiritual immaturity.

We need more teaching on Grace and Love – first to better understand what God gave us and then applying that same gift to the people all around us.

Lord, may you continue to extend my understanding of your precious gift and grant me the wisdom and courage to act accordingly toward those people you place in my life. Thank you for saving me and expressing your wondrous Love via Grace.

I have to admit that I’m not a still or quiet person. Never have been. In fact, it should be considered progress for me to even understand that about myself and freely admit it to the wayward bored person that happens to read this post.

Lately, I’ve been reminded anew that both stillness and quietness are considered to be of great value when seeking God. Here’s what these things mean to me:

Physically | Find a place where the distractions are removed – auditory (people, computer, cell phone, etc. – leave them all behind), visually (perhaps minimal lighting), and comfort (be prepared for an extended time).

Mentally | Someone once gave me a great piece of advice in this area – take a notebook with you and when something comes to mind that wants to take your attention, write it down immediately and let it go. The purpose here is to allow your mind to wind down and in that process, you’ll notice that there are things you have swirling around in there so you don’t forget. Allow those things to fall out onto the paper and you can spin them back up after you get done (or decide to let them stay on the page – radical…I know).

Emotionally | This is the hardest for me as I don’t have easy access to the squishy parts of my heart. Nevertheless, there are emotions that I need to recognize are active and taking inventory of them on the front end is a good way to get in tune with what is going on in the present. These feelings will most likely be part of what this time generates. Again, the paper might be very helpful in sorting out the mess (for most of us) inside.

Yep, that’s right…hush.

Zip it pal.

Getting still will be a tough battle, but through that process, many things will be processed. After stillness has been (relatively) achieved, a time of silence is appropriate. Have ready the pen and paper should something come up, but the goal is to sit in passive listening mode. What is often missed with God is due in large part because we are normally in active mode – speaking and doing; all output, no input; exhaling, no pause to inhale.

Being quiet is turning off the loudspeaker we’ve become and enjoying the silence in the hopes that we hear…Him.

Have you ever thought about who you are…really…deep down, who you are. Are the things that first come to mind ugly and shameful or pretty and proud? I’ll bet that for the majority of us, the former is true. That’s our culture – focus on the deficiency and weakness. We think believe that if we could only eliminate those parts, we might just be able to experience love and acceptance – from others and, more importantly, God.

Sadly, that’s me more often that I like to admit.
It’s a lie – all of it.

The Truth is that God loves you – really loves you – exactly like you are RIGHT NOW? He doesn’t require you to overcome anything to experience Him – that was the purpose of the Cross. Access to the Father’s love and acceptance was given to all in one foul swoop – remember the veil that was torn when Christ died? [Matthew 27:50]

What keeps us from experiencing that Truth isn’t some set of rules that God made, but ones we have. What He longs for is for us to come…just as we are and BE with Him; to understand and accept His Grace and Mercy as no-limit gifts that keep pace with our junk.

As we practice stillness and quietness – may we explore how to BE as well…accepting His love just as we are.

I’m off to do some of this myself over lunch…wish me luck – LOL, J/K. Remember:

“Do or do not, there is no try.” ~ Jedi Master Yoda to a doubtful Luke Skywalker…
who only saw the impossible.

picture courtesy of cineSecrets

It is Sunday. Easter. The day we celebrate the empty tomb – a symbol of Jesus Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Friday, He was crucified unjustly by the Roman government; died hanging on an Roman cross and was buried in a grave owned by a family friend.

Dead. As in not breathing. No synaptic activity whatsoever. Some have theorized that he wasn’t really dead, just mostly dead and somehow got better in the confines of a stone tomb without any medical assistance. First – that’s just silly. Second (and most importantly), if the Romans felt the need to crucify you, they made darn sure you were dead before they took you down from the cross.

Given the pressure from the Jewish religious leaders that put Christ up there to begin with, this would certainly be true in this situation. You see, the Romans designed crucifixion to be the most horrible form of capital punishment ever conceived and they were very good at making sure everyone knew how effective it was. So, their reputation was on the line to make sure those that hung on a cross came down good and dead.

Jesus was surely dead before He was laid in the tomb. Loosely prepared with burial wraps as was surely customary – both culturally and religiously. The Bible allows us to see what happened on that first Easter morning as Mary came to the tomb to finish the burial preparations:

1 Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb.2 So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.3 So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb.4 Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.5 And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in.6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there,7 and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed;9 for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.10 Then the disciples went back to their homes. [John 20:1-9]

Mary went to the tomb, saw that it was empty and ran back to tell the others – the same group that has been in complete despair for the past 36 hours. Then Peter and John came to investigate and they confirmed what Mary had seen.

There’s a saying Christians say on Easter. One person will say, “He is risen!” and then another would reply, “He is risen indeed!” I can just imagine that this came from this very account. I can just see Mary saying, “He is risen! Go and see.” And then Peter and John coming back and saying, “He is risen indeed!”

How wonderful is that news! It meant that their Lord wasn’t dead any longer – that He had indeed conquered death…just like He said He would and His promise of eternal life with Him could now be possible.

So, I have one thing left to say:

H E   I S   R I S E N !

I love Fridays – the traffic to work seems lighter, the hours in the day move quicker and the anticipation of uninterrupted time with my family is looming large out the front viewport. Today; however, I ‘m reminded of what was happening to Jesus in His day and this Friday takes on a much more sober tone.

The following video sums up what is going through my mind and heart this morning:

What are you feelings today as you remember what the only Son of God was going through on this Good (“Holy”) Friday?

One thing that should be in your heart and mind is that Jesus was motivated to willingly put Himself in harms way by LOVE. He passionately desired to ensure that all of mankind could be reconciled to our Father God for eternity through His death.

His death on Friday paid the price for our independence from God and His resurrection on Sunday ensured that God’s power was made complete in overcoming death itself. We can be assured that we are both forgiven and that there’s more to life than simply time on the planet. Eternity awaits – will you experience it with God by accepting Jesus’ gift of the Cross? I hope so.

If you have questions about how this works, I’d love to talk to you about it – steve[at]manattweb[dot]com

I don’t have time

Steve —  12.2.2009 — 1 Comment

One of my favorite songs these days is “How He Loves Us” – written by John Mark McMillan. The song was born out of a response to tragedy in John Mark’s life, but I find it very effective in getting me to that place of worship when I’m willing to be still and quiet.

In the song, there’s a line that hits me in the gut each and every time…

I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way…

In the time it takes for me to hear these words all of the mistakes I have made and am making come to mind while the cleansing blood of my savior washes over me leaving me clean and forgiven. I marvel each time and can’t get enough.

The truth is – regrets get you moving in the wrong direction…away from God. Regret’s close cousin, shame, is right there to ensure that you stay there. But the Truth is that in Christ, regrets and shame are vaporized by grace and mercy. Regret and shame are tools used to keep us (and others for those of you that use these to “motivate” people) from living.

John Mark reminds us that life is too short to have regrets and allow shame to rule us and we must drink deeply of His love, stand from the dust and move forward again. What a miracle…thanks John Mark McMillan.