Love

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March 17

Thursday, March 17th, 2022

One word. That’s all it takes is one word and watch the reactions. Eyes glaze over. An eyebrow will be raised.  A hand will go the chin. Or you might even get a sigh, an exhale of air, and a judgmental look.

The word? Depression.

Disclaimer: I have never suffered from depression. I’ve have some down days, as have had all people from time to time. But I’ve never been one who suffers from it days, weeks, months, or even years. My first real exposure to it was in 1974 right after I had graduated from college. I visited a woman named Jane (not her real name) Doe in a psych ward. I could not understand how this woman who laughed a lot and called herself a Christian could be there.

How little I knew. Time. Maturity. Almost 50 years in ministry has shown me Jane is not alone. Some deeply spiritual people have suffered from depression. Some I know. Even pastors! (Charles Spurgeon being one of them). Some have clinical depression (it is in their DNA). Some have seasonal depression (they head south for the winter). Some have it from a past event or action. Some from guilt and shame. Some have it worse, like bi-polar. Medication is often prescribed for depression and should not be seen as a testimony to a lack of faith or a failure in their walk with Christ.

David suffered from depression upon occasion. Please stop right now and read Psalms 42 and 43 and tell me he didn’t. I soon learned depression was no laughing matter and certainly not something upon which to judge another person. I don’t always understand and may not always understand, but I must always have an understanding heart, a soft shoulder and a spirit of empathy.

“Father, teach me to be more caring. Help me not to judge a person’s closeness to you by his mental state. You are the One who knows all. Help me to be more loving.”

February 14

Monday, February 14th, 2022

Our Daily Bread had a really cool story about 2 octogenarians, one from Germany and one from Denmark. They had each enjoyed 60 years of marriage before they were widowed. Though living only 15 minutes apart, their homes were in separate countries. Still, they fell in love, regularly cooking meals and spending time together. Sadly, in 2020, due to ‘rona, the Danish government closed the border crossing. Undeterred, everyday at 3:00 p.m., the two met at a border on a quiet country lane and, seated on their respective sides, shared a picnic. “We’re here because of love,” the man explained. Their love was stronger than borders, more powerful than a pandemic.

I believe that is what I Cor. 13 is all about. Love that has no borders.

Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous. Love does not brag. Love is not arrogant. Love does not act disgracefully. Love does not seek its own benefit. Love is not provoked. Love does not keep a record of wrongs. Love rejoices in the truth. Love keeps  every confidence. Love believes all things. Love hopes all things. Love endures all things. Love never fails.  (NASB2020)

A love like this come from above. It was perfectly modeled by a loving Father. It was perfectly exemplified by a life-giving Son.

How do you love?

“Father, may my love be a reflection of Yours in me.”

December 20

Monday, December 20th, 2021

I am not a watcher of commercials. I despise them. I mute them. I “Ahem” if Jo has the remote and fails to mute. This was especially helpful when the endless-and I do mean endless-appeals for Medicare during open enrollment time played more times that I ever want to remember. And if had I seen William Shatner fake putting up four fingers instead of three one more time I think I would throw up.  Yes it was that annoying…AND THAT IS WITHOUT SOUND!

But there is one commercial, that even though I have not heard it, I have seen it.  It strikes my funny bone. It is the commercial for a car company. The mom is taking the kids home when she apparently open a panoramic window and the kids see snow falling. The father is on top of the roof with a snow machine making snow fall. As the drone camera pans away it shows their house as being the only one with snow falling…and…it is a desert-like setting.

I know one thing for sure: that snow will not last.

There really is only one thing which will last: love. We often get so wrapped up in other pursuits that all of our overtime and energy is spent running after the wrong thing(s).  What better time to show love than right now, at Christmas time. After all, the greatest example of love was shown by a God who entered time and space as a human in order to save us.

I agree with Bob Goff who wrote:

“Leave a legacy of love. The rest will blow by like it never happened.” (#354-p.407)

“Father, You left a legacy of love and leaving one should be our ultimate goal. A love that leads others to you. “

December 13

Monday, December 13th, 2021

An excerpt from Paul David Tripp’s book, Come, Let Us Adore Him struck me big time this morning:

“If God was willing to send His Son to restore our relationship of love with Him, you can be sure that He will not let anything separate us from His love. You see, the Christmas story is the world’s best love story {Ed. note: sorry Hallmark. 🙂 } It’s about a God of love sending the Son of His love to live a life of love and die a death of love, so that all who believed in Him would be welcomed into the arms of love forever and ever. Embedded in the Christmas story is a promise of unbroken love for the children of God.”

There is so much that is right about that statement. Do you realize how important and appropriate the Scripture in Romans 8 is that says, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus”? (8:39)

The Christmas story is more than a baby in a manger (although that would be enough). It is also a love story. One of unconditional love. One of love given away when it is undeserved.

“Father, may that truth become clearer as each day draws me closer to the celebration of the birth of Jesus.”

December 8

Wednesday, December 8th, 2021

I read a sad story this morning. Dewberry Baptist Church split in the 1800s over a chicken leg. The story goes that two men fought over the last drumstick at a church potluck.  One said God wanted him to have it; the other said God didn’t care, and he really wanted it. The battle got so heated one moved a couple kilometers down the road and started Dewberry Baptist Church #2. They have since settled their differences.

I’m going to go out on a limb here. I’m going to say that God could not have been pleased with that. I’m guessing He wept. Just like He does when a church splits over paint, the color of carpet, chairs or pews, style of music, or stained glass windows. Doctrine and ideology, Mission and Vision are different animals altogether. But a chicken leg? Seriously?

What we humans fight over! Totally nonsensical. Defies Jesus’ prayer in John 17 for sure. “May they be one, Father, as You and I are one.” I’m thinking God has to weep over our disregard of Jesus’ words: “By this will all men know you are my disciples if you love one another.”

There is always a good time to show love and unity, but what better time can there be than at Christmas? After all we do sing “Peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

“Father, help me to be a catalyst for unity and not a stumbling block for disunity. May I be one who brings people to the Source of unity, not push them away.”

November 3

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2021

For as long as I can remember (as a pastor) there has always been a rift between the old and the new. Not necessarily the OT and the NT-although there is a rift there-but between the old guard and the old way of doing things vs the new guard and the new way of doing things.

For example, when Chuck Smith opened his storefront church to the “hippies,” people were appalled, worrying about the carpet, the pews, the “dirt” they brought in, etc. Fortunately, he did not listen to them.

When that “heathen worship music” with a beat was offered instead of stodgy old hymns (which I am not completely opposed to if they are hymns and not just religious songs), one would have thought the roof of the church building was going to blow sky high.

There are more, but we followers of Christ are a strange lot. We say the truth of Christ is for all people, then cringe if someone unlike us walks through the doors of our church building. A few years ago I was captivated by a book called No Perfect People Allowed and its corresponding teaching and outreach. While it had some weaknesses (I now see as an “attractional” church model), the premise was that the church was for all people since no one is perfect.  The Gospel is for everyone since no one is perfect.

So, why do we struggle with those unlike us? Why do the “Rs” struggle with the “Ds” in a church setting? Why do we sing “Just As I Am” but then add “if you change first?”  I think Bob Goff hit on something in possibly giving an answer to the dichotomy which exists:

Love says we need you even more if you’re different from the rest of us. Love says everyone has something to teach us, and God will use people from the edges to expand our understanding of His grace right in the middle of where we live. Love says everyone who’s invited is truly wanted.  (#307-p.358)

I think what Bob says is true. Love is not picky. God certainly wasn’t. Unless, of course, you consider Him picky that He picked you and me to be His. Let’s open our hearts and doors to those unlike us. Let’s welcome them with the arms of Jesus.

“Father, may I be an example of someone who is open to new people who come as they are to You.”

June 28

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

I’m always skeptical when I hear someone say, “Jesus told me (fill in the blank)” or “God told me to do (ditto).” That is especially true when what they say Jesus or God told them to do is so far off base, so whacked, that I want to say, “No way! God would never ask you to do something so vile, so repulsive, so stupid, so hurtful to others.”

I’m not speaking of those-like the Muslims from 9/11- who say, “God (Allah) told them to hijack a plane and fly it into two towers and kill thousands.” There is a place for them alright, but it’s not with any vestal virgins.

I’m also not speaking of those who take an Uzi and open fire on a crowd of innocent people. Or the one who kidnaps another and tortures them to death.

No…that’s not God.  But we must also realize God does speak into our lives-through a still, small voice we hear in our heart/mind. He “speaks” to us through His Word, through circumstances, and other people. It is that latter one I want to focus on for a few moments.

What do you hear from others? Is it a voice of shame? A voice of condemnation? A voice of “you can’t do this or that”? A voice of “you’re nothing”? A voice telling you that you are worthless? A voice of insecurity?

If so, it is high time to change that tune, to change that voice speaking into your ear or your life.  I like what Bob Goff wrote:

We need to give the microphone to those who speak hope and joy into the world.” (p.250)

I would also add “those who speak hope and joy into your life.” We need to stop letting negative voices carry the megaphone. We need to listen to the voice of Jesus, not the dissenters or naysayers.

“Father, tune my ears to hear your voice.”

July 27

Tuesday, July 27th, 2021

For the past couple of years I have often thought that if I was to ever start a church (which I have no desire to do), I would call it “Second Chance Church.” I know. Even as I write that it sounds a bit cheesy. Corny. But please hear me out.

Having been a pastor for close to 50 years, I have seen many broken lives. Train wrecks. Twisted beyond recognition. Mangled. Messed up. Even hopeless (as in giving up). I will even admit to being close to that feeling a time or two myself.

Getting broadsided in my car- as I was recently- does not carry the same picture of a car wrecked so badly it is unrecognizable and the “jaws of life” have to be used. There are some people whose lives are dented, smashed into, even put on the shelf temporarily. Then there are those whose lives are truly a disaster. Addiction. Poor choices. Loose morals. Alone. Destitute.

No matter which…we all need second chances (in some cases third, fourth and fifth). One of the biggest roadblocks to that second chance is shame. I want to be able to help people get past shame. I want them to realize there are always second chances. Shame doesn’t have to hang around and keep us where we are; God wants to take us “onward and upward” (to borrow C.S. Lewis’ words in the Chronicles of Narnia).

Second Chance Church. Sounds like a great name. But even without that name, that is exactly what a church should be about.

“Father, my life is a testimony to second chances. May I be your church here on earth offering that to others in Your Name.”

June 16

Wednesday, June 16th, 2021

I am going to take today’s “devotion day” off.  I know you are disappointed. I can hear your tears from here.  (I can dream can’t I?)

I have a good reason though. Sometimes I write a devotion that very morning and post it.  Sometimes I write and work a day or even two days ahead.  Today…I’m a slacker. But I have a good reason to be.

Today I have the honor of celebrating my 48th year with Jo as my wife.  Questions abound:

You mean she put up with you that long?

You mean she stuck around with you during all those moves?

You mean she stayed with you even with all your quirks (her words) and strong points (my words)?

The answer to all of those is Y.E.S.  Believe it or not the answer is a big fat YES.

Like all couples we were naive enough to think it was going to be all good.  I’m here to tell you honestly…it was not. But we never gave up. The “D” word never crossed our lips.  We never have had a fight. (She is a lousy fighter and arguing with a brick wall is no fun at all).

Instead, we had a lot of quiet nights and lousy sleep until we decided to hash it out lovingly. We talked about it. Cried with each other.  But never raised our voice with each other. Some might say that is not good.  But you have to know Jo. She is not very excitable (except at ball games).

We spent and spend a lot of time together…and still like each other. Go figure! And there is no one else I ‘d rather be with.  There are some things we do together. (Get your mind out of the gutter folks).  We like to eat out. We like to visit with friends. We love going to Ohio and supporting Janna and Braden, our grandson. We love Tami and are so proud of what she has become and who she is.

There are also some things we don’t do together.  I ride a bike. I work out at the Y. She does not do either. She hates exercise. I love it.

I am blessed. She does all my sermons for me on Power Point. She knows where I am going to go with a point she has done it so often. Although…I have been known to throw here a curveball every now and then.  We took our first “our couple” trip to Florida in 2017 because someone gifted us with it. It was the first time we went somewhere and knew no one. The in 2019 the church blessed us with a dream trip to Alaska to celebrate my 45 years as an “official” pastor.  I was ordained April 13, 1975 but had actually been a pastor in a church before that.  I started preaching in 1972. I am not ashamed to admit I would love to go back to Alaska. We dodged a bullet with that one though. We had almost postponed it until September of 2020. Can anyone say COVID?

Long story short: Today is Jo’s day. Our plans are no plans. The only two things I know are 1) we will eat out somewhere; and 2) we plan to visit our church camp and see Pastor Ryan and the campers from the church around lunch time. 

I have not been the perfect husband. Bet you are surprised. 🙂  But love her I do. And I know she loves me. How long this party will last only the Father knows.  But until then…I look forward to spending more years with Jo. I’d say “I love you honey” but she doesn’t read this and I would hate to think someone reading this would take that wrong.  And yeah…that is another of my quirks. She rolls her eyes a lot at my jokes (if she could roll her eyes. She rolls her head instead).  Okay…I better call it quits before she decides to read this and you end up reading my obituary. 

Have a great day. See you, Lord willing, tomorrow morning. BTW: I wrote this Tuesday afternoon. 

June 14

Monday, June 14th, 2021

One of the hallmarks of being a Christ-follower is living for others. Francis Schaeffer called love the “mark of the Christian.” Why?

I think it is because it is love that lives for others.

We are pretty obsessed with celebrity. We have celebrity chefs, celebrity athletes, even celebrity pastors. They find themselves flying all over the continent speaking at just about any or every event, consulting, advising, and interviewing.  And get this: some even wear $1500+ tennis shoes in the pulpit. I wear tennis shoes but I guarantee they cost barely a fraction of that (and wouldn’t really them anyway). Some take pride in how many followers they have on social media.

But Jesus had a way of life that was so different. His approach was making it about everyone else. How many times, for example, did He say, “Tell no one” after he performed a miracle. Even His birthday shows He came to give His life for someone else. I will often say, “We do this for an audience of One.” What it comes down to is that what I do, I don’t do for me.

To follow Jesus’ example is just that. I don’t get (nor do I need to have) the last word. I don’t live to see what I can get and how it benefits me. I don’t seek to be the #1 player, the star of the show.

It’s all about Him. Or as Matt Redman sang: “It’s all about You, Jesus, it’s all about You.”

“Father, help me to live my life for You and for others. Help it not to be about me.”