Love

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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.”

June 10

Thursday, June 10th, 2021

We are forgiven to forgive.

We are given grace to give grace.

Those are just a couple of sayings that we will hear and that ran through my mind this morning.

Tragedy: it is too easy to forget and too often done.

My thoughts were piqued this morning because of the Scripture in Matt.18:23-33.  (I’d like to suggest you stop now and read that passage). However, just in case you are short on time, here is a summary: Jesus tells the story of a man who owed a massive, unpayable debt; begs forgiveness; the debt is cancelled; and he moves on. He moves on to a fellow slave you owes him a small debt-payable over time- who asks for the same grace and forgiveness just offered to the other. The other man refuses to forgive and throws the man in jail. (I’ve always wondered how that will help pay the debt). Anyway, the result was not good.

It is important to remember that the grace I have been given is to be given to others. The massive “forgiveness project” which took place from God to me should stand as an example for me to follow when dealing with others.

Think about this with me for a moment. The best person to reach an addict is a recovering addict. The best one to show forgiveness is the one who has been shown forgiveness.

“Father, help me to learn from Jesus’ parable.  Help me to be the one who shows extraordinary grace and forgiveness to someone else because I have the recipient of that same grace and forgiveness.”

May 28

Friday, May 28th, 2021

I read a great story from Our Daily Bread a few days ago. I wanted to write about it then but deferred. It came back to me this morning for like the 3rd or 4th time. Sort of like one of those things that won’t let you go. 🙂  Then, as I was talking to a couple about their upcoming marriage, I said something to them that clicked in me again this morning. First, the story:

The four chaplains were known as “heroes.” On February of 1943, their transport ship, the SS Dorchester, was torpedoed off the coast of Greenland during WWII. The four chaplains calmed the panicked soldiers and while many were jumping for crowded lifeboats, they “preached courage.”

The exhibited it as well. When life jackets ran out, they each took theirs off and gave it away. They had determined to go down with the ship so others could live. (May 26, 2021)

Sort of reminds me of the band playing “Nearer My God To Thee” while Titanic was sinking. Or the story of the pastor (John Harper) who spent his last moments on earth swimming from person to person asking if they were ready for eternity.

It is one thing to be willing to die for someone. But as I told the couple the other night, we are also told to live for one another. In Eph.5 it says “wives are to submit to their husbands” and a lot of men will jump on that bandwagon. But they fail to read the verse which says, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church…” Jesus died for the church for sure. But He also lived for her.  I think in our hurry to get to the aforementioned verses we skip over the one which says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph.5:20). I not only am to love and lead my wife, I am also to live for her-to submit to her by meeting her needs.

Love is not just being willing to die for someone. It is also being willing to live for them as well.

“Father, thank you for the example of both-living and dying. May I be willing to do the same-not just for my wife and family- but also for others.”

May 5

Wednesday, May 5th, 2021

I was blown away by words from a devotion I read this morning. Rather than babble on, I thought I’d just print them here. The words are from Day 5 of 40 Days of Love by Paul David Tripp.

“Don’t be discouraged today. No matter how alone you feel, you’ve been blessed with the Father’s love.”

“I love the depiction of God’s tender care in Isaiah 42:3: ‘A bruised reed he will not break, a faintly burning wick he will not quench.’ What a beautiful word picture! Imagine walking through the bush and coming across a young tree with a bent and almost broken limb hanging at a rather grotesque angle. You spontaneously complete the job, ripping the limb completely off. Your heavenly Father would never, ever be that thoughtless. He wouldn’t think of breaking you the rest of the way. He comes to you in grace to comfort, strengthen, encourage, and restore. His love toward you is tender and faithful. He is near you when it seems no one else is. He will care for you when no one else does. He will heal your wounds when no one around you seems to see how wounded you are. He will never mock or take advantage of your weakness. He will not let you go unnoticed or disregarded. If you are his child, it is impossible for you to be alone and unloved because your heavenly Father is with you and reaches out to you in tender, restoring love.”

He ends with these words: “Yes, life can be very heard, people can be very cruel, and at times you are left alone, but you are never completely abandoned because your Father is with you in tender, restorative love.”  (Pages 18-19)

There is no need to say any more or to include a prayer. Just think on those words for awhile and let them soak in.

April 30

Friday, April 30th, 2021

First, I need you to stop and read Romans 8: 31-39. This is perhaps the most beautiful passage in Scripture (personal preference) and one of, if not, the most powerful chapters in the Bible.

Then please read this…something I read this morning:

“There is a love that will never forsake us. there is a love that will never fail us in any of its commitments to us. There is a love that is so strong that nothing in all of Creation can break it. There is a love that is faithful and true, no matter what. There is a love that is unbreakable, even when we are unloving and undeserving.” (p.7)

“There us simply nothing like the love of God. It is the most powerful force in the universe. Love is what we need-God’s love, that is. You and I could never earn it, deserve it, or achieve it. It reaches into the sinful muck of humanity, cleans us up, draws us close, and launches us to a brand-new living while staying faithful to the end, even if we are not. In loving us, God gives us the greatest gift ever given-the gift of Himself.” (p.8)

How can I improve on that? I can’t say it any clearer. I can’t say it more pointed.

What I can say is, “You are loved…by Him.”

“Father, thank You for Your faithful, unending love. May I bask in it and also share it with others.”

Quoted sections from 40 Days of Love by Paul David Tripp.

March 12

Friday, March 12th, 2021

I want to continue with my thoughts on gratitude.

I Cor.13 tells us “These three remain-faith, hope, and love-but the greatest of these is love.” (13:13). I’d like to think about those three words when it comes to gratitude.

FAITH. We often hear Hebrews 11:1 quoted: “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.” (NLT)  The kind of gratitude which should flow from us is the kind which comes from trusting in the absolute and total lordship of Jesus, that He is sovereign over all things and that includes what happens in our lives. All events. All circumstances. IN. HIS. HANDS. God wastes nothing.

HOPE. The one quality which holds us together. It is fine believing and trusting. But hope tells us there is both a purpose and an end.  Faith tells us nothing was wasted, hope tells us nothing will be wasted. If we know there is an end-even though we cannot see it-we can hold on.

LOVE. The very culmination of it all. God’s love overrides evil, oversees every event, and overwhelms us with the glory of His Presence. It is this love which took Him to the cross and it is this same love that will bring us home.

“Father, may faith, hope and love be evident in my gratitude. My head says, ‘You know all that is going on.’ Please convince my heart with your overwhelming love.”

February 11

Thursday, February 11th, 2021

Ask people on the streets to define love and one will get a plethora of answers. And let’s not just talk about those on the street. Let’s ask those in the church. I suspect the answers will be almost identical.

But I can almost guarantee-in fact if I was a betting man I’d put a lot of money on the idea that one of the statements made would be “Love is a feeling.” Say what? So is love for my wife or my daughters or grandson the same “feeling” I have for my dog or cat (of which I have neither), ice cream, or how I feel after an invigorating bike ride?

Obviously, most (probably all) would say, “Oh no! It’s a different kind of feeling.” 🙂 So let’s admit that love is somewhat hard to clarify.

What is not in question-at least in my mind- is that love may be hard to pinpoint with a definition, but it is not hard to be seen. Love is more than just a feeling (cue in Boston’s song). If I waited for my feelings to catch up I may never show love. I like what Bob Goff wrote:

We can’t wait for all the feelings to catch up to us before we give away extravagant amounts of love. Selfless love is always costly. Fear can’t afford it, pride doesn’t understand it, but friends never forget it.” (#40-p.50)

Love is a decision we make. It is more than a feeling. It is a conscious decision which leads to action.

“Father, help me not to wait of feelings to come. Teach me to love as You loved.”

Note: Goff quote from his book Live in Love-Walk in Grace.