Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Loving Yourself - II

I am back thinking about the need to love yourself in order to love God and people. It seems to me that love has two pieces. Love give priority in time, attention, resources and energy. And love gives the best. When we consider priority, it seems to me we already love ourselves. When we consider the best, we do not. We do not love God. We do not love others.

Love at its most basic, foundational building block is about giving: (again) time, attention, resources and energy. It is also concerned with what, how and why. We should give to meet needs. We give to foster what is best for that person. (As a follower of Christ, the best is transformation in Christ's image; the best is restoration of God's original design for people; the best is a love relationship with the Creator of all.)

An alcoholic needs alcohol. To buy him a bottle of scotch meets that need. However, it doesn't move him to Christ's image. It damages the image of God in the alcoholic. So, love cannot simply be meeting needs. Love needs to recognize truth about the object of love.

Maybe that's what this is all about. There is no before or after. It is a recognition of the truth God gives. It is an acceptance and a practice of that truth. What is that truth?

The truth is: God designed and created man. God intended man to be personal like he is personal. god intended man to be holy like he is holy. The implications of that are profound and many. But one thing is very true. God created man to give love and to receive love. God created man to give love to God and to receive love from God.

God does not love man because he is perfect or good. Man has surrendered his holiness. God loves man because man is designed to receive God's love. Even though main failed to fulfill his design and cannot fully love God -- though it could be argued that he can still truly love god -- God did not surrender. God is true to his nature. God chooses to love people. Jesus chooses to love people. And as followers of Jesus, we should choose to do what Jesus chooses to do. We should love people.

Is my spouse a person? Love your spouse.
Is my child a person? Love your child.
Is my co-worker a person? Love your co-worker.
Is my that man who cut me off and gave me the finger a person? Love your man.
Is I a person? Love yourself.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Spirit and the Kingdom - III

These grace-filled talents and skills are given to allow each person a place of valued service. Each one is needed. Each one depends on all the others. These gifts are sources and tools of love and unity.

Of course, God did not give us a detailed explanation of these gifts. So, there are a multitude of theories about how they are given, what they are and how they should be expressed. On one end of the continuum is not gifts are given. They were a one-time deal for the first church. On the other end, all gifts are given. And in the middle, all were given, but now some are given. Some say God gives a certain set of gifts listed in the bible. Others say anything given to God and empowered with his grace is a gift. So there caould be a spiritual gift of tuba playing, accounting or oil changing.

There are a lot of emotion, hard feelings and animosity behind these theories. God's tool to express love and unity have become a source of anger and division.

Spirit and the Kingdom - II

But there is more than just "branding" us with the spirit, making us God's people and working out transformation in our lives. Living out our transformation should affect the world. But God does one better. He empowers talents, skills and abilities we have latent in our lives.

With these gifts, we serve one another, love one another, bless one another and give life to one another. We fulfill a multitude of functions that enable God's purposes to be complete in the world. Because we cannot do everything, and we need "everything" to be done, God makes sure all the bases are covered, all needs in the body are met, and all of his family have to rely on each other. As we express those God-given skills, we build unity because we are mutually giving to and receiving from one another.

We have men who lead churches of thousands, are dynamic, Spirit empowered, charismatic, bathed in an aura of confidence, authority and competence, who are in desperate need of the spiritual service of a totally unknown soul, for their spiritual health, growth and effectiveness.

The prime metaphor of the Christian community in this regard is that of the human body. Multiple parts giving of themselves to provide unique input leading to the health, growth and increase of God's family. Multiple parts giving to the whole. The whole needs the contributions of each part or it stagnates, weakens and collapses.

Think about this.The human body does not need the glitzy, upfront components to survive. The human body does not need to see, hear or speak to survive. Granted, it works much better with those things. Yet, we seem to think that a life without a voice cannot be lived.

Now, consider the kidneys. They are not seen. They make no noise. There is no glitz or glamor. They don't play an instrument or have any upfront role. Yet, without the kidneys, the body is dead. There are those in the family of God, who never appear in the front, they are not recognized, nor are they know, but without their functioning, without their obedience to God and his role for them, the family of God does not reproduce, does not grow and does not thrive.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Spirit and the Kingdom

When a person believes in Jesus, the Holy Spirit puts a seal on the person. the Holy spirit, who is the immanent person of God in each believer's life, claims the believer as his own. He marks the believer. As cattle ranchers in the western US would brand their cattle to identify them as theirs, God "brands" his people to identify them as his.

The on difference is God himself, the person of the Holy spirit, is the brand. He takes up residence in the core of a person's being, marks it as his, and begins the processes of relationships and transformation. It is relationship with God, with his family and with the world. It is restoration of God's original design for this new child of God's family. It is more steps in the restoration of God's Kingdom. The new child is part of the Kingdom, and restores it as his is restored. The new child becomes God's agent. As he is restored, his interactions with the world are restored. And so the world is restored.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Justification Enough?

We have not just been justified. We have been also reconciled. Ever hear someone say, "I'll forgive, but I won't forget." Maybe they are sincere. Maye they are correct.  That means while, they do not hold onto the offense, there is still no peace in the relationship. They have given up any claim for "payment" for the offense, but they do not want to touch hearts with the person. God has given up his rights for restitution. He also seeks to connect in a love relationship, and give blessings. He chooses to treat us as if we never sinned. 

I am not saying people do not sin. I am saying that in his relationship with his children, God treats them as though it never happened. I sure this opens up a theological can of worms. Someone might say that we do not treat sin seriously enough. But I don't think we realize how far God goes in dealing with man's sin and rebellion. I don't think we realize how big grace is.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Suffering - II

God revealed practices, attitudes, values and perspectives that work in harmony with what was created. Suffering was not part of the package. People made mistakes, and it broke the system.

My mother had a table in our house when I was little. It was low enough so I could sit on it. And one time, I laid on it, and slid across it on my stomach. As as I slid, unknown to me, my belt buckle scarred the wood. The table was permanently marked. It couldn't be fixed. If I had know that was going to happen, I would not have done it. But I did do it, and "broke" the table. It was not going to be able to truly fulfill its purpose anymore. We could get a new table. Or work with it as best we could.

Trying to live as God designed in a broken world means living with suffering too. Expecting something positive to happen certainly seems like wishful thinking.

But living with hope is not meaningless, because God has injected himself into our lives and into the world. It is his presence that gives us hope. His presence demonstrates his love of us and his commitment to us. Moreover, he acted on that love to fix  the effect caused by the wrong people did.

His love shows us that it is not senseless to live as he designed, and to persist in it, even though suffering may be the result of it.

Thursday, February 09, 2012


The Bible seems to take a view of suffering that is very different from one commonly held by people in the world. To many people, pain means something is wrong. The Bible takes the view of someone training to run long distances.

Pain can mean something is wrong; there is an injury or a wrong technique is being used. But it can also come from doing the right thing, and being stretched.

We are encouraged to consider the situation when we are suffering. If we are doing wrong, we should repent. If we are doing right, we should persist. It is this persistence in doind right in the face of suffering that has a purifying effect. It strengthens our hearts.

And if our hearts are changed, then our beings are changed. We think differently. We have renewed perspectives about what is important, our final destiny, God and people. And the Bible say we should derive a positive expectation from life by this persistence in doing good, in the midst of suffering.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Loving Yourself

Many people agree with what seems like a logical and rational progression: to love God, we must first love ourselves. There are generally a couple of assumptions with this statement.

One, people do not love themselves.

I think the Bible disagrees with that. It says people do love themselves. This love is evident by the priority people give themselves. They look out for number one. They make sure they are fed. They make sure they are comfortable. Even people who consider suicide are giving themselves priority. They are in a situation with so much pain or so much trouble, no answers or solutions, and continuing to walk through the situation will bring no good to themselves. Removing themselves from the situation becomes the best response.

Two, love always gives the best to the object loved.

A brief look at a number of people’s lives demonstrates that while they love themselves – they give themselves priority in attention, time and energy – they do not love themselves well. They make decisions that damage themselves. There is the simple “if it feels good, do it” mentality. There is the avoidance of pain. There is the gratification of any and all desires.

People do love themselves. They do not always know how to love themselves well.

To love God and people, we need to learn to change our priorities (to put some ahead of ourselves) and to change what we view as expressing love (indulging vs. refraining).

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Loving God?

There seems to be a lot of talk about loving God among Christians. Now I realize that Bible says we should love God. Loving God is good. We were designed to have a love relationship with God. But I sometimes wonder how it is supposed to look.

Much of modern music celebrates love. Romantic love. A boy and a girl meet. The earth trembles. Emotions soars. Passions run at a fever pitch. To be together is almost more than someone can bear. To be apart is like death.

I sometimes wonder if this expectation of ecstatic emotion and passion is what current day Christians expect their love relationship with God to be like. When we move into God's presence, we ought to be overwhelmed. It might be why worship music and secular music sound the same. Word, themes and phrases sound the same.

It also brings up the question: is this what the love of God should be like? Should we always experience ecstasy in God's presence?

If so, then maybe I'm missing something. It seems to me that as I draw closer to God, the more still, the more contemplative, the more quiet I become. Certainly not the soaring emotion that seems to be expected.

Maybe there is no right emotion? Maybe it is song writers who experience this overpowering emotion? Maybe it's a fad? It was once thought that expressing happiness in church was frivolous. It did not take God seriously.

It seems to me that taking our relationship with God seriously means we ought to experience the whole spectrum of emotion. We ought to experience joy and elation as we experience God's blessing. We ought to experience sorrow as we realize the destructive nature of sin in our lives and the world.

If that's true, then when will worship music follow suit?