Showing posts with label Love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Love. Show all posts

Sunday, September 28, 2014

What to do with a lonely person ...

I'm an intensely observant person.

Part of that comes from how God has wired me, part of that comes first from training as a journalist, then training as a therapist. It just seems natural for me that when people are around, I'm observing their behavior.

So there I was, sitting in a comfortable leather chair in a Caribou (Minnesota's version of Starbucks) when I spotted her.

Really, she just stood out, literally.

In the store there were six female college students talking loudly and enthusiastically around a large table. Two other male college students at separate tables were deep into their reading and study. There were two other pairs of ladies perched on chairs and leaning into each other, talking rapidly, appearing to be friends sharing stories. And there was a short line of people waiting to place their orders.

Then, there was her.

She was an older lady with a big multi-colored cloth purse dangling from her right arm as her hand held a large tea from which she sipped slowly through a straw. She just stood in the middle of the store, appearing as if she had no idea what to do with herself and was trying to figure that out.

She finally settled into an empty leather chair, and there she slowly finished her tea while she gazed blankly out the window. She would occasionally glance at the different people around her, somewhat wistfully, as if wishing she could join in the conversations.

As I observed her, the thought came to mind: "If Jesus walked in, I know who He would choose to talk to."

It would be the lonely woman.

I don't know this lady's story, I don't even know if my observations of her are correct. But watching her made me think that, for some people, the only way they will be loved is if someone purposely walks into their lives.

This woman may have children and several grandchildren, and lots of friends, all who love her. But a person who is routinely loved doesn't usually appear so uncomfortable and so alone those times when they are alone.

Have you ever been in this woman's shoes? In a room full of people who know each other, and are comfortable engaging in conversation with each other, but you don't know a soul there? Have you ever known the awkwardness of being the lonely person?

I have.

What a joy it is to have someone step up and say hello!

What a perplexing thing it is to try to figure out what to do with yourself when no one notices your existence.

There are a lot of people out there who are lonely. They're ignored by their family, their few friends have little to do with them, their co-workers shun them. Perhaps just because they're a little different ... shy, more quiet, reserved ... they're not naturally equipped to know how to engage strangers, or how to fit in even with people they know.

These kinds of people don't always make for the most fascinating friends, or the person you would pick first to spend your time with. But they need you, and they need me. Well, they need someone to step into their lives and just be kind to them, just be friendly to them, just love them if just a little.

These are the kinds of people who will largely go through life unloved unless others take the initiative to step into their lives.

Let's do that!

Forget about why they're so shy, or how perhaps they need to learn to be more assertive. Forget about any of that. Let's just step into their lives and offer them a little love.

Jesus would.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Have you ever been so desperate you had to turn to cardboard?

Have you ever had to put your needs on a piece of cardboard for all the world to see?

This morning I saw a young man sitting at a gas station with a cardboard sign that said, "Ran out of gas. Please help."

For many, the politically-infused mind kicks in and immediately begins to question how this young person failed to the degree they're publicly begging for help.

Last night, a Facebook friend raised the question why some people share their personal needs on Facebook, questioning why they don't talk to real friends instead, and pointing out that all of us need to have a circle of family and friends to go to when we have problems.

What so many people miss when they process their thinking through platitudes or simplistic political positions is the reality of the world we live in. That world is plagued with sin, evil, and brokenness.

Could it be this young man needs help because the high unemployment rate for youth has made him a statistic? Could it be that he doesn't have help, and others turn to Facebook friends because families often are not loyal, and friends who walk in the front door during good times often run out the back door during hard times? Could it be that many have tried to use the governmental safety net, only to be denied there as well? Could it be people are more desperate today because even the church stereotypes them and rejects them, rather than loving them as Christ has loved us?

Could it be that people put their needs and express their desperation on a piece of cardboard for all the world to see not because they have failed in some way, but because others have failed them?

So great is the plight of so many today that sometimes the need is so desperate that they write it on a piece of cardboard and stand out in public, hoping and praying that someone in this world will see them and their need and simply care.

Not judge them.

Not ignore them.

Not look down on them.

Not see them as deplorable failures.

Not devalue them.

But see them as people who, like everyone else, are created in the image of God and need someone on this planet who simply, plainly, cares.

Jesus saw these people and had compassion for them.

Do you see them? If you do, how do you respond?


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Sometimes, you shouldn't sing ...

Scrolling through my Facebook timeline, this post stopped me:

"I want to sing but other patient is in deep sleep."

The person posting this is a young lady being treated in a hospital for a very serious illness. Even in the midst of such a trying time, she was stirred to sing. She had the freedom to do so. But she noted the other patient in the room was sleeping and she understood singing would disturb her roommate's rest.

Sometimes, you shouldn't sing.

Some would say this young lady, with her health imperiled, should be able to sing if she wanted, if it would lift her spirits in her trying situation. But this patient understood that, although she had the freedom to sing, she took note of the need of the other person in the room, and understood even during life's most difficult moments, life is still not all about ourselves.

The underlying biblical principle this young lady was demonstrating was this: "For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don't use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love," Galatians 5:13.

There are times when we shouldn't sing.

Even though singing is beautiful and can even cause our spirits to soar, we're not always the only one in the room, in the house, in the car, in the office, in the church, in this world. And we do need to take note of their needs before freely doing whatever makes us happy, or as the Apostle Paul wrote, "... use your freedom to serve one another in love."

Are you willing to sometimes reign in your own freedom for the best interests of others? Do you consider the needs of others around you, or do you do whatever you want without consideration of others? How can you better serve others in love?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Setting the right goal ...

The philosophy of the positive-thinking, motivational speaker crowd has so infiltrated the church we've adopted a lot of their platitudes and language.

For example, a lot of preachers talk about being "winners."

Wow! That's one word I wish church leaders would stop using in most settings. If some people are "winners," then there must be "losers." Who are the losers? What people did Jesus call "winners" and who did he label as "losers"?

The use of these words paint the wrong picture of what God calls us to accomplish and for the goal He has set for us.

It reminds me of a story about a youth minister who spoke about attending a Special Olympics event where handicapped children competed and demonstrated great dedication and enthusiasm. One of the events was the 220-yard dash. Contestants lined up at the starting line, and at the signal, started running as fast as they could. A boy by the name of Andrew quickly took the lead and soon was about 50 yards ahead of everyone else. As he approached the final turn he looked back and saw that his best friend had fallen and hurt himself on the track. Andrew stopped and looked at the finish line, then he looked back at his friend. People were yelling, "Run, Andrew, run!" But he didn't. He went back to his friend, helped him up and brushed him off, and hand-in-hand they crossed the finish line together dead last.

But as they crossed the finish line, the crowd cheered wildly. That's because there are some things more important than being a "winner."

One of those things is love. In fact, the Apostle Paul says that was his goal for his teaching ...

"The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith," 1 Timothy 1:5.

Paul longed for people to know Christ. When people surrender their lives to Jesus by faith, the Spirit of God purifies our hearts and cleanses our consciences. The result is being like the One we now serve, who IS love. Love is the end goal!

That sure beats trying to be a "winner."

What's your end goal?


Monday, March 17, 2014

Life is like a box of crackers ...

The line from the movie "Forrest Gump" is so famous, most people know it: "My momma always said, 'Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get.'"

A couple of days ago, I was thinking how life is like a box of crackers.

I don't have any idea how many boxes of crackers I've bought in my lifetime, but it's never been anything of note until recently. In the last box of crackers I bought, all the crackers were crumbled and crushed within their packages. There wasn't a single intact cracker to be found. But there was no way of telling this without opening the box since there wasn't any damage of any kind to the exterior packaging. On the outside, it appeared to be an ordinary box containing tasty crackers. On the inside, were broken crackers, so crushed they couldn't be used for their intended purpose.

Life is a lot like a box of crackers when it comes to people. Some appear to be fine on the outside, and some of them are fine on the inside. But a lot of them, while looking fine on the outside, are broken and crushed on the inside.

God knows the damage done to our lives. I think that's why His Word encourages us to be gentle with one another. In Titus 3:2, the believers are to be reminded of this:

"They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone."

In Galatians 5:22-23, we see the kind of fruit the Holy Spirit wants to grow in us includes traits such as patience, kindness, goodness, and gentleness. First Corinthians 13:4 tells us love is patient and kind. And Ephesians 4:32 instructs us like this: "Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you."

Jesus simplified things by telling us to love everyone. That's because there are a lot of fine-looking people out there who are crushed on the inside. They need our love, our kindness and gentleness, not more damage done to their already broken lives.

Life is like a box of crackers, you never know what you will discover inside people. So approach them with the love and gentleness of Christ.

Is that how you treat others?


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Doing this can introduce evil into any relationship ...

The most direct way for someone to be devalued in our lives is for them to behave in some way --- especially toward us --- that we don't like.

That's because most of us have schemes for how to use the people in our lives, whether those are people we have relationships with, fellowship with, or should be unified with.

You may not have thought of yourself as being a schemer, but most of us are. We play out in our minds what we want from any particular person in our lives, and then seek to get just that. We want people to turn into reality in our lives the schemes we've played out in our minds

That is a scheme, and the Bible tells us to stop scheming against each other ...

"This is what the Lord of Heaven's Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other," Zachariah 7:9-10.

While some schemes may be entirely positive in nature, many have scenarios for how that person will lose value to you if they disappoint you in bringing about the scheme you have for them. There's a level of evil in that kind of scheming, as it values people only on what they will do for you.

God hates such evil scheming ...

"The Lord detests evil plans, but he delights in pure words," Proverbs 15:26.

"There are six things the Lord hates --- no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that kill the innocent, a heart that plots evil, feet that race to do wrong, a false witness who pours out lies, a person who sows discord in a family," Proverbs 6:16-19.

Expecting people to perform the schemes we have crafted for them is the opposite of the single way Jesus taught us to approach anyone, which is to love them!

To obey Christ is to stop scheming against others and simply love them!

Is that how you're treating others? Who do you have schemes for? How do you need to change your behavior so that the first and primary posture you have toward anyone is one of love?


Saturday, February 15, 2014

Why is it so hard to make friends with Christians?

One of the reasons why "relationship evangelism" has been a big failure is that we have failed at making relationships with lost people (and when we actually do, we often still do not share the Gospel with them). Sadly, Christians often are not the friendliest people you can meet.

I've been asked by many non-believers (as well as Christians) why Christians are so unfriendly. Not that they aren't nice if interacted with, but often the complaint is that while Christians may be nice in an initial meeting, many of them often seem uninterested in going beyond that to forming an actual friendship.

I've heard many stories from non-believers who have told of trying to befriend Christians by extending invitations for interaction, only to be snubbed. One of my own true stories: I once served as Associate Pastor of a church for five years, and during that time I entertained numerous members of the church. Many of them responded to my hospitality, "We need to have you over for dinner some time ..." But in those five years, not a single member --- not one! --- ever invited me to their homes.

If they won't invite someone they supposedly like (at least, they told me they loved me!) into their homes, what do you think the likelihood is they invited non-Christians they didn't know and didn't have a shared faith with?

I recently tweeted about my first-time visit with a church in Vallejo, California that was the "friendliest" church I have visited in a long time. At least nine or 10 members of the congregation (excluding church staff) came up to me and introduced themselves, thanked me for visiting, and chatted with me. The worship service was one of the most enjoyable I had experienced in many years. Yet, even though I had provided the church with my contact information, the church made no attempt to contact me in any way after my visit.

How can we hope to have any opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with those who don't know Him if we aren't willing to befriend the lost? And how are we going to be a united body of Christ without building bonds of friendship among us?

Jesus was so known for enjoying spending time with sinners that the religious leaders of His day accused Him of being a gluttonous drunkard. He wasn't, of course, but He did pull up a chair next to the most needy, and have fellowship with those He would forgive.

When Jesus challenges us to follow after Him (Luke 9:23), maybe this is part of what He meant. Maybe His call to followership includes loving the drunks and prostitutes, the cheaters and swindlers, the criminals and liars, the adulterers and homosexuals. Because He did. Why?

"I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent," Luke 5:32.

And maybe His example of the friendships He made with his disciples is an example for us to make friendships with one another as well.

"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples," John 13:34-35.

"Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other," Romans 12:9-10.

"Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!" Hebrews 13:1-2.

"Cheerfully share you home with those who need a meal or a place to stay," 1 Peter 4:9.

Are you intentional about making friendships with unbelievers? How about loving your brothers and sisters in Christ? Is hospitality a regular practice in your life? Are you just another nice Christian to shake hands with, or do you seek for opportunities to walk into the lives of others and love them like the friend Jesus was?


Friday, January 17, 2014

Don't be a Napoleon ...

Napoleon Bonaparte continues to make all the lists of the people who have most dramatically impacted human history.

It was this leader who is quoted as saying, "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."

To that, a lot of people would say, "Amen!"

But Jesus wouldn't.

Scripture implores us to have a very different response when we see our enemies in error ...

"Don't rejoice when your enemies fall; don't be happy when they stumble," Proverbs 24:17.

"You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike," Matthew 5:43-45.

"Bless those who persecute you. Don't curse them; pray that God will bless them," Romans 12:14.

For many, these are pretty sounding words from an ancient book. But they're really specific instructions God provides to all who believe in Him, even in our day. It's a lesson that Martha Mullen understood and carried out, even though she would face tremendous ridicule for doing so.

That's because Mullen, a mental health counselor in Virginia, was key to arranging for the burial of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Boston bomber whose exploits left three dead and 260 others wounded. For more than a week after his death, no cemetery or community wanted to bury the slain terrorist.

Mullen said she was at a Starbucks when she heard a radio news report about the difficulty of finding a burial spot for Tsarnaev.

"My first thought was Jesus said love your enemies," Mullen explained, then she had an epiphany. "I thought someone should do something about this, and I am someone."

Mullen, a member of the United Methodist Church, said she was motivated by her faith and that she had the full support of her pastor.

The Washington Post reports Mullen took the initiative to find a place that would accept Tsarnaev for burial. She was put in touch with Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia, which runs a cemetery in Doswell, VA, and brokered an arrangement to have him buried there.

Many local residents and officials were angered by Mullen's intervention. While Mullen says the backlash has been unpleasant, she has no regrets.

"I can't pretend it's not difficult to be reviled and maligned," she told The Associated Press. "But any time you can reach across the divide and work with people that are not like you, that's what God calls us to do."

In contrast, many of us won't even speak to a neighbor who we consider an "enemy," yet Mullen could treat a real enemy with love that comes with God.

So what should we do when we see an enemy in error?

"Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone --- especially those in the family of faith," Galatians 6:10.

When it comes to your enemies, are you following the example of Christ, or are you just another Napoleon?


Friday, November 15, 2013

You don't have to sneak out at night to do this ...

Nearly lost to the church in our day is the biblical concept of taking up someone else's burden ...

"Share each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important," Galatians 6:2-3.

Notice the scripture doesn't say "just pray about each other's burdens." We do that all the time --- we tell God of the burdens of those around us and leave it to Him to do something about them. The verse says share each other's burdens, meaning to make our own the burdens of someone else who is struggling.

We've diluted the idea of shouldering someone else's burdens by spreading the load so broadly that our little portion doesn't hurt at all. That's because if we are to serve someone else, we want it to be painless; if it really cost us something, we will likely turn our shoulder away from it rather than into it.

Such wasn't the case of two brothers who were both farmers. As they grew up into strong young men, one brother married and eventually had several children. The other brother remained single.

One night, the married brother thought to himself, "Here I am, blessed with a wonderful wife and beautiful family. When I get old, my children will take over the farm and take care of me, but my brother has no one to care for him. I will do something to make sure he will be secure in his old age," he decided.

In planning what he would do, the brother decided he wouldn't directly offer something to his brother because he was a selfless man and would likely say he didn't need it because he was single. So he decided that each night he would take sacks of grain and empty them into his brother's silo so he would have plenty for himself as he grew older.

Little did the married brother know that his single brother was thinking about him.

"Here I am, a single man blessed with a fruitful farm that provides me with plenty, yet my brother has a wife and children to care for. I will do something to help him make sure he has plenty for his family," he thought to himself.

So the single brother decided that each night he would take sacks of grain and empty them into his brother's silo so he would have plenty to care for his family over the years.

The brothers emptied their sacks of grain into each others' silos each night for a long time when, one particularly dark night, they bumped into each other. When they observed the other brother and realized what they were doing, they embraced in a hug and wept together, overwhelmed by the lovingkindness of the other.

Are you helping a brother or sister in Christ bear their burdens? Or are you fooling yourself, thinking you're too important to do something like that?


Saturday, November 9, 2013

A leaner, meaner church ...

As the church has become leaner due to it's decline, we've also become meaner.

We once talked a lot about winning souls, but if you look at the stance of many Christians today toward unbelievers, it's one of trying to defeat them rather than disciple them.

We've flooded our faith to overflowing with our politics, and we spend our days hurling political rants all focused on defeating our "enemies." So much so, we've come to see our world as being made up of "us" and "them," with anyone in the "them" camp being an enemy to be defeated.

So we spend a lot less time loving others and sharing the Gospel, and a lot more time looking for a point to debate, another argument to win, and ideas to destroy.

In the process, we've lost sight of who our real enemy is ...

"For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places," Ephesians 6:12.

Even when we discover human beings who really do position themselves as our enemy, our response to them is often far short of what Jesus says it should be ...

"You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!" Matthew 5:43-44.

In "The Grace of Giving," Stephen Olford tells of a Baptist pastor during the American Revolution, Peter Miller, who lived in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, and enjoyed a close friendship with George Washington.

In Ephrata also lived Michael Wittman, an evil-minded sort who did all he could to oppose and humiliate the pastor. One day Wittman was arrested for treason and soon was sentenced to die. Peter Miller traveled 70 miles on foot to Philadelphia to plead for the life of the traitor.

"No, Peter," General Washington said. "I cannot grant you the life of your friend."

"My friend!" exclaimed the old preacher. "He's the bitterest enemy I have!"

"What?" cried Washington. "You've walked 70 miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in a different light. I'll grant your pardon," he said. And he did.

Peter Miller took Michael Wittman back home to Ephrata, no longer an enemy but a friend.

Are you busy trying to defeat unbelievers, or disciple them? Are you battling against people you see as enemies, or obeying Christ by loving them?


Thursday, November 7, 2013

One of America's greatest needs, and how the church can help ...

Over the past few years, there have been several polls and studies revealing that Americans today are feeling more lonely than at any other time in our history.

It's somewhat of an alarming fact in a culture that emphasizes social interaction and has more ways to connect to others than ever before.

Yet, it's not uncommon to see a room full of people all busy "connecting" to people they don't know via technology while not saying a word to the "real" person next to them. That scene is common in our own homes.

The church isn't free of this growing loneliness. It's possible for a person to visit a church service without ever being spoken to by regular attenders. And small groups that have met for years are often made up of acquaintances who talk about "doing life" together, but really only "do" small group together once a week.

Yes, even Christians are reporting they are lonelier now than in the past.

What makes this growing loneliness so profound is that when we feel lonely, we often feel unloved.

What can the church do regarding this sad emptiness so many are experiencing?

Walk into someone's life.

I'm not talking about inviting someone to church, or a small group, or some kind of Bible study. I'm talking about personally walking into someone's life. Befriend someone, and spend personal time with them.

Love them.

Sit in person and talk with them.

Do things together.

At this point the howls of  "I don't have time for this!" is ringing loudly.

Make time, even if the effort costs you something.

If you want to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, do what He constantly did --- make it a priority to walk into people's lives and love them with the love of God.

"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other," John 13:34.

Who are you loving with the love of Christ?


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The tale of two drawers ...

I was so young I don't really know who Lester was.

I don't know whether he was just a neighbor or someone my parents knew. But one thing I always remembered about Lester was the full drawers in his garage.

When someone needed a certain size washer, or screw, or nail, or some part, they went to Lester and asked if he had it.

They went to Lester because they knew Lester kept all that kind of stuff in the drawers on his workbench in his garage.

Lester kept such stuff not because he needed it, but because when he came across it, he thought someone else might need it some time in the future. So he would pick it up or purchase it, then toss it in a drawer.

Because someone might need it some day.

We had just moved into a new (for us) house and, being the curious boy that I was, I was exploring. As I found myself in the kitchen, I began opening the drawers to see if there was anything inside.

Then I pulled on one drawer handle and nothing happened.

That's because there was a handle, but no drawer!

Startled, I asked my mother why there was a handle, but no drawer.

"It's just there for decoration," she explained.

Some people are like Lester. They are always thinking about others, even the future needs of others, and keep themselves supplied to help meet those needs when they arise.

Others have faux drawers. Just a decorative handle, but nothing real to offer.

The Apostle Paul admonishes us, "Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had," Philippians 2:4-5.

Not only should we consider the needs of others, but we are to do so with the same attitude that Jesus demonstrated --- His life was spent in serving others.

How do you consider the needs of others? What drawer do you offer to those in need?


Friday, October 4, 2013

Pass it along ...

Once during Queen Victoria's reign, she heard the wife of a common laborer had lost her baby. Having experienced deep sorrow herself, and the comfort from loved ones who cared, she felt moved to express her sympathy. So she called on the bereaved woman and spent some time with her. After she left, the neighbors asked what the queen had said.

"Nothing," replied the grieving mother, "She simply put her hands on mine, and we silently wept together."

Once you've experienced being comforted during difficult times --- especially the comfort we receive from God --- you can't just sit by and watch others suffer alone. It's God's design that as we are comforted by Him, that we pass along to others the comforting we have received.

"All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer," 2 Corinthians 1:3-6.

Do you share the comfort of Christ you have received with others who are hurting? How can you be a comfort to others on behalf of Christ?


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Majoring on the minors ...

There's a story of two church congregations located just a few blocks away from each other in a small town. They thought it might be better to merge and become one united, larger, and more effective body rather than remain as two struggling churches. It was a good idea ... but they weren't able to pull it off.

The problem?

They failed to agree on how they would recite the Lord's Prayer. One group preferred "forgive us our trespasses" while the other group insisted on saying "forgive us our debts."

So, as the local newspaper reported, "One church went back to its trespasses while the other returned to its debts."

Unity in the body of Christ and relating to others with Christlike love and peace will never come when you major on the minors, putting your focus and demands on things that are not essential. The Apostle Paul gives us clear direction to yield with love and honor toward others ...

"Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves," Philippians 2:3.

"Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them, Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other," Romans 12:9-10.

Are there relationships in your life where you are majoring on the minors? What could happen if you put your focus on the essentials (such as "love each other with genuine affection") rather than the unimportant?


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Get over yourself ...

Have you noticed how many pastors talk and write about seeking opportunity for self?

So many sermons, books, blog posts, tweets and other postings are about searching for opportunities that benefit yourself, that make you happy, you more prosperous, you "better off."

And then we open scripture and read something different ...

"Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone --- especially to those in the family of faith," Galatians 6:10.

We hear too much about how to do well for ourselves, and too little about doing good to others.

When was the last time you sought opportunity to be a blessing to others? How often do you think there are such opportunities in your life? How often do you take advantage of these kinds of opportunities?

Are you purposeful about doing good and being a blessing to others, or do you still need to get over yourself?


Monday, August 26, 2013

The answer to "how" ...

The "how" is one of the most common questions asked by pastors, especially younger pastors less experienced in ministry.

"How do we get people to want to serve in the church?"

"How do we get people to want to serve people in the community?"

"How do we get people who call themselves Christians to behave like Christians?"

There's a long (more detailed) answer, and a short answer. I'll share with you the short answer:

Teach them to fall in love with Jesus Christ.

By doing so, you will see real change. They will stop blocking the Holy Spirit from transforming their lives, and they will pursue different desires. Kind of like this ...

A group of teens were enjoying a party when someone suggested they take their party to a certain restaurant for a good time.

"I'd rather you take me home," Jan said to her date. "My parents don't approve of that place."

"Afraid your father will hurt you?" one of the girls asked sarcastically.

"No," Jan replied, "I'm not afraid my father will hurt me, but I am afraid I might hurt him."

To be  a Christian is to have a love relationship with God, our heavenly Father. Because His love fills our lives, it grieves Him when we are willfully disobedient or pursue desires different from His. But because we love Him, we desire to please Him rather than cause Him grief.

"If you love me, obey my commandments," John 14:15.

Earnestly fall in love with Jesus Christ and you will find yourself sharing His desires.

And no preacher will have to plead with you to serve Christ's church or the lost!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This is when someone might need you the most ...

You don't have to know me well to know that cold weather and I are not friends. I've lived too long in places like Arizona, California, and Hawaii to find cold and snow to be pleasant in any way.

But I tried.

During a year of my teen life, I lived on a farm in northeast Arkansas. It was quite a cultural contrast for a West Coast guy ... who was actually born in that small town of Pocahontas, AR.

When winter rolled around and everything was covered with snow, I decided (foolishly?) to take my uncle's suggestion to do some rabbit hunting. Yes, in the winter, in the snow.

With two pair of thermal socks on underneath high-topped weather-proof boots, and otherwise bundled up with only my eyes exposed, I took my uncle's shotgun and headed out.

Part of the experience was enormously enjoyable. It was remarkably quiet in the still of the cold, with only the sound of my boots crunching in the snow. The unusual quiet spread a blanket of peacefulness across the farm.

Still, as much as I directed my attitude to enjoy the adventure, I eventually wearied of the cold and headed back to the house.

I thought I had endured my daring foray into the wintery whiteness rather well ... until I took my boots off. As my feet warmed, they became racked with pain. I was uneducated about the after-effects of suddenly being in a warm house after an extended period of having one's feet covered in snow.

My feet, for all their insulation, had been much colder than I imagined, and their "thawing" quickly (too quickly) in the warmth of the house surprisingly caused a good deal of pain!

This simple adventure reminds me of something I've seen many people experience, something I've experienced myself. That is, sometimes when we are challenged by trials or difficulties in life, we keep moving in order to push through. Once on the other side, we think we've done well and arrived safely, but it's only when the battle is done that we feel the full pain of the experience we've weathered.

That's why it's so important for those family and friends who were willing to walk any portion of your trial with you to not leave too early. It's one thing to be with you through the scary journey of your challenges, but sometimes the worst pain comes when the fight is over and you finally feel your wounds.

And that's when you'll really need the support of people who love you.

Many times in counseling sessions, I've sat across from people who have weathered some great storms in life, only to be perplexed as to why they seem to be hurting so much now that the storm had passed. It's because they were too focused on gaining the victory during the battle to take full notice of the wounds they had suffered.

It's when you get to the other side that you need to give attention to healing.

If you know someone weathering a storm or trial or great challenge, remember that they need your support not only in the midst of the battles, but especially after the fight. When the cold of life's challenges begin to thaw away in the heat of victory, they may feel great pain caused from the experience. They will still need your loving support as they tend to their wounds.

Some of the most intimate moments of a relationship is when we are there for someone who is feeling the pain of their battle. Some of the moments in life we most need a friend is when we feel the pain involved in our healing.

If you really care, stick around. Don't leave while your friend still has their boots on.


Monday, May 13, 2013

How do you do this?

How do you invest in the lives of others?

Before you answer that question, consider this little story ...

Before leaving on an extended vacation, a very wealthy man said to a contractor, "While I am away, I want you to build me a fine new home according to these plans. Be sure you work with extreme care, and use the best of everything. Tell me the cost as soon as you have it and I’ll send you a check."

During the process of construction, the contractor discovered many opportunities to substitute inferior materials; he put in his own pocket the money he saved. His employer would never know the difference, and he himself would profit.

But he soon regretted his dishonesty. When the wealthy man returned from his travels, he inspected the finished home and said to the contractor, "You have built it exactly as I wanted it, and I’m sure that you used the best of everything in its construction. Now, in appreciation for your long years of service to me, I am giving you this new home for your very own. Here’s the deed!"

Do you pour into the lives of others the same way you care for yourself?

"29 Jesus replied, 'The most important commandment is this: "Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. 30 And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength." 31 The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these," Mark 12:29-31.

Now, how do you invest in the lives of others?


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Modern relationships ...

This is what relationships routinely look like in 2013:

And following are just a couple snippets of what our Creator, who made us social creatures with a need to be loved and to express love, says our relationships should look like ... 

"4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance," 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. 

"9 Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. 10 Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other," Romans 12:9-10.

Who do think has the better idea for relationships? What do your relationships look like?


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Turning a duty to love into a channel of love ...

"You can't just command love from someone!" insists the husband who, long ago, chose to stop loving his wife.

"Actually, you can ..." responds the marriage counselor.

What the counselor had in mind was the words of Jesus, when Christ actually did command us to love each other ...

"So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other," John 13:34.

The key to Christ's command is in the second sentence: "Just as I have loved you, you should love each other."

Christ isn't ordering us to push out of ourselves a begrudging sentiment sourced in compulsion, but a genuine love sourced from the One who the Bible says IS love! The difference looks a little something like this ...

Are you "doing love" from a resistant attitude out of a sense of duty to Christ's command, or are you allowing the source of love (God) to flow through you so you can be love to others?