Tag Archives: love

A Friend Of Souls

weekly theme #50 A Friend Of Souls*       

week containing the Sunday between October 9-15

This was an incredibly difficult week for me to see God.  My health and busyness seemed to capture my focus.  The first few days I felt distracted and frustrated, but today, Sunday, I’m seeing more clearly.  Perhaps you will notice that change in the reflections I wrote this week.

God gave me the gift of freewill, allowing me to be his child rather than his robot.  That gift also exposed him to the pain of me ignoring or even rejecting him.  I can’t read the Bible without squirming under his impossibly high standards and expectations.  Such perfection is impossible for me.  Perhaps the struggle is that I want to accomplish this great feat of holiness by my efforts even though I know I can’t.  Where is he in all this?  I suspect he is nearby, waiting for me to stop struggling under a load he never intended me to bear.  He offers an easy yoke if I’ll share it with him.  He wants my works and words to draw attention to him.

Trials and difficulties provide pressures that humble me and force me to turn to God.  Either I can beg God to rescue me from my adversity or I can ask him to build my faith as I go through it.  Jesus modeled going through it even though he may have wanted to be rescued.

I’ve been all over the place this week trying to figure out what the week’s theme means.  I’ve been stung by some thoughts of Duane Elmer as he wrote in Cross-Cultural Servanthood.  Here’s my paraphrase/application.  I tend to categorize a person then measure their worth by the usefulness of that category to me.  I fail to see them as a person above and beyond their category.  For example, I see a plumber, not a person who also does plumbing.  I measure his worth by how he can help me rather than by the mere fact that he is a human being made in God’s image.  The plumber is a gentle example.  Examples that are more uncomfortable include seeing convicts rather than people in prison, the handicapped rather than people with handicaps, prostitutes rather than people in prostitution, or liars rather than people who have told lies.  Loving people isn’t always easy.  Jesus never said it was.

I am not the solution a person needs, but I can be a temporary aid in their journey to that solution.  Better to be a window for them to see God than a wall that hides him.

Crystal-clear lakes become murky when the bottom sediment is agitated.  It’s difficult, sometimes impossible to see into the depths.  It is also difficult to see into even a clear lake if a storm causes ripples or waves on the surface.  I think it is difficult to see God when the soul is in similar conditions.  Seeing God is hindered whether I have a storm outside of me or worries, temptations, or distractions agitating within me.  Trusting God can be a challenge in those times.  I admitted that to him, and asked him to grant me peaceful waters in spite of the storm and the inner agitation.  It was then that I could see him.  “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”  Matthew 5:8

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

1 Comment

Filed under by weekly theme

Faithfulness

weekly theme #49 Faithfulness*     

week containing the Sunday between October 2-8

Faithfulness seems to be a two-way street.  I receive God’s faithfulness and he receives mine.  Certainly, I have the better part of that arrangement, both in purity of the faithfulness and in its depth.  Yes, without a doubt, I am getting the better end of this relationship.  Then what keeps me from living in complete faith?

I think my faith in God is diluted by my faith in other items: people, money, position, medicine, strategy, organizations, and the like.  All those things are valuable but only as secondary to faith in, and to, the Lord.  What else hinders my faithfulness?  I tend to think of faithfulness as a personally generated quality.  Faithfulness is rooted in my faith, and I can’t generate faith on my own efforts.  God gives faith to me.  (Romans 12:3)  Acknowledging my need for more faith and humbling myself to admit I don’t control it are two excellent steps toward being more faithful.

Trial and difficulty provide pressures that humble me and force me to turn to God.  Either I can beg God to rescue me from my adversity or I can ask him to build my faith as I go through it.  Yes, even faithful people have trials.  Hebrews 11:32-12:2 shows that even faithful followers will suffer.  The severity of suffering will vary, perhaps gauged by what I can bear.  Suffering does not indicate poor faith in me or a lack of love and faithfulness by God.  Suffering and faithfulness can live in the same house.  In fact, Jesus modeled perfect faithfulness and love while simultaneously suffering.  He was faithful to Father as an obedient servant, and he was faithful to me as the loving Lamb of God.

Jesus told a story about a man who entrusted his servants with money to invest for him while he traveled.  (If you don’t know the story, see Matthew 25:144-30 or Luke 19:12-27.)  The story leaves out one character that I longed to know about.  What would have happened if the servant had invested the master’s money, but ended up with less than what the Master gave him?  How would the master have responded?  That bothered me for a long time, but someone told me that the master gave the money to the servants because he had faith they would succeed if they tried.  I don’t need to hide from God’s assignments because he already knows the results.  What happens will be no surprise to him.  Therefore, even if I don’t have faith in myself, I can have faith in the Master’s faith in me!

God is faithful regardless of my unfaithfulness because faithfulness is his character.  I can be faithful because of who he is and in the face of all other things.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

Leave a comment

Filed under by weekly theme

The Church For Others

weekly theme #37 *

week containing the Sunday between July 10-16

The Church is not an organization, building, or event.  The Church is people who are followers of Jesus.  Followers of Jesus are to give love, light, and life to all those around them, both those who are members of the Church and those who are not.  People who need the love of the Church may appear unlovely, so I respond to them as I see them – as pitiful, undeserving, or repulsive.  Perhaps all at the same time.  However, it’s possible for both my response and view to change, usually simultaneously if I want God to change me.  He will enable me to see past their condition to who they really are, the beloved of God.

I have a relationship with Jesus and sharing about it is a service to others.  It isn’t right for me to do the King’s service and not acknowledge him as my King.  The King intends for the Church to be instruments for establishing the Kingdom of God to earth.  Somehow, I must find common ground and yet be noticeably “different” among those not yet in the Church.  Likely, this process will take time, humility, faithfulness, and effort, and God’s Spirit is the only way those qualities can be seen in my life.  The Church is prompt others to give Jesus his rightful glory, and Jesus identified one of the ways.  He prayed, “…that [the Church] may be one, as we are – I in them and you in me, all perfected into one.  Then the world will know that you sent me…”  (John 17:22b-23a)  When I join the Church in unity, it is convincing proof to those not in the Church that Jesus is truly the Son of God.

The world is more interested in seeing sermons that hearing them, but it seems I am caught in a pursuit of Christian knowledge rather than Christian living.  How many sermons must I hear, books read, and Bible studies attend before I am ready to obey the Lord’s two greatest commands and live the Great Commission?  (Matthew 22:37-39, 28:18-20)  The Holy Spirit lives in me and is willing to empower me to live my faith in a way that proclaims and glorifies the LORD – if only I will listen and cooperate.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

Leave a comment

Filed under by weekly theme

Mercy, Justice, and Love

weekly theme #31*

week containing the Sunday between May 29 and June 4

I have experienced God’s mercy, justice, and love – they just don’t appear here on earth when, how, and for whom I think they should.  Maybe that’s the problem – my thinking.  I don’t have the mind of Christ.  Faith is also an issue. There is a difference between believing God can work miracles and believing he will.  There is a clear and powerful relationship between God’s intervention in this fallen world and my faith that he will do so.  Yet my faith does not force God to work, it invites him, and it is at his choosing when, how, and for whom he will work.  In that dark time of waiting for him to move, I can still enjoy his presence if I desire him more than I desire the miracle for which I pray.

Jesus often altered what he was doing to help an individual.  He stopped even if those around him urged him to continue with the planned agenda.  By focusing on the individual, he affirmed to the crowd, “I care for each of you.”  Those were the times of miracles.  Acts 9:32-43 describes two healings performed by Peter.  In both cases, word spread through the region and multitudes believed in the Lord – all because Peter turned his attention to individuals.  Sermons designed for everyone catch fewer ears than words spoken to a few in the crowd.  People listen to words of personal concern spoken to a few because the pain of the few resonates with the many.  The many desperately want to believe someone personally cares about them, too.  Looking out for the lost sheep reassures the ninety-nine who remain.

As I look around in the world, I see many things that encourage me.  I see God’s mercy, justice, and love, but they seem inconsistent, with some people being blessed while others seemingly are cursed.  Why doesn’t God do something?  That question has been on my mind this entire week.  Today I read Genesis 12:3b, “All the families of the earth will be blessed through you.”  God was talking to Abraham, but actually, he was speaking to all of Abraham’s spiritual offspring.  So, why doesn’t God do something?  He has!  He has instructed me to be his mercy, justice, and love to those in this time and place.  What would happen if all believers lived with that as their primary mission?  The answer is an answer to prayer, “Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

2 Comments

Filed under by weekly theme

Life Together

weekly theme #28*

week containing the seventh Sunday of Easter

God designed us to live in harmony.  I am to be in harmony with him, others, creation, and myself.  Becoming who God wants me to be is not an individual affair.  The fourth chapter of Ephesians has a lot to say about God’s gifts to the church, and verse thirteen says we become mature, full-grown, and measuring up to the full stature of Christ through using those gifts in unity for the good of the church.  I am both an individual and a member of the community, the Bride of Christ.  I need to embrace both and find comfort in both – even though there can be pain in both.

I picture Paul as a tough, perhaps gruff, young man.  His letters contain some fierce words and scathing rebukes, but I think he mellowed as he aged.  Not that he lost his passion or standards, but Paul’s spirit softened and his love flowed more easily and with more clarity.  The book of Philemon witnesses to that idea.  I hope I mellow as well, for the good of unity.

How well I love my Christian family members is a strong indication of how I love God.  Paul offers an example of how the Christian family should sacrifice for each other in the sixth chapter of first Corinthians.  He proposes that it is better to forgive another Christian who has wronged me than to make the “family disagreement” a matter of public record.  If a member of my Christian family wrongs me, I have the opportunity to respond like Jesus rather than like the world.  What do I value so much that would make me choose being unforgiving rather than being like Christ?

My ill-delivered zeal for unity among Jesus’ disciples has actually caused division.  The change I long for in the Body of Christ, from independence to inter-dependence, will not take place through words that condemn but words that compel.  Moreover, my actions must show unity and love.  No matter how mature I am in my Christian life, I can have confidence that my every attitude, act, and belief is less than perfect.  If I convince myself differently, it hinders further maturity and growth.  Rather than clutching to my imperfections, I need to cultivate the ability to change my mind, behavior, and attitude when it is clearly God’s will for me to do so.  (adapted from Liberation of Life by Harvey & Lois Seifert)

Paul said we need each other, but the breadth of his meaning is greater than I first thought.  Romans 12:5b says, “And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each needs all the others.”  I belong to other believers, and I need all of them.  No member of the body is optional; they are all mission critical.  I don’t just need the Rock-Star members; I need the humble, meek, quiet members, too.  In fact, God does not long for Rock-Star Christians to give a performance as much as he longs for his Bride to be ready for the wedding.

A thought about balance is a fitting close to this week’s long-winded piece.  In this unity, there is a place for solitude.  Without times of solitude with the Lord, unity can begin to feel clingy, overwhelming, and even parasitic.  I can know unity is always there even when I am not in the midst of it.  Solitude increases my love for unity.

*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections.  I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used.  It truly lives up to its title.

Leave a comment

Filed under by weekly theme