Monthly archives: March, 2016

His Love & Your Choices

 

His Love,Your Choices

“It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” -J. K. Rowling

The memory is still quite vivid – seems like it was yesterday… Tim opened our Love Defined retreat by quoting Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9-10 – “This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.”

I’ve learned over the years to pay attention to those words that follow a “so that” in Scripture. In this case, the purpose of our “love abounding” includes the ability to discern what is best when we face choices. In other words, learning to love results in making better decisions.

Decisions, decisions… our lives are full of so many choices. Are our choices really that important? Can we be sure that we’re making the right ones? Does the Lord really want us to grow in love so that we would choose more wisely? If this is indeed the case, then how do we actually make good choices?

A quick survey of Scripture reveals that our decisions have significant short and long term ramifications. In the Old Testament we find Joshua near the end of his life reminding the Israelites of God’s faithfulness and calling them to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” He reminded them of their options: “whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.” And then he made the right decision very clear: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

The context of this passage makes it clear that Joshua and his people had been loved well by the Lord. He served as a witness to the exceedingly great kindness and generous provision that had come from His hand for the whole community. This tangible love of God compelled him to make a choice that was good and right – in fact, the best.

In the New Testament, Jesus brings the importance of choices even closer to home for most of us. Modern life revolves around money. Westerners are the wealthiest humans that have ever existed. Yet in general, we want more; we hoard our money rather than giving it away; and, we trust in the almighty dollar more than the Almighty God. The love of money has indeed become the root of all kinds of evil, i.e., bad choices (I Timothy 6:10).

Christ loves us enough to make the truth brutally clear: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Luke 16:13). The object of our love and affection has such sway over who we are, how we make decisions, and what we make of our lives.

Plato tells us that “a good decision is based upon knowledge and not on numbers.” Paul’s prayer in Philippians takes it a step further – it is the knowledge of love that results in good decisions. I urge you to consider today how you have been loved by God. Then, take an

inventory of how you are stewarding the resources and relationships in your life. In both of these references from the Bible, who/what we choose to serve reveals what who/what we love. May the Lord grant you peace and security in your soul to choose Him, choose love, and live a life that abounds in His love.


Spring Forward

 

 

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We dread it every year.

 

Daylight Savings Time!

 

So. Much. Fun.

 

The day we get to lose one hour of precious sleep every year.  Just getting to church on time on a normal Sunday is a feat, but this last weekend? The struggle was real. And then there’s the kids’ sleep schedules that were thrown way off and what about nap time for the parents… little ones?

 

It’s bad enough that we have to participate in this mandatory ritual of moving our clocks forward every year, but to say that we’re “Springing Forward”?  As if there’s a bounce in our step as we do this and we’re happy about it?! I think not.

 

I may be overdramatizing the whole issue a little bit. Possibly. But when I really contemplate this, it is not the only time that I bemoan moving forward, taking a new step, change.

 

How about you?

 

Has there been a time when a friend challenged you to take your next step forward? How did you receive it? Or how about a time when you felt that tug on your heart that God had something He wanted you to be a part of? How did you respond?

 

What is it about the thought of taking a step forward that seems so daunting? We might wonder, “Is it even necessary? I’m pretty comfortable right here.”

Or even worse, “Took the risk. Stepped out. Failed.”

 

In my mind, there are few things that tend to keep us stuck where we are. Yet, as Henry Ford famously said, “If you always do what you’ve done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”

 

 

We know ourselves.

We’ve all been here. Standing at the spiritual fork in the road, facing the choice to “spring forward” or play it safe. We want to make a difference and have impact, but we know our weaknesses. And in case we forget them? The devil is all too happy to remind us.

We don’t want to drop the ball. So we don’t even start.  But, as author and speaker Lysa Terkeurst puts it, “Your progress doesn’t have to be perfect to be powerful.” Just think, knowing all our flaws, God created kingdom things specifically for each of us to do. What if we say, “No”?

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10

 

We doubt our impact. 

We’re a part of a large church. Surely, there’s someone else who can do what God is prompting me to do, right? What can I do that will make a difference, really?

“The next time you are tempted to withhold your contribution to the kingdom, believing it to be too small or too broken to make a difference, don’t forget that not only will God celebrate, bless, and multiply your contributions, he will also value every little bit of it. God never wastes what we offer to Him.” – Author, Christine Caine

 

We think we’re unqualified. 

It’s such a temptation to look at our crazy world and our own complicated lives and believe the lie that we’re too damaged, too messed up, and the evil in this world is too overwhelming, for us to make a difference.

That’s exactly where the devil would love us to stay. Defeated. Feeling like a loser. Not using the gifts God has given us.

But we have to remember, it’s not about us. It’s not about what we bring to the table. I don’t have to be the most qualified person. I just need to show up. God will do the rest.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV

 

My schedule is already beyond full.

Yes it is. Pretty much everyone I know would say their schedule is full. That’s not the question. Maybe a better way of phrasing this thought is, “What are you making a priority?” Look at your calendar. What are you throwing yourself and your family into and does it have lasting impact?

“With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.” – 1 Corinthians 15:58

 

There are opportunities all around us to be used by God. To be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Find a need that needs filling and fill it. Find others who are serving and serve with them.

 

Just find one thing to do and get started.

 

Spring forward.


To Honor Is To Believe

To honor is to believe

In the Love Defined study, it says that in honoring someone, we are acknowledging their immeasurable value, which is grounded solely in the fact that God created them. Our acknowledgment of their inherent value can be manifested in countless and meaningful ways. This honor is qualitatively different from the honor one might find at an awards ceremony. That honor, generally speaking, is awarded, earned, deserved, achieved, and expected. Agape’s honor isn’t more difficult to earn, for earning doesn’t enter into the discussion, but it certainly can be far more difficult to extend. Maybe we don’t know them well enough to show honor. Maybe they clearly don’t deserve it. Perhaps we know we’ll never see them again, so why bother? Maybe they suffer from mental illness and they wouldn’t know better anyway. Or we’re just too tired or consumed with other things and people that any notion of honor is out of the question. It’s off the table. It ain’t happening today. We choose rudeness or complacency or to ignore them instead.

 

I understand.

 

I’ve been there.

 

And I’ll be there again.

 

God’s grace comes in many forms. One shape that grace comes in is the ability to think logically. When used in accordance with that grace, logic can bring us to conclusions that our hearts can’t seem to handle, except with more grace. Follow me so far? Let’s look back briefly at what Tim said about honor:

We honor because they are created in God’s image.

We honor because of the value God places on them.

 

Mathematically speaking, the inverse would look something like this:

We dishonor because they are not made in God’s image.

We dishonor because God has not placed value on them.

 

None of us would actually come out and say that or even think it. But this is precisely the moment where God’s grace of logic got a hold of me. I may not say or think these thoughts above, but in my dishonoring of someone, I am acting as if those statements are true. The solution? It is not, and never will be, to go put more effort into honoring. To honor more (or to show more kindness or be more selfless or…), I must believe God more. May our faith increase so that our love would increase.


Humility And Our Dependence On God

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As John and I work through the Love Defined Study together, we have found that in essence, according to I Corinthians 13, God is very clear about what it means to love, and yet in most cases, culture tells us the complete opposite.  In the same manner, culture would reflect that we have a distorted view of the demand for humility, as well.  Do we really misunderstand the definition of humility like we misunderstand the definition of Love?

First of all, the demand for humility, I find, is a hard one in so many ways and on so many levels. Merriam Webster defines humility as a noun because “…it is the quality or state of being humble”. Although, humility refers to an attitude towards oneself, a state of being, it is still seen (or not) by others. Culture communicates that to be humble means to be lowly, not as good as others, weak, or a low self-esteem in comparison to others. Our culture continually tells us to make sure we get what we want because we deserve to treat ourselves, we have earned it, we are worth it. Thus, we are lead to think humility reflects a sign of weakness when really, the most confident thing we can do (as believers) is to be humble. I don’t know about you, but for me sometimes it is very difficult to resist that personal pride. Being willing to admit we are wrong and most likely need to change takes an inordinate amount of confidence and understanding that His grace is enough to compensate for our faults. Only when we have an accurate understanding of who we are, in light of who God is, can we be truly humble. We can then humbly exercise our authority in His strength and in His name. Humility is the demand which enables us to admit we cannot do it on our own and all we have, even our faith, comes from God and God alone.

So what does it look like to be humble? When doing a word study on humility, according to Strong’s Concordance, John and I found the word humble comes from the Greek word “tapeinóō –to make (become) low, to humble. With the believer, tapeinóō (“show humility, true lowliness”) happens by being fully dependent on the Lord – dismissing reliance upon self (self-government) and emptying carnal ego. This exalts the Lord as our all-in-all and prompts the gift of His fullness in us.  Acting with humility does not in any way deny our own self-worth but reflects complete dependence on Him. The Greek word tapeinós (“lowly, humble”) means being God-reliant rather than self-reliant – which ironically always exalts a person and brings them true worth, cf. 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time”. (Strong’s 5011, 5013).

So, first of all, what are we called to do?  Colossians 3:12 says, we are called to put humility on as a garment and to be clothed with humility, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience”.  Secondly, how are we required to act? We see in Micah 6:8, and know humility is quintessential to the service of God, “..…And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  Finally, who are we to imitate? Along with Jesus, Paul is one example of humility. In spite of the great gifts and understanding he had received, Paul saw himself as the “least of the apostles” and the “chief of sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Corinthians 15:9).  Furthermore and ultimately, we see Christ as our example of humility from Matthew 11:29 “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Over the last several weeks when asking God specifically to show us what humility looks like and what it means to be truly humble, inevitably, He would always bring to mind another of the demands. I would see opportunities to show kindness, to be encouraging, or prompted to be patient by holding my tongue or to just wait. It now seems, in order to truly love others, a need for the complete and humble dependence on Him as foundational to be able to implement the other thirteen demands of love. We would be hard pressed to truly love without being humble. For John and me, our continued prayer is that God would create in us a humble heart attitude that reflects complete dependence on Him so that we are fully able to love others well.

Paul ends Romans 11 with the great doxology (11:36), “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

 

 

-Guest writer Jane McCann and her husband John are Love Defined small group leaders. They have been married for 32 years and have 3 adult children. Jane has been a school teacher for 33 years and enjoys   spending time with her 2 grandchildren in her spare time.

McCanns