THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE

 

 

Have you seen the recent YouTube video of the little boy who was lying about eating a cupcake? Here is this totally adorable toddler with bright, blue icing all around his mouth.  When his dad asks if he’s had a cupcake, without the slightest pause, he says NO…repeatedly. Oh my, he is precious. The fact that he is lying with blue icing all over his mouth – screaming his guilt – makes him even cuter. It makes us chuckle. It’s cute. And those of us with kids could all tell similar stories.

Sometimes the antics of children can be, well, cute. But we grow. And we grow up. And we come to see what once was adorable for a child no longer is. Yep. This includes lying.

Lying is nothing new. The Garden of Eden, heard of it? Adam and Eve? Yep, the very first recorded sin involved lying. And lying is bad. I know. Mind-blowing news – right?  Yet regularly we hear of individuals caught in less than truthful moments: politicians, news broadcasters, sports figures, pastors, coaches, doctors. Each story has its unique circumstances, each with it’s unique failure. Yet underneath it all, they share one obvious question…

Why?

If we know it isn’t true, what drives the need to be dishonest? Why do we feel the need to exaggerate the truth or make people think we’ve accomplished something we haven’t?  Why give the impression that we are something we really are not?

We wear masks. We try to hide the real us. We try to gain acceptance from those around us by being what we think they would want us to be, or say what we think they want us to say…whoever they is.  We don’t want to disappoint. We don’t want to feel rejected. So we stretch the truth. We lie.

And we become the little boy with blue icing on his face.

But there’s a better way.

I Corinthians 13 teaches us that love “rejoices in the truth”Stop. Think about how big this is: this is the section of the Bible commonly referred to as the “love chapter”. We’re told that true “God-type” love (agape in the Greek) is a love that is benevolent, willfully delights and finds joy in the one being loved.  It’s the ultimate love, one of deep, unconditional commitment. A love that doesn’t just endure what’s true, or look past what’s true, it rejoices in what’s true.  It recognizes that as a follower of Jesus, your true identity is not found in your wins and losses, or your feelings and circumstances. Your true identity is found in Jesus Christ! And your true identity doesn’t require a mask.

True love, God’s love, rejoices in the truth!  The truth that…

…you are His masterpiece. (Ephesians 2:10, NLT)

…you are His workmanship. (Ephesians 2:10, NKJV)

…you are established. (2 Corinthians 1:21 NKJV)

…you are sealed with His promise. (John 6:27 NKJV)

…you are redeemed. (Colossians 1:14 NIV)

Could it be…that part of why God rejoices in the truth of our messiness and ugliness and brokenness is because the truth of our messiness and ugliness and brokenness gives Him the joy of demonstrating his indescribable, unrestrained, un-earnable love?

Yep! The blue icing is all over your face, and mine. Throw your hands up to a Father who loves you!  He knows and rejoices in the truth: your identity is so much greater than the frosting on your face.

And know this: when we embrace and live in and rejoice in that truth, we’re able to love others the way we are loved. We’re able to rejoice in the truth of their identity as well.  And it’s so much greater than the frosting on their face.

 “Aren’t you glad that God’s acceptance isn’t based on our performance? We have nothing to prove. Cancel the audition.”  – Pastor Steven Furtick, Elevation Church


LOVE ALWAYS HONORS

 

Honor. It’s a powerful word. Along with the word, we all have an immediate thought that pops into our minds based on our life experiences. It’s a word that gets tossed around often and it carries with it many different meanings.

Growing up, religious or not, a familiar phrase that most of us have heard in a heated moment with at least one of our parents   – “Honor your father and mother”.  Every May or June, watch for the Hallmark commercials. They’ll be encouraging us to honor the graduates. Or when you graduate with Honors…now that’s a big one.  Don’t forget the Fourth of July and Memorial Day when we remember and honor those who have served in the military. This one we all like and have heard at our own wedding or those we’ve attended – that the bride and groom, “love, honor and cherish” each other. And, in the end, we all want to honor our loved ones who have gone before us.

The Bible talks a great deal about honor. As Christ followers we’re not only encouraged to honor each other, we are “called” to honor each other; it is a “demand” we see in I Corinthians 13 that is the opposite of being rude. We are to be the kind of person that will put others before ourselves, looking for opportunities to make life easier for those we come in contact with, all in an effort to become more selfless every day. Romans 12:10 NIV says, “Honor one another above yourselves.” The Message version of the same passage reads, “Practice playing second fiddle.” That’s a whole new perspective.

In our society, playing second fiddle comes across as a supporting or minor role…one that you would seemingly tire of. To be less important or weaker in an inferior position. To play second fiddle to your sister. To play second fiddle in a relationship as if you’re the second choice…the backup plan.

Leonard Berstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, was once asked to name the most difficult instrument to play. Without hesitation, he replied: “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem; and if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony. In truth, if I spent more time second fiddling then my community would probably produce better music anyway.”

Second fiddle. Second chair. No spotlight. Doesn’t seem like you get much glory from that location. And that may be the main point. It seems that most of the time when we get placed in that lumpy, uncomfortable, second chair, we’d much rather be in the first.

But, what if all of us who claim to be Christ-followers decided to be more intentional in this area of honoring others? What if we were content being in the second chair…with enthusiasm and a smile on our face!?  Putting others first above ourselves in everyday life. I bet like the Orchestra, we’d have a lot more harmony and our community would hear the most beautiful music ever.


GOD > ME

 

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.

Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”  – Philippians 2:3

 

 

I love a good “Peanuts” cartoon. This one, in particular, shows Linus telling Charlie Brown, “When I get big, I’m going to be a humble little country doctor. I’ll live in the city, see, and every morning I’ll get up, climb into my sports car, and zoom into the country! Then I’ll start healing people…I’ll heal people for miles around!” In the last frame, he exclaims, “I’ll be a world famous humble little country doctor!”

 

Charles Schultz, the cartoonist, was making fun of how difficult it is for us to be humble.  Often, we start out with the goal of being a humble little whatever, but before we know it, we’re into being a world-famous, humble little whatever!

 

But, can you really blame us? We live in a world that screams, “ME!” Everything’s about me.  Look at my success. Look at my beauty. Look at how good I am at __________________.  I’m all that and a bag of chips!

 

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary states the word humble comes from the Latin word humilis which means low or lowly; from humus ‘ground’. Being humble is described as not proud or haughty; not arrogant or assertive; having a spirit of deference or submission; ranking low in a hierarchy or a scale.

 

But, can you even imagine living in a society where being humble is the norm?

 

Aren’t you and I, at times, the very opposite? If we take a look in the mirror, aren’t there probably more times than we’d like to admit that we are proud and pompous…and very proud that we are proud and pompous? We step on or step over people that we disagree with, differ from or are in our way. We make special effort to emphasize ourselves and make our thoughts and opinions known. We spend a countless amount of money, time and energy to make sure that we fit into this hierarchy that we consciously or subconsciously yearn to feel a part of.

 

Shift gears with me and think about John the Baptist. Here’s a guy who could have been proud; and, rightfully so I must add. Who else (apart from Jesus Himself) could claim to have been filled with the Holy Spirit while still in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15)? Who else could have the important title of being the forerunner of the Messiah (Luke 1:17,76)?  How about this…who do you know that Jesus affirmed to be the greatest man in history (Matthew 11:11)?

 

Yet, John teaches us an ultimate lesson in humility. He really lives I Corinthians 13 where it says that “Love is not proud.” If we could just get his famous one-liner down. Just think of what a difference it would make.  “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30).


LOVE PROTECTS

We are bombarded with messages about protection and security every day.

The ever-present message of having safe sex…for our protection. TSA at the airport gives us a little love (!)… for our protection. We’re strongly encouraged to get the most up-to-date security software on our computers… for our protection. Install an alarm system at our house… for our protection. Carry a gun or take a self-defense class… for our protection.  You get the idea.

Protection. It’s a version of love we crave and at the same time sacrificially and willingly give to those closest to us. In reality, I’d say the notion that security is one of our greatest fundamental needs is accurate, to say the least.

We long to receive it from our significant other. We briefly contemplate putting our kids in some kind of foolproof bubble and sending them to school just to protect them. We want to receive it from our friends; we want them to have our backs. We hope somehow that our employer won’t screw us over. We naively hold on to the ridiculous thought that our bank account can somehow protect us in some way.

We open our Bibles and they are filled with countless stories of God’s protection many of us can recount from our childhood. David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17), Queen Esther (Esther 1), Baby Moses (Exodus 2), and Daniel in the Lions Den (Daniel 6) just to name a few. All these stories reflect God’s protection over His people in tangible, seemingly impossible situations.

Flip over to the love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13, mentions four specific attributes of love that are “always” put into action. The first of these is that love “always protects” (NIV). It has been said that the Greek word for “protects” is stegei, which literally means “to cover” and includes the idea of protecting and perseverance. (www.gotquestions.org)

1 Corinthians 13:2 says that if we have all the listed spiritual gifts (solve all mysteries, have all knowledge, have all faith) but we don’t use these spiritual gifts with love, “we are nothing” and it benefits no one. Love must be added to every equation in order to make a difference.

God’s version of love always protects. It’s never about ourselves. It can handle all the pooh life can throw at us. And whenever one of us lays an egg, love has the ability to cover and protect it. (“Love covers a multitude of sins.” – Proverbs 10:12) Which doesn’t excuse poor or abusive behavior because there are consequences for sin. It does mean we come beside and lift up what is weak, defend the defenseless and forgive what normally would be impossible.
We hear and read about God’s protection and yet we sometimes have a slight pause in our mind questioning that provision. If God really protects, why did/didn’t He__________________? How about this…when trying to explain all the hard stuff we’re hearing on the news lately to our kids, how do you explain God not protecting innocent young girls just trying to excel in gymnastics and why does there have to be a movement called #MeToo?

I get that. I’ve had some questions of my own through life’s journey.

We’re so human. We want to see God’s protection as some kind of Star Wars force that is with us keeping us from all harm. We have to pause and remember to remind ourselves that we live in a fallen world where we have free will and people (and we) get it wrong sometimes. And God works in ways we just don’t understand. Sounds cliché-ish, right? But it doesn’t make it any less true.

If love talks, it says words that shield. Words filled with kindness. Words of protection.

Know anyone who could use some protection? Then don’t hold back. Love like Jesus.

“God is a safe place to hide, ready to help when we need him. We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom, courageous in seastorm and earthquake, Before the rush and roar of oceans and tremors that shift mountains. Jacob-wrestling God fights for us, God-of-Angel-Armies protects us.” – Psalm 46:1-3 MSG


NEW YEAR NEW YOU

 

Well, we’re only a couple days in. How are things going? You know, with those New Year’s Resolutions that is. Whether you cringe or get an adrenaline rush from speaking those words, it’s inevitable; the new year is here. Have you decided that you’re going to go for it this year and have already made some new resolutions? Or are you not even going to “waste” your time because you feel like you will fail anyway?

Don’t you think that it seems like there needs to be an extra week at the end of the year between Christmas and New Years just to be able to plan what your resolutions will be?  How can it be that we go from Halloween to Thanksgiving to Christmas in what appears to be days? Before you know it, it’s time to watch the big ball drop in New York and there’s nothing written down to accomplish for the year.

Can you relate?

I’d venture to say that we all know the agony of just trying to decide if we really want to make the list.  The long list that is basically acknowledging just how many things you need to improve in your life. Seems so daunting. But, you decide to go for it.

The typical first week, you’re feeling good about yourself.  You’re “on” 7 days in a row; what’s another 358 days, right?! But in reality, we all know week two and week three arrive. Life happens. You miss a day or two. You get behind. You feel guilty. You quit.

Another year goes by. And in a spiritual sense, isn’t this exactly what the devil wants? For us to stay exactly the way we are…not growing, defeated, stagnant, the same. How can we stop this cycle?

What if we shifted our expectations of what “success” is and not be so hard on ourselves? Last year, I wrote down a list of resolutions. No, I did not excel in every area entirely; but, I progressed in a good majority of areas. Even better, I gained some perspective along the way. I got to the point where I asked myself, “Why am I trying to reach perfection in all these areas?” That accomplishment would be too much for the most driven person around.

Are your feet pointed in the right direction? Are you growing and further down the road in an area than you were last year? Give yourself some grace. Call that progress. Jesus does.

So, let that give you courage in making resolutions for this year.  Remember that a resolution is really just a firm decision to do or not do something. Don’t complicate it. Author Francis Chan puts it this way, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter”.

Follow Joshua’s example in having resolve, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”. There’s no muddy area here. Have the same kind of resolve in your resolutions each day.

Go ahead. Grab a pen and paper or a seat at your computer. Make the list.


PRINCE OF PEACE

 

 

Yep, I’m one of “those” people. Around the day after Halloween (or so), I get pretty excited about…Christmas. I’m proud to say our kids are the same way. I know, I know; some of you are doing a big eye roll about now. But those of you who are like me, you understand!

Christmas. The Holidays. This time of the year can bring to mind many reactions and emotions. They’re intended to be times of great joy. Celebrating the birth of Jesus. Catching up with extended family. Time off from work and school. Traditions had. Memories made.

Yet in reality, if we’re not careful, the Holidays can be one word. Exhausting.

Days of travel. The cancelled flights. The long drive with kids fighting.  The surprising unkind exchange of words with your spouse. Family drama. The awkwardness. Late night cupcake baking for your kids Christmas party. Shopping. For gifts that you can’t afford. Wrapping presents. Fighting with tangled Christmas lights. Keeping up with the neighbors. Family pictures. Christmas programs. Work Christmas parties. The trash and cleanup. The stress. Whew!

And, just like that, it’s over. Another Christmas is in the books. We almost feel a letdown. All our good intentions didn’t deliver what we had imagined. Peace evades our souls.

Somehow we get so wrapped up in the chaos that surrounds the season that we miss the season itself. It’s so easily done. We’ve all been guilty of it at some point in our lives.

I’m wondering. With there being such division and unrest within us and around us, maybe there’s a question that we should be asking ourselves? A shift in focus that would change so much. “How can webring peace not just to our Christmas season, but to our own world? Peace to our home. Peace to our relationships?”

Have you seen the recent television commercial that features Microsoft employees and a children’s choir singing, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me to employees at (get this) an Apple store?  It’s worth googling. I mean, this is almost as if the “light side” is reaching out to the “dark side”, right?

This season, don’t miss it. Give the gift of peace to someone’s soul. To your soul.  And, may we focus on the One Who gives peace like no other. Our greatest Gift. Our Prince of Peace.

 

“And his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father.

The Prince of Peace.” – Isaiah 9:6


F O R G I V E N E S S

 

It had been ten years. Yes, ten years since I had spoken to let alone seen my friend.

 

 

We were friends in college and “couple friends” after marriage. We had a long runway of friendship…20 years worth. We vacationed together, played spades until all hours of the night together, swapped stories and shared a crazy amount of laughs over chips-n-salsa at Chile’s at least once a week.

 

 

Life happened. A significant fracture in our friendship happened. A painful one.

 

 

How could it be possible to let a 20-year friendship go…just like that? Looking back, it may sound a bit “cliche-ish”, but there was some definite spiritual warfare stacked against us coupled with a bit of jealousy, pride, and immaturity.

 

 

The bigger question is why did I hold onto this offense for 10 years? Why did I allow this to be ok? I mean I grew up in the church,  became a Christian at a young age, and just happened to be married to a Pastor. You could say I’ve heard a few sermons on forgiveness and I could quote you several verses on the topic as well.

 

 

And yet, I wasn’t forgiving. Most days, I wasn’t even making any effort to. Other days, I felt I had, and then something would happen that would trigger a memory that sent me spiraling back down into resentment, what ifs, and anger.  How easily I judged other people for their sin that was visible and so quickly ignored and dismissed my own. It’s like I compartmentalized this one area of my life and all the truth that I heard or read in the Bible didn’t apply to me here.

 

 

Why didn’t I choose to forgive all those years?

 

 

Want some excuses? It hurt too much. I somehow felt like I was losing some of my footing in this side of the battle if I forgave. Like I was silently saying what happened was ok. That it wasn’t even a ‘deal’ to begin with. Like I had gotten over it and I knew very well most days I had not.

 

 

But, I mean there’s always a bright side of holding a grudge.  Sleepless nights. A feeling of being unwell physically. Imagined conversations with the people that I felt hurt me. Frustration with those closest to me as they were in my line of fire not because of something they had done, but because I was mentally cycling through scenarios…what I should have said/done with the other person. I could never truly be present because I was still fighting battles from the past.

 

 

 

Then the opportunity came for me to see my friend. My flesh still didn’t want to go. I wanted to just not care, but I decided it had been long enough. I couldn’t drift and allow myself to continue down this road any longer. It wasn’t right.  And, really, what had my staying upset with this person accomplished the last decade? Nothing good. I gained nothing and neither had they.

 

 

Our eyes met..my friend and mine; and, somehow I saw the same grief and sorrow of years gone by and time that was lost in their eyes. We smiled and hugged both of us knowing what was being said without saying a word.

 

 

Maybe you can relate to my story. You have your own and it may look very different than mine. You may need to be reminded to just get the monkey off your back. Let Elsa declare to, Let. It. Go. Seriously, just choose it and do it. It may be something much different that would take time and lengthy conversations to happen first. You may even need to seek some counseling to just know how to handle it. It may make my story seem very insignificant and small. I get it.

 

 

But, in this season of getting together with family (!) and making lists, may each of us stop making those that keep a record of wrong and be reminded of what Love really looks like.

 

 

“Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive!” (Psalm 130:3 NLT)

 


LOVE DEMANDS HONOR

 

Honor. It’s a powerful word. Along with the word, we all have an immediate thought that pops in our minds based on our life experiences. It’s a word that gets tossed around often and it carries with it many different meanings.

Growing up, religious or not, a familiar phrase that most of us have heard in a heated moment with at least one of our parents   – “Honor your father and mother”.  Every May or June, watch for the Hallmark commercials. They’ll be encouraging us to honor the graduates. Or when you graduate with Honors…now that’s a big one.  Don’t forget the Fourth of July and Memorial Day when we remember and honor those who have served in the military. This one we all like and have heard at our own wedding or those we’ve attended – that the bride and groom, “love, honor and cherish” each other. And, in the end we all want to honor our loved ones who have gone before us.

The Bible talks a great deal about honor. As Christ followers we’re not only encouraged to honor each other, we are “called” to honor each other; it is a “demand” we see in I Corinthians 13 that is the opposite of being rude. We are to be the kind of person that will put others before ourselves, looking for opportunities to make life easier for those we come in contact with, all in an effort to become more selfless every day. Romans 12:10 NIV says, “Honor one another above yourselves.” The Message version of the same passage reads, “Practice playing second fiddle.” That’s a whole new perspective.

In our society, playing second fiddle comes across as a supporting or minor role…one that you would seemingly tire of. To be less important or weaker in an inferior position. To play second fiddle to your sister. To play second fiddle in a relationship as if you’re the second choice…the back-up plan.

Leonard Berstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, was once asked to name the most difficult instrument to play. Without hesitation, he replied: “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem; and if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony. In truth, if I spent more time second fiddling then my community would probably produce better music anyway.”

Second fiddle. Second chair. No spotlight. Doesn’t seem like you get much glory from that location. And that may be the main point. It seems that most of the time when we get placed in that lumpy, uncomfortable, second chair, we’d much rather be in the first.

But, what if all of us who claim to be Christ-followers decided to be more intentional in this area of honoring others? What if we were content being in the second chair…with enthusiasm and a smile on our face!?  Putting others first above ourselves in everyday life. I bet like the Orchestra, we’d have a lot more harmony and our community would hear the most beautiful music ever.


H U M I L I T Y

 

When Ben Franklin turned 20, he was determined to become virtuous. He put together a list of 12 virtues (frugality, sincerity, justice, etc.), and worked out a system of regularly focusing on one virtue a week while tracking his progress as he went.

He showed his finished list of values to a minister who pointed out that Franklin was missing humility—the queen of all virtues. Franklin added it to the list bringing the total to 13.

After spending many months working on the virtues, Franklin’s friend asked how he was doing with humility. Franklin responded, “I can’t boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it.”

The point is, if you’re working hard at acting humble, you’re not actually humble.

How often are we guilty of the same thing – acting humble? I’d say we probably find ourselves there frequently.  Would you agree we find ourselves bouncing between overly confident and being down on ourselves as well?  There’s this massive tension between pride and confidence. We know pride is a sin. Pride is so destructive it will sneak in and mess things up. “First pride then the crash. The bigger the ego, the bigger the crash.” (Proverbs 16:18 MSG) But the Scripture is full of confidence. James 4:6 says, “He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Pride and humility are both forms of confidence. Pride is confidence in yourself and humility is confidence in God.

But is there any message that you receive or come into contact with on a regular basis from your friends/co-workers/family, what you watch, what you listen to, what you scroll through that screams humility? Anything? Is this a forgotten virtue that is almost gone?

Wouldn’t it just stop us in our tracks if we saw it?

Humility is not for wimps. It is not just for girls. Craig Groeschel, Pastor of Life Church says, “Humility is not a sign of weakness. It is our declaration of our need for God.”

No matter how hard we try, we can’t be all, do all, look all the way that our society is trying to convince us to be. We’re not strong enough on our own…and that’s ok.

 

“Love is not proud…(love is humble)” I Corinthians 13


The Gift Of Encouragement

 

 

A spoken word.

 

It can change your mood. Change your heart posture. Change the trajectory of your life.

 

No doubt, one of the best gifts I’ve ever received is the gift of encouragement. There are too many occasions to count where this gift has transformed my life. I’m thinking you may feel the same?

 

The days of deep heartache. The days that felt more like never-ending carousels. Those days that were just an overall pain in the rear. When you heard that familiar voice or read the text…it impacted you. It may never have even come close to touching the circumstance you were in. In fact, things may have gotten worse. But, knowing there was someone walking alongside you made all the difference. Our beloved friends understand our hurt, and they nurture those tender places. Encouragement you see is a salve on our wounded hearts and souls.

 

Encouragement heals us.

 

And on the flip side, we all require words from time to time that ignite the best within us. That gives us a nudge in the right direction. These wonderful people in our lives called friends see our dark sides and gently push us into the light. We can “ugly cry” or dance the happy dance with these people. We can talk in our run-on sentences and find them still listening.

 

Encouragement prompts us to better things.

 

Maybe you’re in a season where the last thing you can do is think about encouraging someone else. You feel buried by the weight of everyday life and frankly, YOU need encouragement yourself. May I suggest you soak in the words of our loving God and His encouragement in His Word?  Even if you don’t feel like reading it, do it anyway. Find the rest that you need in Him (Matthew 11:28). Find the abundant life you long for in Him. (John 10:10) Find hope for better days in Him, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God.” (Proverbs 42:11)

 

Speak encouraging, life-giving words that build others up. It will not only change those around you, but it will change you. “He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.” (Proverbs 11:25)