Love is…

©susanirenefox
©susanirenefox

The goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (I Timothy 1:5)

Love is patient and kind.

Love understands we all learn in different ways and at different rates. We all have different levels of education. And while we may have a strong desire to learn and understand Scripture, we cannot all understand the King James Version, or the New American Standard Version or the English Standard Version. As beginners, some of us may need to cut our teeth on The Message or The Voice or the Easy to Read Version first. Please be kind and compassionate while we learn and grow in our faith. These versions are not heretical; they simply provide added explanation while we are in transition from milk to meat.

Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.

We all fall short of the glory of God. Please don’t hold yourself higher than we are because you’ve had more education. The Pharisee had more education than the tax collector, yet the tax collector humbled himself before God (Luke 18:9-14). Please allow us to develop our own, unique relationship with our Lord.

Love is not self-absorbed, nor does it demand its own way.

Please don’t demand that I worship as you do, pray as you do, or subscribe to your religious laws or doctrine. Please don’t tell me I’m not a Christian if… Please do as He asks and teach me to be His disciple, not yours.

“We have made ourselves content not with seeking the face of God, but with studying the facts of God. We are satisfied with a religion about Christ, without the reality of Christ… There is a place that transcends the boundaries of knowledge and dogma; it is a simple yet eternally profound place where we actually abide in Christ’s love.” Br. Francis Frangipane

Love is not irritable or easily provoked.

Luke recorded Jesus saying, “If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23) If you have fully surrendered yourself to Jesus, then you have accepted His love and grace. Once you have accepted His gift, there is nothing left to irritate, annoy or provoke you. You have an unquenchable desire to give away the love and grace that overflows from Him.

Love keeps no record of being wronged, tallies up no offenses nor keeps score of the sins of others.

In relationship, do you think the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit choose to be offended by each other? Keep score against each other? Decide one was more healing than the other? One saved more souls than the other? When we point out each others’ faults and keep track of wrongs done, over the years we become bitter and resentful. Bitterness and resentment is grist for the enemy; they can easily be turned to hate, and hate locks out love.

Love does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever truth wins out.

Love and truth build bridges; hate and fear build walls. Bridges help form relationships; walls prevent relationships. Relationships advance understanding and create true justice. The absence of relationships advances terror and exclusion for everyone. Which would you rather build?

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.

When decisions are made from soil of love, faith and hope are harvested. Circumstances are seen from a different point of view. Individual lives are given value instead of being seen as a commodity. Differences become less important than finding connections and common ground which lead to peace.

Love never fails.

God is love. When we allow His love to shine through us, in God’s timing others will desire His unconditional love. They will thirst for His radical grace. They will hunger for His tender mercy. But love must come first.

May [you] have power to comprehend… how wide, how long, how high, and how deep God’s love is, and therefore to know the love of Christ even though it is too great to understand fully, so that your heart may be completely filled up and flooded with God. (Ephesians 3:18-19)

To the Candidates

From Second Philippians

(with thanks to the apostle Paul)

As I was directed to several verses this morning, it seemed to me a letter is in order to the politicians running for the United States Presidency.

As a reminder, the apostle Paul, who was in jail in Rome, wrote to the church in Philippi to encourage them to grow and mature in their faith. He knew what staying immobile and stagnant would look like – he had already written to the church in Galatia about the problem of stagnation (Galatians 5:19-20) – and he didn’t want this to happen to the church in Philippi.

So, I address this letter, borrowing heavily from Paul, to those candidates who claim to be Christians (or who claim to uphold Christian values or who wish to appeal to voters who claim to be Christian or Evangelical or any other denomination who claims to uphold Christian values).

©KennethWyatt1987
©KennethWyatt1987

To All Candidates,

Grace and peace to you. May Christ’s Spirit bring you wisdom, integrity and compassion.

As you travel on this journey, we can all admit it is fraught with temptation. Those even in your midst would attempt to exert influence over you, gambling with your heart and mind to battle those also seeking office. Their intention is resolved to keep your focus away from the true struggle. It is not with your campaign opponents.

Those of us who follow Jesus ache as we watch you flail about in immature pursuits and misdirected messages about our Lord. We cringe because we know the world is watching. We grieve because we feel the Holy Spirit’s grief as you attempt to represent us and speak to our values.

As the apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians:

Some people tell the message about Christ because of their jealousy and envy. Others tell the message about him because of their good will. Those who tell the message about Christ out of love know that God has put me here to defend the Good News. But the others are insincere. They tell the message about Christ out of selfish ambition (Philippians 1:15-17)

©Michael Halbert
©Michael Halbert

Pretending you are someone you are not is not the way. Denigrating one another is not the way. Spewing hateful words is not the way. Being spiteful and contentious is not the way. Being boastful is not the way. Telling half truths is not the way.

Certainly you can find ways to disagree while remaining respectful and humble. Clearly you can find ways to point out differences without sarcasm. Undeniably, as presidential material, you can find ways to lead the pack on higher ground.

 

If there is any encouragement in belonging to Christ, any comfort from His love, any fellowship in His abiding Spirit, any affection or compassion, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being united in that same Spirit. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, be moved to think of and treat one another as more important than yourselves. (Philippians 2:1-3)

You see, we Christians who are watching but silent, we Christians who are waiting to cast our votes will determine who you really are by two criteria. And interestingly, they have nothing to do with party affiliation. They have everything to do with leadership qualities.

The First

Again, let’s turn to the apostle Paul. Before he was saved, he had status and wealth, education and title; he persecuted zealously those who he saw as a threat to the established leadership. Yet after Jesus opened his eyes and heart, Paul realized after a lifetime of evangelism what was truly important:

I consider everything else worthless because I’m much better off knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. It’s because of him that I think of everything as worthless. I threw it all away in order to gain [knowing] Christ…Whoever has a mature faith should think this way. And if you think otherwise, God will reveal it to you and make it plain. (Philippians 3:8, 15)

So are you mature in your faith; do you follow Jesus above all else? Do you show all people you follow him by illustrating your love through your words and actions?

The Second

In 1982, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman wrote a book called In Search of Excellence. The authors coined the term MBWA – management by walking around. One of the points of walking around was to look for things people were doing right.

Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes egregious mistakes. Do we honestly – honestly – believe our presidents are or should be pure as the driven snow? Or is it more important they humbly own up to past mistakes and let us know how they have overcome? And is it your job as a candidate to point out the splinter in someone else’s eye without first revealing the log in your own?

Wouldn’t it be something if each of you actually pointed out something the current President and the other candidates did right?

Here’s how the apostle Paul puts it:

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

And sorry, using the excuse, “There’s nothing there to find,” just doesn’t cut it.

 

At some point, you and possibly some other folks decided you have the qualities and character to be President of this fine country. You entered the race.

Now it’s time to flip that old adage: Put your mouth where your money is.

May the grace, love and wisdom of God be with you.

Yes, you are here for a reason, but it’s not what you think: Why am I here?

MPresserLogo_BLK (1)
Look familiar?

One idea sparks another. Your writing and God inspired stories touch my soul. They provide wisdom and truth and open up doors. The likes and comments are human features, it’s the words and conversation that stirs my soul.

I oftentimes find myself writing about God’s gifts and calling. It has been a sort of obsession of mine ever since I can remember. And after finding the truth in God’s son, I chased after it even more. And the commercialization of it led to so much dread and defeat. The idol, that thing that you can’t stop thinking about. They are always “situations,” chasing of dreams. I am talking about the gifts and talents you know God gave you. But you think you’re not using them. And your view is so myopic. Because you are a writer, and you are writing right now. 

And so through the inspiration of another Spirit-filled writer, Melanie Jean Juneau and her post Ladislav Zaborksy: Imprisoned for His Catholic Art, I came to realize what God had been teaching me all along, don’t let the gift become your master. 

I find that us creative types especially oftentimes become prisoners of our gifts. The label of  “working” and “full-time” become intertwined with divine desire. I hear this also among the best of friends who hate their jobs and know they are just made for something more “I am suffering, I cannot bear to be here any longer.” 

Welcome to the passion of the Christ.

And I love this excerpt from Melanie’s post:

“While imprisoned, Ladislav felt as if his hands were nailed to the cross because he could not paint but only seek God in the depths of his soul. .. The result of his inner crucifixion meant he no longer fulfilled his own desires but only sought God and His desires.”

Notice he did not say that he felt crucified because he was imprisoned, but rather he felt crucified because he could not paint. And Paul from Just me Being Curious offered such an eye-opening statement on my last post about forgiveness:

“In the daily readings I have there comes up, from time to time, a suggestion to pray for all those who are prisoners of war around the world. And I always nod – and always wonder: why do we think ourselves free simply because we have a computer, a job, a home and a fine “free” life?” 

And Ladislav understood that, and now I do too. We cry out to God because we are still in jobs we don’t like or our talents don’t get us paid. We believe preachers and pastors when they tell us that we have some singular “purpose” or “calling” on our lives that we must continue to seek out day after day. But fear and pain, it is a gentle liar. 

There is only one singular purpose for our lives, and that is to glorify the Lord Jesus in all that we are and all that we do. It is not only in our giftings but also our lack thereof. It is in the hug that we give or the conversation that we have. It is in the minutia. God does not believe in minutia. In every second of every day our lives should be a song and a prayer.

Our inner crucifixion is our reconciliation to the creator moment to moment. It is deeper, way deeper than a NY Times Best Seller or any stadium filled with thousands of congregants. You may think that your purpose is to write, and that certainly may be part of God’s plan. But what if that one post or newsletter or even that one text or email changes the course of life for someone else? It certainly will not make you money or allow you to quit your day job, but it will lead you closer to understanding the role of the creator.

That thing. That thing you want more than anything. That thing you want so bad. It is consuming you. It is overshadowing God. Let it go and watch it fly away. Die to that moment. And then , only then will you be free.

Don’t call yourself a Christian if you can’t yourself forgive

“Start tearing the old man down
Run past the heather and down to the old road
Start turning the grain into the ground Roll a new leaf over”

Omaha- Counting Crows

Forgiveness is not optional. It is not conditional or with parameters. It is not just because we have to, it is because we want to. It is because we have a greater desire to be one with the crucified Christ in order for ourselves to be risen in Spirit. There is no height or width in our forgiveness. It doesn’t look the same for everyone. It is a necessity. It is the entire basis for what we believe.

I’ve heard a lot of “I shouldn’t have to” apologies and “I’m right” and “my pastor says it’s o.k.” I’ve heard every excuse. I have taught a bible study for sexual abuse survivors for which I am one, where I continually preached about our necessity to forgive our abusers. It was gut wrenching and one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. But at the end, oh at the end, it was us that were free.

I have decided to take up Pope Francis’s Year of Mercy as a personal mission. I offer mercy whenever I can. And mercy and forgiveness don’t negate consequences. It only requires we be the love of the Lord, His heart, His hands and his feet. So I sent a reply to a former client who had sent me a Christmas card from prison.

“Believe in Jesus, believe in forgiveness, you can walk with Him even behind those prison walls.”

And an excerpt from his reply:

“I’ve long ago given my life over to Christ. Everyday I grow closer to Him. My journey in this place has been pure hell. But God has always seemed to free me mentally from these walls.”

He hurt someone. He will be in prison until he is a very old man. I tried to help him when he was free. But now I know that he was never free. He was not free until he got to prison. 

There’s nothing you can do or say that will change my mind about Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness. There is no verse you can turn on its head or teaching you could show me that would convince me that Jesus was anything other than forgiveness itself. He was, in the beginning, the word, and in him, there is only life.

Someone hurt my son, and I chose to forgive him. And I chose mercy. I chose to see him through the eyes of Christ. And God forgives me everyday. And so I forgave him. There is nothing to understand except the God that lives inside of me. And although my heart ached, I was at peace… an indescribable peace. And we prayed together for this person. And we talked about God’s forgiveness as a family. And my children learned that God values their pain and the forgiveness that was extended through our hands. And it was impossible to cry when my son said to a grown man, “apology accepted.”

If you’re feeling convicted you should, there’s nothing to be confused about. You can’t call yourself a follower of Jesus if you don’t follow him. 

The crucified Christ lived inside of me today. And He eased my pain. All I felt was His love, for me and for my son. I was Abraham carrying Isaac in obedience to the God I serve. And He, he provided the ram.

I’m Not Very Good at Saying “I Love You”

I received a wonderful comment on The Life Project today from our own paulfg; why was it so wonderful? Because it made me think, always the element that makes a post or a comment great, at least for me. The part that served as the catalyst for me was this:

“Maybe it is why I have an “issue” with the heavy sacrifice, burden and “work” of being a “good Christian”. It is too closely linked (in our hearts and minds and culture and very being) to earning and worth and personal effort. Maybe that is why Love appeals so much as the answer.”

In my reply, I offered this (in part): “Love is the question; now what is the answer?”

I’m not very good at saying “I love you”, if you don’t believe me, ask my wife!

In my Neanderthal male brain, just saying the words is kind of cheap, almost a way out of actually doing something about love; anybody can say it, but how many put it into practice?

This morning, I got up at O-dark-thirty; boy was it ever cold: Brrr…

I went downstairs as I normally do to make breakfast for my wife before she went off to her office for work. When she was ready and came downstairs, her coffee was hot and ready, and her breakfast was awaiting her arrival. I don’t have to this, nobody forces me to do it, and some have even asked why I do it; I do it because I love my wife. It isn’t difficult, it isn’t a hardship, it isn’t a sacrifice of any kind; it is a joy. My wife would probably be just as happy if I just said those magic three words, but serving is so much more of a joy.

I’ve had people express surprise that I do this, saying that it must be a chore; difficult or some kind of a burden, but expressing love is never any of those things, is it?

As for serving our Lord as His followers or servants, I hear a lot of people say that this is a duty, an obligation or a requirement of some kind. I hear this described as difficult, burdensome, work, and most of all, “too hard”. Honestly, I find that difficult to comprehend. That is, of course, unless the person who thinks in these terms is serving God for all of the wrong reasons. Do they serve Him because someone told them that they must do it? Are they trying to earn “points” of some kind? Could it be that they are trying to earn God’s favor?

I think it is so very important that we understand a few things about serving God. First and foremost is that there is nothing we can possibly do to “make” God love us, and even if there were something, we don’t need to make Him love us anyway, since God loved us long before we ever knew about Him; He loved us before we were even born, because that is His nature; He loves His creation, and He created us to love. Second, there are no brownie points to be earned, because God doesn’t play favorites. Third, an argument can be made that we have some kind of duty to serve, but we don’t serve simply because it’s our duty, and finally, nobody can make you do what you don’t want to do; just say no, if that’s what you want to do.

Do you really think that Almighty God takes time out of His busy day to keep time cards?

Frankly, I doubt it, and I’m afraid that none of us are so important that His Kingdom will crumble without our “work”. No, His Kingdom will do just fine if you and I sit on our hands.

So then, why should we even bother?

The answer to that is simple, and it is the same reason that I get up long before dawn to make breakfast for my wife: It’s because I love her. Why bother to serve God?

Because we love Him. Service is a natural response to love, and it is one of the greatest joys associated with love. Thus, I am willing to serve God because doing so is the greatest joy I have ever known. It isn’t a burden, work, too hard or any of that, unless I am doing it to get something in return, in which case I must assess the benefit to be gained against the cost of doing the job, and God simply doesn’t operate like that, for He’s already done it all for me.

There’s one more thing we might consider: Serving God always seems to involve serving other people, and why would that be the case? Because God loves them just as much as He loves me. The result of serving God by serving other people is actually a double joy, for it is the joy of doing something for another person, and the joy of serving God and His Kingdom, and the truth is that God is really the one doing the work, I am only His vessel for doing it. There’s nothing more rewarding in this life.

I’ve done quite a few things over the past half century. I’ve also been to some very interesting places and met some very interesting people; I’ve even made a little bit of history, yet the times in life that provide the most happiness, joy, peace and satisfaction are the times I spend serving God by serving others in a way that advances His purpose.

Work, duty, burden, obligation, difficult, sacrifice?

Hardly! At this point in life, the one thing I can think of that could be described by those words would be for me to be forced to stop serving Him. I agree with paulfg: I’ll go with the love (even if I’m not very good at putting it into mere words.)

Greatness defined…

‘At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”‘ [Matthew 18:1-6]

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

When I was younger, this text mystified me a bit. I mean, on the surface its meaning is obvious… innocence… simplicity… yadda yadda. But when you know children, I mean really get to KNOW children… they can be a real pain. Hence, my confusion.

I mean, frankly, while this seems like a lovely image… have you honestly ever met a “humble” child? Really? I haven’t. Children can be brutal. They clamor for status and primacy. Some of the cruelest people on the face of the earth I’ve ever known have been children.

So… what is Jesus saying here, really?

I’ve finally resolved that for myself, but if your ponderings lead you to a different place, that’s fine, too. Just thought I’d share this.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The disciples are in the time where Jesus is preparing them for His crucifixion. He has told them He is going to be killed, but that He will rise again three days later. He is extremely clear about who He is… Son of Man, Son of God. So, in the midst of sorting these confusing things out, they ask a question only someone in His unique position could answer…

“Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”

Pretty big question. Pretty bold question. I suspect they were expecting a pretty big bold answer. What about you? If you had been standing there listening, or even if you had had the chance to ASK this question, what answer would you expect?

Something like, “He who does the will of the Father, He is the greatest…”

Or, “He who upholds the Kingdom in righteousness, He is the greatest…”

Or, “He who speaks the truth of God, He is the greatest…”

Right? I would. Or perhaps they were thinking of all the history… the patriarchs, the prophets, the judges, the kings, King David. Perhaps they expected Him to name one of those.

But no. As per usual for Him, He does something totally unexpected. He calls a little boy to Him from among the bystanders, and has him stand in front of the disciples like an artist’s model. He answers them in a very odd way. He does NOT tell them WHO is the greatest in the Kingdom. Instead (again consistent with how He usually does things), He tells them HOW to BECOME the greatest in the kingdom. (Perhaps that’s really what they wanted to know in the first place, bless their competitive little hearts.)

“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

WHAT?

I bet they didn’t see THAT coming! Remember, they’d just shortly before been at the Transfiguration. Peter, James, and John had seen Jesus, Moses, and Elijah appear before their very eyes, and take counsel with Jesus. Peter wanted to make a shrine on that mountaintop. So I am more than certain that when they inquired about heaven’s greatest soul, they weren’t expecting some little kid in the street!

So what was so special about kids? Or… what was so special about THIS little kid? What do kids have, that we don’t have? Why does Jesus use words like “converted” and “become like” as He points to this boy? How did this boy so dramatically “humble himself” that Jesus uses him as a model for the greatest in heaven?

Only in recent years have I figured it out. What do kids have, that we don’t? What did this little boy show, that we lose over time and must be transformed to recapture?

Trust

Children raised by loving healthy parents, learn “Trust” from the cradle. At least, trust of their parents. They learn to trust that they are provided for… mom and dad will make sure they have something to eat. They learn to trust that they are safe and protected… mom and dad will make sure others don’t hurt them, that they don’t get lost or injured. They learn to trust that they are valued, treasured, affirmed… they will carry on the family legacy, delighting the heart of their father, bringing joy to their mother.

As trust grows, obedience grows apace. When a child is secure that mom and dad seek only their good, their provision, safety, and security… parental directives are far more likely to be seen in that light. The child may wonder, or even ask, “Why?”. But the question is more likely to come even as the child is assenting and obeying, as opposed to the suspicious argument and immobility of the child who has learned NOT to trust.

Are there such children? Untrusting children? Those who have learned to be insecure, suspicious, perhaps rebellious and disobedient? Oh, yes. Both kinds of children surround us all the time. We adults, parents and others, can send a child down either of these two paths. Jesus tells us how in the lament that follows:

And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;  but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Jesus didn’t pose as His model just a “little boy”, but rather a “TRUSTING little boy”. Why do I say this? How do I know this? Because the text says Jesus “called a child to Himself and set him before them“. Let’s see… Jesus calls on a stranger boy in a crowd, as He talks Kingdom-of-God-stuff with His disciples… AND HE COMES!

[Pause]

Think that through a minute. So… imagine yer a kid in the street. Maybe you’re alone. Maybe you’re passing by with mom and dad. Maybe you’re standing there with them listening to this (now) notorious or famous Preacher-Guy everyone’s talking about… and He looks your way with a simple, “Please come here a moment…” What do YOU do?

Ever been called up onstage for a Magician… or a hypnotist? Ever been there when this happened to a friend? It’s SCARY! But this kid COMES!

Why? Because the kid trusts Him and obeys Him. OR… perhaps it’s more accurate to say… this kid obeys Him BECAUSE he has been taught to trust adults in the first place.

This boy obeys, yielding to Jesus’ invitation and will, TRUSTING that nothing bad will happen to Him because of that trust. Or, he may have trusted that his loved ones nearby would make sure nothing bad happened to him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Gentle Reader, I believe we’ve lost that capacity. I think the disciples, like ‘most all adults, had lost that capacity. We have to weigh the alternatives, look at it from both sides, consider the pros and cons, and come to a reasoned decision about what to do.

Want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Want to attain greatness there?

Gotta find another way to live. Gotta rediscover “trust”. Gotta get “reborn”, and then “grow up all over again”, reestablishing the sort of trust for God that we once knew as little one’s with our loving parents. When we do, we discover that God will ALWAYS provide for us, ALWAYS keep us safe, and ALWAYS cling to us as the delight of His heart and apple of His eye.

When we honor that trust in one another, dealing uprightly, sacredly, honestly with one another… we fulfill the promise of His last words on this. Sometimes, our trust is abused and we are betrayed. Sometimes, even though we walk  in trust honoring Him, we will be hurt by others. It is not our role to protect from that, or avenge it. Our part is to forgive. But Jesus is unmistakably clear that when we honor our Kingdom citizenship, living in trust and transparency, the King Himself, Our Father, will deal with those who abuse our trust.

Jesus closes with His lament of such foolish people…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Good news? Bad news? Well, it is certainly unexpected news… do you aspire to greatness in the Kingdom? Then aspire to Trust and Reliance on the unknown will of God. Trust Him enough to obey. Treat others as equally sacred children. And as gradually our trust transforms us into yielding to Him (as we lose our self-protective fear), watch what happens!

Confession with a Chuckle

So sad, but true. Here, in a 3 minute video, is a pretty accurate recap of the first 3/4 of my ministry life. I was a “fixer”, a “designer”, a “planner”, and “program author”. Could write all the manuals, teaching points, charts and illustrations, and bullet lists for any conceivable ministry effort. I was often lost in paperwork for days at a time.

Jesus laughed at me a lot. Nothing wrong with my heart, just sort of had my priorities a bit confused. I used to believe in “interruptions”. I don’t anymore. There’s just “opportunities”.

How about you and those you serve with? Which do you believe in?

“Interruptions to the Work of Ministry”

or

“Opportunities to Minister” ?

How do we look at an unexpected expression of need? I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did! Grace to thee!

Defining Ministry

In today’s world, we think of ministry as a sort of professional occupation; so and so has a “ministry” or so and so is a “minister”. A “ministry” must be some kind of an organization with offices, budgets and employees or volunteers. It must be headed up by a professional minister; the boss, the big cheese…

Jesus had an earthly ministry for 3 ½ years; we read all about it in the Gospels. Do you recall His office address? Was He some kind of professional “bigwig”?

No.

Since Jesus is our model, maybe we should ask ourselves if there is a difference between His “ministry” and the modern concept we are all familiar with. Jesus told us more than once that He was here to do His Father’s will; we know that He had a great purpose which was to glorify his Father by accomplishing His Father’s purpose on the cross. Just looking at these few words, familiar to all of us, we can see that the ministry of Jesus was to serve His Father’s will and purpose; how did He do this?  In all that He said and did, Jesus served His Father by serving people in a way that achieved the Father’s will: Jesus was God’s servant in addition to being God’s Son.

We shouldn’t be surprised by this, since our words “minister” and “ministry” come from a Greek word meaning “servant”. Thus, a minister is a servant and a ministry is a service. What purpose does this service fulfill? It fulfills God’s purpose, which is to raise up ministers (servants) of God. Jesus put it this way:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:18-20

Simply stated, a disciple is one who knows what the Master knows and who does what the Master does. Our Master is Jesus Christ, and we know what He taught His disciples from the Gospel accounts, and from the truths revealed to us in Scripture. What did Jesus do? He served God by serving others in a way that accomplished God’s purpose, which was to establish His Kingdom on the earth. What do we do? We serve God by serving others in a way that achieves God’s purpose which is the building up of His Kingdom by making disciples of Jesus Christ.

This may take many forms as He leads us forward, but it always comes back to serving God by serving others, and what greater service is there to God than building His Kingdom by making disciples? What greater service is there to another human being than to lead them from darkness into light and building them up into the Kingdom of our Lord? In fact, this is the greatest act of love that there is, and it is what Biblical ministry is all about.

True Love – What Does It Look Like?

Love is a word that, I believe, has lost something along the way.  I LOVE peanut butter and chocolate.  I LOVE the beach.  I LOVE the sun and I LOVE the rain.  I LOVE that guy because he looks good in jeans or that girl, etc. and so on.  You get the point.  That’s not the kind of love I want.  I want to be loved back.  Peanut butter and chocolate do not love me back.

As a Christian, I know what the bible says love is God is love.  I believe that.  But what does that mean?  To me, it means He is made of love, He is made to love and He is made to be loved.  It’s not a light, on the surface kind of human love.  It’s a love that goes so deep that I cannot see the bottom.  It’s a sacrificial love.  That is because I believe there is no bottom, no end to His love.

I believe that the living God gave the ultimate sacrifice for me, His son, Jesus Christ.  I believe the trinity of God, The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit lives  inside  me.  Therefore I should be full of love.  But am I?

There is the beauty of LOVE.  God gave us all a free will.  I can choose.  I chose Him and all He has for me……… but I fail daily.  Heck, hourly, by the second.  I am a frail human being.  I’m not condemned for my failure in this lack of love – although other humans like to condemn me – but God does not.  He still loves me.

I can on and on with what I believe, but the point I’m trying to make is – what does it look like to be loved?

I don’t think I need to agree with everything my spouse of forty-one years does.  He doesn’t agree with everything I like or believe.  It would be so boring if we agreed on everything.  Probably wouldn’t have lasted forty-one years!  But we love each other.  Through all kinds of crap and flowery things.  Through sickness and health, through poorness and richness.  Through great loss and great new life.  We choose to love each other.  No matter how mad I get – and I do – I choose to love him

Now, why this post?  I really want to love others.  I want to look at the guy or gal who is full of hate and anger and totally thinks I’m out in left field — I want to look at them and love them.  Love them no matter what.  It is the hardest thing for me to do.  To love someone who doesn’t love me back.  Or even like me.  But I have it within me to be able to do that.

Baby steps.  One step at a time.  Pick myself up, minute by minute, and try again.  To love.  To love as I am loved.

Here’s a fresh pumpkin pie out of the oven – made with honey and love.  Have a piece with me and let’s talk about love.

Honey Pumpkin Pie
Honey Pumpkin Pie

Enjoy!

wingedprisms

Common Unity

WelcomeThe first use of the Greek term koinonia in the New Testament is found in the book of Acts 2:42,44-45, where a description is given of the everyday life shared by the early followers of Jesus:

The community continually committed themselves to learning what the apostles taught them, gathering for fellowship, breaking bread, and praying. There was an intense sense of togetherness among all who believed; they shared all their material possessions in trust. They sold any possessions and goods that did not benefit the community and used the money to help everyone in need. They were unified as they worshiped at the temple day after day. In homes, they broke bread and shared meals with glad and generous hearts.

Koinonia is a word complex and rich with meaning, difficult to translate into English. Yes, it is community; but it is so much more.

It is sharing of tangible goods so no one has need. It is sharing of self, the forming of relationships such that self – opinions, agendas, positions – never come first – in fact are never at issue. God and others’ needs come first always. There is an ease and joy of generosity, of giving grace, of encouragement. It is an active community, forming common unity. It is inviting everyone to the table, ensuring no one is left hungry or thirsty; no one is left standing outside the door.

What is this Common Unity? Christ’s love.

How is common unity afforded? With the intention to promote dialogue and discussion, not dominance, drama or disapproval.

With the commitment to provide safety inside the all-embracing covenant of Christ.

With an invitation to take a seat at the table, particularly if you have played musical chairs in a religious arena where there are never enough chairs to go around.

There is something missing from koinonia. There is no finger-pointing, no condemnation, no gossip. When Scripture is read or studied, it is for the uplifting message it brings.

When you see or hear Bible verses I pray you never, ever see or hear them used as weapons. Ever. They are not intended to be used as rules or regulations. They are intended to be written and spoken as reminders of the voice of Jesus; the voice of love, mercy and grace. Because that’s how Jesus read them. That’s how he intended them to be used. That’s what his parables were all about.

It was Jesus who said, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’”

Jesus interpreted for the priests what God had told the Old Testament prophet Hosea: mercy is more important than following religious rituals or law. Community and relationship; love, mercy and compassion are always more important than the letter of law.

True koinonia embraces what Jesus embraced. True koinonia welcomes all with hospitality and grace. True koinonia understands we have each been made a masterpiece, by God, and He will continue to perfect us and love us unconditionally until we see Him face to face.