Archive for the Love Category

Compassionate Advice

Posted in Love, Scripture on January 6, 2015 by nmpreach

The last few months, I’ve been convicted to have more compassion for others.  My wife and I were having the discussion again regarding compassion and she asked, “So what makes you think you’re not compassionate?”  My answer: “I just want to see people the way Jesus saw them.  Were there people who pushed His “buttons”?  Most likely.  Yet He never sinned.  He was never cynical regarding their circumstances.  He wasn’t short with them.  In fact, He often took a longer time with those who were struggling with something.”  Sadly, that’s not the case for me.  I desire deeply to love the way Jesus loved.

I had another thought regarding compassion.  Too often, many of us view compassion, love, etc. as speaking into another’s life.  For those of us who have a gift of encouragement or discernment, we’re quick to offer what we would do in the given situation.  At first glance, that seems commendable.  In other words, when we counsel we rationalize it as ministry.  But is that the case?

The writer of Ecclesiastes seems to be clear.  “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…” (3:1, 7 ESV).  It seems to me we act upon the latter while disregarding the former.  We speak quickly but are rarely silent.

An example might be helpful.  A man named Job is described as wealthy before losing virtually everything.  He was considered “a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil” (Job 1:8).  Yet Job experiences loss and extreme suffering.  Job’s friends eventually arrive and perhaps we expect them to solve the issue or at least minimize the pain.  But that’s not the case.

Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, …They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him…And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great (Job 2:11, 13 ESV, emphasis mine).

No one spoke a word to him – for at least seven days.  That’s sympathy?  It appears so.  Sympathy.  Compassion.  Love.

Once Job speaks and describes his pain, his friends begin to offer advice.  But if you know the narrative, you know their theology and the advice they give is flawed.  Job remains on the defensive and eventually has his own dialogue with God.  It’s as if his friends would have been more helpful if they would not have spoken.  Sit with me.  Be here.  Show your concern.  But maybe it’s better you don’t speak.

Here’s the point:  We’re quick to speak because we equate busyness with good things.  What if we were just there?  What if we showed our concern and support by sitting and saying nothing?  What if we thought it was okay to say, “I don’t know why, but I know God is faithful.”?  What if we really believed God is good all of the time?  Sure, there are times we should speak.  But there are times when speaking is not compassion, nor sympathy or love.

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Love. Really!

Posted in Discipleship, Love on December 3, 2014 by nmpreach

What does it mean to love God?  You might be thinking, “Come on!  That’s an easy one.  We should love God with all of our heart – with all of our mind – with all of our soul.”  Right.  But what does it mean to love God?  On the other hand, you might be thinking, “This must be a trick question.”  I can assure you it’s not.  For some time, I’ve tried to consider what it means to love God.  Maybe you have some thoughts.  Consider these:

If I love God, shouldn’t it change the way I live?

If I consider myself a follower of Christ, shouldn’t I be different from when I wasn’t a follower?

1 John 3:1-3 reads,

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.  The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.  Beloved we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.  And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.  (ESV)

Perhaps there’s a few things to consider from this text:

1)  God’s love for us despite who we are.

2)  The phrase “children of God.”  Let that sink in for a bit.

3)  Followers of Christ are to be different from the world.  At this point, I would ask you to consider the original question.  Take the time to read the bold text above.

4)  Becoming like Christ is a process.  It doesn’t happen over night.  In fact, culmination happens “when he appears.”

5)  Following Christ compels us to become more like Him.

Of course there are other things to notice.  But that’s a start.  I have other texts and thoughts in mind.  But maybe a conversation can begin.

Community, Sin, and Love

Posted in Community, Love, Sin on October 28, 2014 by nmpreach

Community

Most of us know the story of Creation and The Fall.

God creates. Everything good. God creates man in His image. Everything very good.

“Then the LORD God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him'” (Gen. 2:18, ESV, emphasis mine).

Don’t miss what’s going on here.  Being alone without a helpmate was less than God intended.

God creates woman from man. A helpmate.  Man excited.

“Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man'” (Gen. 2:23, ESV).

The narrator of Genesis then offers readers an interesting declaration. Read it slowly and as many times as needed.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24, ESV). Other translations use words such as cleaved, united, or joined, where the English Standard Version uses the phrase “hold fast.”  The point the narrator is making is they were in communion.  They had a relationship with one another and with God. Enter the serpent.

Sin

Serpent offers doubt and accuses God of wrong doing.  Woman rebelled and ate from the tree.  Man did likewise.

Everything changes!  Shame and guilt arrive.  Man blames woman.  Woman blames serpent.  God is heart-broken.

The communion once enjoyed by the first family was destroyed in a single second.  God tells the woman in part, “…Your desire shall be for your husband” (Gen. 3:16, ESV).  But this is no longer as it was.  Read on!

“…and he shall rule over you” (ibid).  Sin changes everything.  The narrator now describes an authoritarian relationship that didn’t exist prior to sin.  But it didn’t stop there.  Man and woman are forced from the presence of God.  Walking with Him on a daily basis is no longer possible.

The Apostle Paul writes of sin, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10-12, ESV).

It’s obvious communion/relationship was part of God’s original plan – communion between God and man and between man and man.  However, sin destroyed the innocence of community.  The consequences of sin include a severed relationship between man and God and constant struggle between mankind for relationship.

Love

The question becomes, “Is there anyway to restore communion/relationship as God intended?”  In other words, “What would it take to walk with God daily or love one another with no boundaries?” That’s the process we call sanctification.  Loving as God loves means becoming more like Jesus.  As we become closer to God and His character, loving those around us becomes second nature.  That said, it’s crazy to think we can love our brother without loving God first.  We know love only because God loved us (1 John 4:10).

God created.  Everything as intended.  Man screws it up.  Jesus offers restoration.   Man chooses!

Love? Really? (2)

Posted in Love on November 6, 2013 by nmpreach

This is the second in a series of posts concerning love.  The first may be found here.

I don’t know what I expected after posting yesterday.  On one hand, I expected to hear from those who define love as accepting whomever and whatever.  After all, some equate love with enabling.  I realize they wouldn’t say that out loud.  But it’s true.  To love – in their mind – means to accept all things/people.  Tough love would never be considered, because with human ears, it sounds harsh.

On the other hand is covenant love.  The operative word is covenant.  Covenant means more than a promise.  It entails responsibility.  Let me say it this way: covenant love means that I put my wants/desires (read selfishness) aside for the other person.  Over and over again in Scripture, we read of God’s covenant love for His people.  Jesus gives up divinity to show this kind of love (Phil 2).  He knew His mission was to offer His life for all people.  When restoring Peter, Jesus says Peter’s responsibility is to love the sheep with a love that is despite how they act.  It’s what we call agape love.

Perhaps the best example is marriage.  When two people enter into a marriage agreement, if covenant love isn’t understood, chances are the marriage will be another failed statistic.  It really means something to say, “I’ll love you for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, until death do us part.”  In other words, it doesn’t matter what you do,  I CHOOSE TO LOVE.  I take my responsibility seriously.  All too often, though, people stand before a judge and say they’ve grown apart, have irreconcilable differences, etc.  Truth is, they don’t understand covenant love.  Put two selfish people in close proximity and watch what happens!  It’s too easy in our world to give up and quit on your relationship, your responsibilities, or your character.  Of course there are other relationships other than marriage that should include this kind of love.

One more thought: Not every relationship should include covenant love.  There are relationships in life that don’t move beyond casual acquaintances.  Tim Keller calls these consumer relationships.  This might include your butcher, the florist, etc.  You have a relationship with them, but it’s never going to move to covenant love.  There’s limited investment.

It’s the covenant love that I think we mis-define, fail to understand, or take for granted.  After all, responsibility takes an effort.

Love? Really?

Posted in Love, Scripture on November 5, 2013 by nmpreach

You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?…And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?  Matthew 5:43-47 ESV

I have to be honest.  I struggle with this.  So if you’re reading, help me out!  I don’t struggle with the reading of the text.  I’ve done that many times.  What I struggle with is, so what does it mean?  I mean, love your enemies?  Here is what I specifically struggle with:

1.  My enemy doesn’t have my best interest in mind.

2.  In fact, my enemy wants to do me harm.

3.  Harm comes in a variety of ways: physical harm, emotional harm, spiritual harm.

4.  So what does it mean to love?

Here’s where I’m at.  In other words, you might ask me six months from now, and I’ll think otherwise.  But for now:

1.  Jesus says to love.  I need to define that and obey.

2.  If my enemy wants to do me harm, why would I “hang out?”

3.  I can love from a distance. (This is where the rub is.)

Paul and Barnabas separated over a disagreement (Acts 15).  Paul tells the church in Corinth, “…deliver this man to Satan…”  Where’s the love and grace there?

If we live by What glorifies God? it makes a huge difference.  In other words, why stay in a relationship that is unhealthy?  Hurtful?  etc.  Relationships take trust.  And once that trust is betrayed, it must be regained.  Again, what glorifies God?

So there you have it.  I believe you can love from a distance.  One can pray (a great display of love) for someone from a distance.  But to continue to place one’s self in unhealthy situations, isn’t just foolish.  It doesn’t glorify God.

So push back.  What are your thoughts?  Agreements?  Disagreements?  Tell me why.

Created For Community

Posted in Community, Love on October 23, 2013 by nmpreach

Those of you who know me at all, know what I believe about relationships.  The first book (outside the Bible of course) in which God began to reveal to me my need for others was Stanley Grenz’s Created For Community.  Although I read the book over ten years ago, I still refer to it from time to time.  In my opinion, Grenz, as we say in the Southwest, “hits the nail on the head.”

Life is not meant to be lived alone.  We need each other.

I can’t number the times I’ve preached on the idea of community/relationships.  The Bible is full of texts that speak to this truth.  And yet, the longer I’m in full-time ministry, the more I realize in myself and see in others the challenge to be intentional with relationships.  In other words, I must choose to love.  I must walk with others – those like me, and those not like me.

Most likely, we’re all familiar with Jesus summarizing the commandments:  Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself  (Mt. 22:37-39).  Most of us, have no problem with the first command.  It’s that one about our neighbor or brother that we struggle.  “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ (Lk 10:29).  Hear that?  How often to we attempt to escape the second command?

Grenz makes the point that Christian belief should lead to Christian action.  Much more to say about that in another post.  But think about it!  What you believe is only half of the battle.  Now what?  You can say you love.  Show me!  Jesus prayed for unity for a reason (Jn 17).  Ted Gossard has some great thoughts at Jesus Community.

Here’s another thought.  God has a relationship with man until things are turned upside down.  “But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?’ And he said, ‘I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.’ He said, ‘Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Gen 3:9-11)  That division caused by man affected all relationships.

And as long as we live separate from God and from one another, we never experience the life God intended.  Satan attempts to convince us we don’t need one another.  Our society adds to the lie of individualism.  The guilt we experience over sin causes us to hide from one another (and in our mind we hide from God).  It never works out.

I firmly believe when we understand a bit about grace and begin to live as gracious people, it’s much easier to walk in relationship.  Let’s commit to do that.  Let’s agree to lose the masks, act as if everything is alright, and attempt to fool one another.  We both know it’s not right!  Let’s not listen to the enemy and walk alone.  You need people – even those much different from you.  It’s what makes a family.  It’s what God intended.

A Neighbor

Posted in Love on September 26, 2013 by nmpreach

The text is from the Gospel of Luke.  It’s part of the travel narrative (Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem) and speaks specifically to those unlike us.

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law?  How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”  But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”  10:25-29 ESV

If you’re not aware, the account happens in a place called Samaria.  Samaritans and Jews hated each other, and had for years.  With that knowledge, it’s interesting that Jesus would have the conversation about neighbors.  It’s not coincidence!

We want our neighbors to be like us, to act like us, dress like us, talk like us – be us!  And when they’re not like us, we wonder about our neighbors, not to mention they wonder about us as well.

But he, desiring to justify himself…

How often do I want to choose my neighbor?  How often do I want to care for those like me?  How often do I become frustrated with those less like me?  The answer to all three questions is much too often.  Maybe we shouldn’t worry about perception.  We should do the right thing.  One of my favorite authors (Eugene Peterson) writes, “We feel the need for justification only when we sense that we are not quite in the right.”

Jesus answers the question with a  story, a parable.  A man was robbed and left for dead (not uncommon in the land).  What’s interesting is a priest and a Levite pass him without offering aid.  Maybe they don’t have time.  Perhaps there’s a kid playing in a football game.  Maybe it’s a Bible study.  Nevertheless, they don’t stop.  But a Samaritan, a person hated, a “half-breed”, had compassion on him.  The Samaritan treated his wounds, provided shelter, and even offered to take care of the bill at the inn.  Jesus said the one who was kind (the Samaritan) is the true neighbor.

Notice Jesus didn’t become confrontational or chastise the man for the question.  Rather he answers in a way that causes the man to think and answer his own question.  Isn’t that the way we learn the best?  Conviction is long-lived when I look in the mirror and see truth for what it is.  But when someone else approaches me, often times I become defensive.  How wise Jesus was!  We don’t often want our questions to be answered by another question.  But maybe that’s the thing we need.  And it seems to me that Jesus did that well.  Notice Jesus didn’t define neighbor.  He provided a story which the man was allowed to define neighbor himself.

Here’s the deal: Love God.  Love others.  We attempt to love God, but are quick to judge others.  In other words, we don’t love.  For the priest or the Levite in the parable, perhaps they thought the man laying on the side of the road surely brought it on himself.  If he would only have planned better, traveled at a different time of day, yada yada yada.  But they didn’t love.  And to love God, we must love others – even those we don’t want to be our neighbors.  After all, I don’t choose my neighbors.  They’re chosen for me.  And for you as well.

I wonder if the lawyer went away and loved.  Do you?  Will I?