Read John 13:31-33.
To His Little Children, He Said . . . Continue reading
Myra Thompson, a relative of one of the Charleston shooting victims:
“I forgive him and my family forgives him. But we would like him to take this opportunity to repent” and “give your life to the one who matters most: Christ.”
Powerful Words of Forgiveness, Washington Post, June 19, 2015
There’s This Thirty-Something
There’s this thirty-something in my life who is always asking me these great questions about the Bible: provocative questions, hard questions, but very interesting questions. And it’s caused me to look at the Bible differently. I read and hear so much about how the Bible is restrictive. But this person with the questions has got me thinking about the freedom God has given us. Freedom to make our own choices. Have you ever considered what’s not illegal in the Old Testament? For instance, prostitution is not illegal in the Old Testament, and neither is polygamy. I’m not saying that either of those are good, I’m just saying neither of those is illegal in the civic code given to Israel in the Old Testament. People are free to engage in these activities without legal repercussions, though the spiritual ramifications and life consequences are still there (see Proverbs 23:27 and 29:3).
The point is, God is radical when it comes to our freedom. He wants us to have the freedom to do what we want, even when it’s wrong. And it’s really made me look at my own ideas about what God wants me to do concerning the behavior of others. Because sometimes I want other people to do what I want them to do, and I can get frustrated when they don’t.
Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there. Maybe you want to spend money a certain way but your wife wants to do it her way. Or maybe you want more time to recreate with the guys, but she has other ideas. Or maybe it’s just deciding what to do for dinner (not that this question would ever result in a disagreement). Whatever it is, our perspective changes when we Continue reading
Don’t Mess With Me!
When I was new to the position of Captain there was this older more senior firefighter on the same shift. He hadn’t made Captain yet, and he liked to take shots at me. I handled it either by ignoring him or by simply taking his digs good-naturedly. Until one day, a well meaning supervisor shared that he was concerned I didn’t realize this older firefighter was putting me down.
Man, did that ever mess with my head.
Instead of giving the older firefighter the benefit of the doubt, Continue reading
I went to this wedding once where the person who took charge of planning the wedding had a beautiful vision for it. It was going to happen outside and it was going to be done in a very particular way so as to make the setting spectacular. The only thing was, everything was geared for outdoors. The venue was an outdoor venue, so the wedding and reception depended on dry calm weather. And whenever the person who was planning this thing was asked what she would do if it rained, she simply said: It won’t rain.
Well guess what?
A storm came through, and it rained.
And the weather outside wasn’t the only storm happening that day. With no indoor venue or arrangements made whatsoever, the wedding planner just shut down. Panic and pandemonium ensued as the bride, the bride’s mother, and many others frantically attempted to put something together.
Then in stepped these two women who were friends of the bride’s mother. In a very gentle and gracious manner they just sort of, took over. They found a gym they could use at a Christian high school. They figured out how to arrange the outdoor tables and chairs to accommodate the guests, even though the gym was much smaller than expected. They found a place for the caterer to set up. They improvised with the decorations designed for the outdoor venue. They were amazing.
It wasn’t long after these two engaged the problem that the storm subsided and a calm came over the bride and the rest of the wedding party.
How Jesus Loved People
When the disciples took Jesus across the sea of Galilee and the storm came, there was panic and pandemonium. The disciples in the boat were freaking out–because of a storm–so Jesus calmed it.
How to Love Like Jesus
Jesus loved the disciples by calming their storm. You and I can’t command the wind and the waves, but there are other storms we can calm.
Just like Jesus, God has put you in a boat with a group of people. They’re the ones in your family, in your workplace, in your circle of friends. And just like the disciples in the boat, they’ll experience storms. And sometimes, like the two ladies at the wedding, you’ll have the power to calm those storms.
When someone you know is freaked out, maybe you’re just the right person to bring them peace. Maybe their storm is a computer that’s down, or a car that won’t start, or the end of a relationship, or the loss of a job.
You just might be uniquely qualified to calm the wind and the waves.
Jesus calmed the storm for the disciples.
When you see an opportunity to calm someone’s storm, calm it.
You can too.
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. -Mark 4:37-39
[Image via Green Destiny – Creative Commons]
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
How Jesus Loved People
Jesus loved people by going somewhere. He went to nearby villages throughout Galilee, preaching and driving out demons.
But what about before that?
What did He do to prepare Himself — to preach and drive out demons?
Love Like Jesus
I confess, I’ve had many gods over my lifetime. For most of the time my kids were growing up my kids were my god, then when they left the nest my wife was my god, then tennis, then my real estate portfolio, then my job. Of course none of these things are evil in any way, but each had a place as the ultimate in my life, ahead of the God of Jesus.
Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. …his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
If everyone were looking for you, where would they find you?
Would they find you away from the house, in a solitary place, praying, or reading God’s scriptures?
Or would they find you with family, or on the golf course, or playing that online game you’re hooked on, or on Facebook, or watching football?
If people wouldn’t find you going deep in your relationship with God, in the way Jesus did, people won’t find you loving people like Jesus did either.
Think this through with me: If the Son of God, the Savior of the world, the Messiah Himself carved out deep times with His God before serving Him, how much more do you and I need to?
A person will carve out time to spend with his God. The only question is: Who or what is your God?
What is it for you? Is it family, or golf, or that online game, or Twitter, or Facebook, or ESPN? Whatever your god is, I’m guessing you carve out time for it, right?
Or is your God the same God as Jesus’ God. The way to tell is to take an honest look at where your time is spent, where your energy goes, where your money winds up.
Your God is where you invest yourself.
To love people, Jesus first loved His God, by investing Himself in His God, in the morning, in a solitary place, One on One with Him.
Before you can love like Jesus, you must love God first, in the way Jesus did.
To love people like Jesus do what He did. Go to a solitary place, be alone with God, just you and He. Pray to Him, pray with Him, read His words written to you.
Then go and love people.
You’ll be amazed at the difference.
…Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:16)
How Jesus Loved People
Jesus was on his way to Galilee when He encountered the woman at the well. It should have been just a short break for water and maybe a little food before continuing on to His destination, but that’s not how it worked out.
His Holy Spirit led conversation there at the well, led to the people of that Samaritan town to urge Him to stay. So, He did. For two days Jesus shared the words of eternal life with the Samaritan townspeople.
How to Love Like Jesus — Living Water and the Fluid Life
I love the way Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as living water because when we’re led by the Holy Spirit, our lives often become fluid. (John 7:37-39)
I used to live a life that was just the opposite. I was scheduled to the hilt. I scheduled activity after activity, meeting after meeting, appointment after appointment, both professionally and personally. My motivation was sincere. I wanted to be as productive as possible. But you know what? I left no room for the Holy Spirit to direct my life. How could He? I didn’t have a minute to spare.
Over scheduling yourself is a great way to kill the Holy Spirit’s influence in your life, and His corresponding fruit, which is love.
Jesus didn’t live that way. Here He is, the most important person on the planet, on a trip to Galilee, and, following the direction of the Holy Spirit, He takes two whole days out of His schedule to talk with the Samaritans.
Can you imagine someone important today, say a candidate for president, spontaneously taking two days out of his schedule to talk to one small group of ordinary people? It would never happen. Most people I observe in our culture today don’t leave room to live a fluid, Spirit filled life. They like to keep busy. They have things to do. And when the Holy Spirit presents opportunity, they usually don’t respond, because there’s nearly always a previous commitment. Stop and talk with the lonely awkward guy at church? Can’t, gotta lunch date right after. Share the Lord with the newly divorced guy at work? Can’t, gotta make softball practice. Invite the unsaved friend to Bible study? Can’t, too much already going on that day. This doesn’t describe a life led by the Holy Spirit.
A life led by the Holy Spirit is a life that’s flexible, free, and fluid. When you choose to live such a life, you’re in for both good news, and bad.
The good news is, if you live this flexible life, you can love people like Jesus did. Availability, flexibility, fluidity translates into opportunity for the Holy Spirit to direct you to love people. To love people like Jesus loved people.
The Bad News
The bad news is, some people don’t deal well with spontaneity. When you live this way, you’ll be misunderstood. Some will say you lack discipline. Some will even think you’re flaky. Some will become upset with you. That can be tough to take. Especially when some of those people are people you care about. Some might come from your church. Some might even come from your own family. It’s absolutely essential you respond to those people in love. And I think the more intimate time you spend with God, in His word, and in prayer, the better you’ll handle those who misunderstand your Spirit led life.
In the end though, it’s worth it. Yes you’ll come under criticism for what some will perceive to be a disregard for structure, but the fruit that’s born makes it all worth it. Look what happened when Jesus loved this way, many of the Samaritans from that town believed.
So to love like Jesus, live a life that’s flexible, free, and fluid.
You can too.
The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.
1 Corinthians 2:14
Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
How Jesus Loved People:
When Nicodemus came to Him Jesus referred back to the story in the Old Testament when the Israelites were traveling through the wilderness, and they began complaining. They complained about the food (manna), they complained about Moses, and they complained about God.
In response, the Lord sent venomous snakes among the Israelites, and many were bitten and died. “We sinned…” the Israelites said to Moses. “Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.”
So Moses prayed and the Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived. (Numbers 21:4-9)
Jesus told Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”
Jesus tells Nicodemus that He, Jesus, must be lifted up in the same way as that brass snake. But not so people can be saved from snake bites, but so people can be saved forever, eternally!
How to Love Like Jesus:
Jesus loved Nicodemus enough to share the truth about how to attain eternal life. You and I must love people enough to do the same. Think about it: you know the way to eternal life, and you know people who don’t. God would have you share what you know! That person’s eternal life is at stake.
So be sensitive to those who might have questions like Nicodemus did.
Look for a quiet opportunity, maybe at night, like Jesus did.
Recognize the role of God’s Spirit, as Jesus did.
Then share the truth, about the way to eternal life like Jesus did.
Perhaps you’re knowledgeable about the Bible. Maybe you’ve been blessed with the opportunity to receive instruction from the Lord. Flesh gives birth to flesh, and Spirit gives birth to Spirit, but when a baby needs to be birthed, and the mother can’t deliver, there are problems. In the same way, if you’re not birthing spiritually, you’ll have problems. Over and over and over I see people who are saved, people who are Christians, who know God’s word, and believe in Jesus, but they aren’t sharing the way to eternal life as Jesus did with Nicodemus. Over time problems develop. It’s as though they’re breathing in but never breathing out. When someone does that physically, they become faint. When someone does that spiritually, they become spiritually faint. They lose spiritual strength. There’s a lack of responsiveness in their relationship with God. A spiritual sluggishness creeps in.
Don’t become that person.
Find a way, to share the way to eternal life, like Jesus did. Talk with someone you suspect has questions, when things get quiet, maybe at night. Ask for the Holy Spirit’s help.
Or make a phone call.
Or send an email.
Or start a blog.
But find a way.
Do it out of love for God.
Do it out of love for people.
Do it because you love yourself, because you’ll be blessed when you share.
But do it.