Word blocks

The gift of our words

Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

Facebook is an amazing reflection of the relationship between the voice in ones head, and voiced expressions. Statuses update regularly with statements about how old, or young, the cashier at the grocery thought that the writer was, a comment that someone’s boss made, and what someone’s teacher said about their child. Various surface interactions don’t often require our full attention, but at times, they consume our full attention and tend to leave us thinking about the exchange of conversation. Later, we facebook about it:

“I can’t believe I got carded at Publix…”

“My son’s teacher told me that I look tired- I must look terrible today!”

“The Walmart cashier asked me when I was due; the baby is 4 months old!”

Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.

What we say, although seemingly fleeting, often lasts much longer than we realize. I think that we can all relate to an unwelcome harsh word that sticks with us longer than we would like, or the blessing of an uplifting kind word that sticks with us for days, months or even years.

Words that we speak can give someone the discouragement necessary for them to give up on trusting God for something big.

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

In fact, planting something positive in someone’s life is one of the best ways that you can ever pay it forward. We don’t easily forget the kind things said to us, or on our behalf. The blessing of positive words can be life affirming and can arm a person with confidence and security needed to walk with God, even when it is scary or uncomfortable.

Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle- Plato

Give someone a beautiful gift today by speaking positively into their life. Give somebody something wonderful to facebook about!

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Enduring limbo

Limbo, in my opinion, is one of the hardest human states to be in. It’s the last place I want to be.  Instead of grieving a loss, limbo is about angst.  It’s about the struggle within the loss of control that we have that makes it seemingly ever so hard. Every question about what will happen, and what should a person do, could potentially fit into this area.

Roman Catholic Church theology has identified Limbo as:

The abode of unbaptized but innocent or righteous souls, as those of infants or virtuous individuals who lived before the coming of Christ.

(Limbo has not been defined by the Roman Catholic Church)

It has also been defined as:

  • A region or condition of oblivion or neglect.
  • A state or place of confinement.
  • An intermediate place or state.

Whether the Limbo that we experience is ephemeral or prolonged, to call it torture might be an understatement. The parent of a missing child, a perpetual single individual still seeking a spouse after years, or the spouse of a patient in emergency surgery; who can measure the agony?

God says a few things that speak to me on this matter:

Knowing that God is with me, covers me in His security while I am in limbo:

Psalm 16:8 I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Knowing that God will provide a peace that is like nothing else:

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Knowing that God has equipped me for the struggle, and that He knows what the struggle is for:

Psalm 18: For God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless

Psalm 18: 28-30 You, LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light. With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall. As for God, his way is perfect:  The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.

Most of all, it speaks to me to know that God advocates for my perseverance:

2 Peter 1:5-7 (NIV) For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

Is God asking you to take the first step to something that feels impossible? Are you struggling in the wait? Know that God is in your limbo, and that we need not be shaken. Know that God provides a peace that only he can provide. Know that God equips those who he calls. Know that God can keep your lamp burning, and can provide you with endurance.

 

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Love never fails

1 Corinthians 13:8 Love never ends.

There’s one thing in this world that will never end, can never be defeated by the forces of darkness and continues on into the next life. God’s love never ends, it never fails, and there’s nothing we can do to affect His love for us. The Lord is sovereign and He will chose whom to love.

It should be noted that nowhere in all of Paul’s descriptions of what love is and is not does he ever refer to it as an emotion.  Love is so far beyond just being something we feel, though we make it out to be nothing more.  We talk of “falling in love” and then “falling out of love”, but that just isn’t characteristic of love at all.  Love cannot be fallen into or fallen out of because it’s an action, not a whim.  Loving is a choice, and we must choose to love everyday.

God’s love for us is unconditional, not based on feelings or circumstances. He chooses to love us, just as we should choose to love those around us, regardless of whether or not they deserve it. Love never fails, it can never be defeated, and it will endure forever. When God chose to sacrifice His Son on the cross to take on the punishment we deserved for our sins, love won, once and for all.

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Love always perseveres

1 Corinthians 13:7  [Love] endures all things

Relationships are never a walk in the park every single day. No matter how much you love someone and they love you, there will be moments of disappointment, struggle, discontentment, and resentment. The simple reason for that is that relationships consist of human beings and human beings are not perfect. We all hurt those we love and they hurt us, whether it’s intentional or unintentional.

The truth of the matter is that far too many people these days are bailing out instead of sticking around through the hard times. It’s easy to just say goodbye rather than putting in the time and effort it takes to reconcile with someone. What no one wants to hear about love is that it takes a lot of hard work. It takes perseverance, humility, and the willingness to press on.  Love is made up of imperfect people who continue to love despite their hurts and hardships.

No one was more betrayed and hurt by those He loved than Jesus. The very fact that He had to suffer the pain of the cross was due to the fact that those He created turned against Him and sinned.  God had to sacrifice His own Son because His creation failed to love Him as He so loved them.  But despite our rejection of God, He did make that sacrifice, paying the ultimate price to reconcile with us, His fallen creatures. Love won out because our Father was willing to do what had to be done to restore our relationship with Him.

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Love always hopes

1 Corinthians 13:7 [Love] hopes all things

Love is not just concerned with accepting things the way they are.  Love always hopes for the best in everything.  For the marriage that’s gone wrong, love hopes for reconciliation.  For the lost soul, love hopes for redemption and regeneration.  Love can’t just leave things the way they are when they’re not what God wants them to be.

When you pray for others, do you pray with the hope that they’ll see the Father come through for them?  Do you pray with the hope that you’ve asked according to God’s will?  When someone’s heading down the wrong path, do you have hope for them that they can be redeemed? Do you find hope in the fact that everything is working toward the purposes of God?

When Jesus, who is Himself love, came to earth to bride the gap between us and God, He brought us hope.  In Him we can rest assured that all things are being held together and sustained by our Creator, who loves us and calls us according to His purposes.  Love doesn’t look at this world all around us and despair.  Love hopes all things.

 

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Love always trusts

1 Corinthians 13:7 [Love] believes all things

All relationships are built on trust.  If you don’t trust someone, how can you possibly hope to interact with them on any level without constant fear that they’ll lie to you or betray you?  But love, to give this passage another interpretation, gives the benefit of the doubt.

We’ve all been through times in life when someone has done something to earn our distrust.  We can forgive, but we won’t soon forget, and it may take a while for them to regain our full trust.  There’s nothing wrong with this, but the forgiving part is very essential. And it’s never ok to distrust someone based on someone else’s actions. It’s not your wife’s fault that your ex-girlfriend hurt you.  It’s not your boss’s fault that your last employer fired you unjustly.  Give the benefit of the doubt.

There are those who don’t deserve our trust, but they still need our love.  We should do all we can to show them that they are indeed loved despite their inability to be believed.  There’s no formula for this, it’s going to be different in every case.  Praying for the Holy Spirit to work through us in the relationship is one step in the right direction.

Believe the best in those you love. Don’t easily jump to conclusions, assuming the worst.  Give the benefit of the doubt and show trust, until such a time as that trust is betrayed, and even then work toward repairing that element of the relationship. Follow the example of Jesus, who even though He knew the hearts of all men, gave all a chance.

 

 

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Godless: Part 3

Romans 1:26-27 “That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.”

We, as Christians, sometimes live in glass houses, throwing stones. We want everyone to honor God and we want every person to respect the sanctity of marriage according to the Bible. We want laws passed and we want our nation to reflect our Christian faith. Don’t agree with us? We’re going to threaten you with the wrath of God and tell you that you’re going to burn in hell. There’s just one problem though. We live in a pretty godless nation that simply doesn’t believe in hell, let alone fear God’s wrath. Most importantly, they don’t know Christ.

It says in 1 Corinthians 6:19 “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God?” Our body is a holy temple, but without Christ it’s more like an empty tomb. We hold people to a standard that is impossible to achieve without a life that is submitted to Christ. Bottom line is, without Christ, how can we expect anyone to honor God, let alone their bodies?

So, why do we get so hung up on this one issue? This could be the subject of a debate that could go on forever, but let me just give you one thing. I think what we see here is a reflection of our sinful nature and it’s painful. We don’t want to look at it. We would rather have a happy little life, in a happy little church, where our families and loved ones aren’t exposed to the sins of the world. That, my friends, is not the Gospel.

Christ came so that we, who are abandoned to our sinful nature, might be redeemed. Every single one of us, separated from God, will give in to our shameful desires. Every single one of us without Christ’s renewing would burn with lust that would consume us.

This is every persons nature, whether Christian or pagan. Without Christ, we are abandoned to our own depravity. But Christ is patient and tolerant with us, being so kind that we might turn from our sin. When we submitted our lives to Christ, we had our sins covered by His wonderful grace and our hearts transformed by His mercy touch of love. We should want nothing more than to see every person on earth surrender their lives to Christ.

And this is the heart of the matter. I don’t want you to come away from this thinking that I’m trying to get you to accept alternative lifestyles or to compromise the scriptures. What I’m trying to say is that a world full of lost people are going to act like a world full of lost people. We have no power to overcome our weaknesses without the power of Christ living in us, how can we expect that from anyone else? Before our lives in Christ, we were all in the same boat as those we throw stones at. It’s like a convicted murder facing the death penalty, who received a reprieve undeservingly, turning to the next guy in line and telling him he deserves to burn for what he did.

We need to stop trying to make everyone act like Christians and start bringing them to the cross. We’ll never be able to change people on our own, no matter what laws we pass or how much we protest. The only way anyone is going to change is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Period. End of Story.

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Love rejoices with the truth

1 Corinthians 13:6  [Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Are you like Jonah?  Do you find it hard to rejoice when others find reconciliation?  Is it hard to be happy for someone who’s chosen to turn from their wrongdoing and now walks in truth?  Sometimes it seems that certain people never get what they deserve for the sins they’ve committed.  But we should never be joyful over someone’s sin. Instead we should rejoice when they walk in God’s ways.

It should be our desire that everyone would follow after God and seek His truth in everything. Real truth can’t exist apart from God, who is truth.  Truth is found in Christ, so anyone who turns to Him should be welcomed into the family, never rejected because of their past.  Love desires what God desires. Love seeks what is good, right, and pure and cheers when truth wins over evil.

When a lost sheep has been found, give praise!  Applaud with the angels in heaven that another soul has been restored to God’s image and truth has won out over all of this world’s evils.  Be glad when love wins.

 

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Love does not delight in evil

1 Corinthians 13:6  [Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing

True love, let’s face it, is hard to live out. Never being rude, always being kind, this can be wearisome, but it’s still what love really is.  Love also never takes pleasure in unrighteousness or injustice.  Love never complains when someone benefits from truth and what is right, even when that person is an enemy. Because love rejoices with the truth, sometimes that means being happy for someone that you don’t think deserves for anything to go well in their life.

Put yourself in this scenario.  Think about a time that someone reaped a consequence of their own actions and you delighted in knowing that they got what was coming to them.  You can admit to doing it, all of us have at some point.  You, whether you knew it or not, were condoning the wrongdoing because you praised the results.  That’s not love.

Love, instead, would mourn that the person had made an unwise choice and saw things play out badly.  Love would seek to bring the person to righteousness through truth.  Then, when truth spoke into that person’s life, someone who loves them would be glad for them.  Jonah didn’t get this one right.  When he preached to the people of Ninevah, they repented and turned to God (Jonah 3:10-4:1).  If he loved them, Jonah would have praised the Lord that these people had been saved from destruction.  But instead he grumbled because he didn’t want the Ninevites to avoid God’s wrath.  He would have rather they fall because of all their past sins.  He didn’t know how to delight in truth.

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Love always protects

1 Corinthians 13:7  Love bears all things

Different translations of this same verse often bring up images that aren’t necessarily related.  The NIV, for instance, says that love always protects. The ESV and many other translations, however, say that love bears all things.  While these may seem like different statements, they really can mean something similar. The gist of it is that people in loving relationships sometimes have to undergo wounds for the sake of each other.

If my sons or my wife were threatened in any way, you’d better believe that I would jump into whatever lions den I had to in order to protect them.  I wouldn’t do so foolishly, though.  Sacrificing my life for theirs might keep them alive, but what about the rest of their lives? It would make more sense to act in a calculated way that not only protects them, but also does them good in the long run.  This is where enduring things for their sake, bearing all things, is relevant.

Moving away from the analogy, the point is that loving relationships aren’t easy.  Sometimes you have to sacrifice for those you love.  Sometimes you have to endure hardship for them when the easier thing to do would be to run off on your own and not face the trials.  When we love someone, we don’t take that easy way out.  We stand by them and endure whatever we have to for their sake.  Jesus, the ultimate example of love, cared so much for us that He endured the torture of the cross, when His right as God was to walk away and face none of it.  Can we love, even one fraction of that much?

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known