Sex the way it Should Be: Fifty Shades of God

The Bible can be pretty Puritanical when it comes to sex. Does God hate sex? Or did He just have different intentions about its purpose?

“I belong to my beloved, and his desire is for me.” (Song of Solomon 7:10, NIV)

Wait. The Bible Has Something Good to Say About Sex?

In the Bible there are many warnings about indiscriminate sex, and prohibitions against all kinds of sexual activity. In our world today, there are those who call such values outdated, Puritanical, repressive, and even hateful. So why is there a book smack dab in the middle of the Bible that rejoices in sex, that celebrates intimacy between a man and a woman, and that sets Biblical prudishness back 3,000 years? Have you read the Song of Solomon lately? It’s a racy dialog between two lovers, whose intimacy is anticipated, sung about by friends, and broadcast across the pages of the Bible for all the world to read wherever Bibles are sold.

sex

From the way these lovers rejoice in blessed carnality, the way they adore each other’s bodies and feast among each other’s lilies, one might actually get the idea that the Creator created SEX! And that it can be guilt free, pleasurable, and downright HOT. There seems to be only one catch: it was designed to function best in a relationship between a husband and wife.

sex

Lots of Choices

People have been having other kinds of sex (and seemingly getting away with it) ever since man left the garden to live in a fallen world. If you look around today’s world, we are encouraged to have more kinds of sex than ever before. A partial list includes premarital, extramarital, same gender, swinging, wild, experimental, prostituted, BDSM, who-knows-what online, and all kinds of casual, temporary sexual activity.

All of these, we are told, provide pleasure and possible fulfillment. I’m sure that to some degree they do. And yet, somehow, there is a lot of hit and miss in those promises. Apart from temporary, transient pleasure, those activities can also result in low self-esteem, “the walk of shame”, humiliation, VD, or the abortion clinic, where the pleasure seems far away and the residue of lust seems lonely and incomplete. Every one of the hook-ups on Friends had results they never covered in the script.

Not the Whole Story?

Folks who have engaged in those pursuits often end up feeling used, broken-hearted, lonely, bitter, and empty. Guys try to make a clean getaway while girls wonder, “What’s wrong with me?” What if we asked the world to say, “Me too” if they’ve experienced that? We see couples on TV hooking up on almost every show we watch, and we hear about the promised thrills a lot—but not so much about the failed relationships, broken hearts, and the emptiness of the morning after…

Great sex, according to the Bible, is hottest when two lovers belong to each other. It has intimacy based on the fact that it represents the union between us and our creator; it has spiritual depth because it represents not only carnality and passion but caring and compassion.

The Song of Solomon says that God wants lovers to have great sex—just not cheap, selfish, abusive, or temporary sex. You’d think the creator might know some secrets about the creation. I bet if you asked Him about kissing, He’d tell. He’d probably even write a little something down about it, and it would have way more than 50 shades. Read the manual, and you’ll know a lot more about how to drive the car…

Fifty Shades of God

Doesn't God hate sex? The Bible tells us not to do it,
Doesn't God prohibit sex and all that there is to it?
I've heard, when sex is talked about, that God is just tyrannical,
And that the Bible's stance on it is somewhat Puritanical...
And yet the Song of Solomon presents two smitten lovers
Who obviously enjoy themselves while underneath the covers!
It celebrates their intimacy in waves of carnal pleasure,
And God says that their love should be expressed in fullest measure!

They feast among the lilies, and they frolic in the glades,
Enjoying Godly intimacy in more than Fifty Shades!
When sex is blessed by God, it seems that nothing is forbidden;
When love unites the lovers, God says nothing must be hidden!
There is some ancient wisdom on it: go and take a look;
Just check with your Creator. After all, He wrote the book.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

The Equation that Changes Everything in the World

As we enjoy the glow of Valentine’s Day, let’s reflect on love and math. There is an equation about love that John uses to describe the nature of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. It is simple but surprising. The equation is this:

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” (I John 4:16, NIV) John claims that God is love. This makes sense from a Biblical view, and it aligns with what Jesus taught—that love is a distinctive which identifies those who follow God. You know how an equation works, right? X = Y means that everything on one side of the equation equals the other side EXACTLY. They are interchangeable because they are equal.

equation

It All Adds Up, Somehow

And “God is Love” is not the only equation in the New Testament. Consider this: we are designed to be complete only in relationships, and relationships are only complete when they run on love. The equation is, two people become one flesh. Husband equals wife. Jesus said, “I and my Father are one”. The equation is, Jesus equals the Father.

When John says, “God is love”, he is saying that love is God’s makeup—it is the essence of His personality, his character, and his being. If you think about it, we know about and acknowledge several things about God’s character. God is holy. He is a Righteous Judge. He is the source of all forgiveness and grace. But John’s equation sets the baseline for who God is. What He does is motivated by love and is an expression of love. God cannot commit a purely selfish act.

Love, Backwards and Forwards

When you flip that statement around (which you can always do when you juxtapose two equal objects with a verb of being, and it will still be true), it says, “Love is God.” John is saying that not only is God characterized by love, but that EVERYTHING loving is from God. Whatever love you encounter in this world comes from God—there is nothing loving apart from him or possible without him. We experience love in many forms, and probably every one of those forms is valid, as is anything that we perceive as love.

We experience a mother’s love, there is love in friendships, and there is the love we have for puppies and little children. There is deep, abiding love, romantic, mushy love, and there is even sexual love between a husband and wife (yes, God created sex, and in way more than fifty shades!). There are all manner of other kinds of love we feel or encounter or touch in this life.

But here’s the deal: None of them would exist without God. Some of them may seem to us to be disconnected from God, but if you look closely I think you’ll start to see in them a glimmer of God’s presence, or a fleeting glimpse of his character. And the more you look, the more you’ll see that they couldn’t exist without Him, that there is no real love apart from God, because God is love, and love is God. Good thing to think about during the month that contains Valentine’s Day.

A Different Equation: One Plus One Equals One

To my lovely wife: you’re the love of my life!
To my family and friends, may our love never end!
It is more than a fad or a transient trend.
Just remember this stuff, when the going gets tough:
Love is God; God is love, it all comes from above;
It’s the nature of God, and when push comes to shove,
It is God’s DNA, and it’s what He’s made of!
So, everything loving you happen to see’s
A reminder that God lives in you, and in me:
Love’s what He gives us, and calls us to be!
Just in case I haven’t said it enough,
What you say: Love is God. What it means: God is love.

Go love somebody, and go feel loved today. In other words, be godly. Then thank God that you just saw Him where you weren’t looking before!

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Fearless Love Enables You to Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

Would it be good for you to be fearless? The Apostle John thought so, and I know he went through a number of dangerous situations. All of us probably have moments when we’d love to be fearless (such as when you ask someone to be your Valentine!), although there are certainly times when it might not be such a good idea…

fearless

John said this: “By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the Day of Judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.…” (1 John 4:17-19, NIV)

Talk About Love…

On this day we tend to think a lot about love. There are a lot of notions about love, aren’t there? There is love of things (I love my car/house/video game), love of appetite (I love chocolate/beer/steak), love of animals, love of others (friends/family), romantic love, selfless love, summer love, endless love. Songs reflect that diversity with titles like “Love hurts”, “Love is a Battlefield”, “Love is a Wonderful Thing”, “Bleeding Love”, and “Love is All you Need”.

Love gets intertwined with all kinds of things in media and culture, so we allow it to have many definitions, most of which are not love at all. Sometime we can clarify what something means by stating its opposite, and most would probably say that the opposite of love is hate. But here in these verses, John infers that the opposite of love is not hate but FEAR. I don’t know that I ever think of it as the opposite of fear.

What does John mean by that? Perhaps that, unlike the transient, earthly love we so often experience, true love is dependable. True love gives absolute confidence. Why would John have juxtaposed love with fear? For one thing, he watched Jesus up close for several years, and if you think of it, none of the Gospels ever says, “Jesus was afraid”. John noted Jesus’ courage and understood its source.

Peerless Love

In John 13:1 one he makes the observation that Jesus, “having loved his own who were in the world, loved them unto the END.” To quote a praise song, John observed first hand that “your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me”. He says that love casts out fear, and the one who fears is not perfected (matured) in love. We can test that in a way by saying it in reverse: fear casts out love; but those who embrace love are fearless.

fearless dance

Tell, me, are you fearless? What are you most afraid of? Being hurt or rejected? Being marginalized? John says God’s love won’t do that. He reminds us that there is an intimacy with Christ that we carry through this world, that we are somehow united with him as we live our lives… I kinda think John’s point is that since God’s love protects us in something as big as the Day of Judgment, all the rest of our concerns are really nothing to be afraid of by comparison. You don’t need to control things to be secure; you just need to realize what love means in your life. Look up and be glad about how much God loves you today. Then, take a deep breath, ignore those little insecurities, and be “dance like nobody’s watching” fearless!

Opposites Attack

Love for some is just a sport, perhaps a game of chance;
Love can be chemistry that sparks a new romance,
With someone that you like a lot, the spark is real, the kiss is hot,
You both decide to take a shot and vow to give it all you’ve got!
But even love with such high hopes can end with a broken heart,
With bitterness that lovers feel when they are split apart.
If we describe the kind of love that goes out on a date,
Most of us would say the opposite of love is hate.

But I had never thought of love the way it’s written here:
John says that the polar opposite of love is FEAR.
Our earthly love can turn to hate, reflecting its impurity;
He says God’s love is something we can all embrace with surety,
The Father’s perfect love can give us freedom and security.
If you embrace the fearless love that God has given you,
How would your life be different then? And what would you go do?
Consider that. Consider that His love will cast out fear,
And you can dance like no one’s watching. Yep, you read it here.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread
For the Kindle Edition, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Bo-Jackson-ebook/dp/B01K5Z0NLA/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-2&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

The Bridegroom is the Happiest guy at the Wedding

This new Rabbi who presented himself to be baptized by John at the Jordan River was different. He had a different way of doing business than both his ascetic cousin and the religious elite from Jerusalem. In the TV series, The Chosen, someone says, “That’s different.” Jesus answers them by saying, “Get used to different.” Some of John the Baptist’s followers were concerned that Jesus and his disciples partied a little too much. His answer caught them off guard: he described himself not as a Rabbi, but as a bridegroom:

“Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast. “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:14-17 NIV)

Why Wineskins?

When John’s disciples questioned Jesus why his disciples did not fast, Jesus used a couple of very different references to describe growth and change. The wineskin verse has always puzzled me a bit, but it occurred to me that it really fits with New Year’s resolutions. It refers to growth and expanding to new horizons, and Jesus describes those things in ways that everyone listening would understand.

First of all, Jesus talks about celebrating the groom at a wedding feast. He points out that 1) he is the bridegroom at the feast in the Kingdom of heaven—which makes us the bride—and 2) we should live in the present, unburdened by fear of what might happen in the future. We should party with the bridegroom at the feast while we have the chance. The eternal Son of God always encourages to be present to be in the moment.

A Subtle Exchange

In a subtler context he is also reminding his audience about commitment and change. When we get married, it is a new commitment, and it involves a new way of behaving. It represents leaving an old life behind as a single person and starting a new one as a couple. When you get married, it doesn’t improve your lot as a single person; you actually exchange your old single life for MARRIED life!

wedding bridegroom

When you get married, you can’t keep living the way you did when you were alone. You have to share, to adapt, and to live differently than you did before. Jesus compares himself to a bridegroom and calls us to participate in a new reality, to celebrate our relationship with him while there is still time. He then enlarges upon his teaching about growth by reminding his listeners that new wine (which expands as it ages) must be put into new wineskins, which have the elasticity to expand with it.

Not a River in Egypt

His immediate context points out that the old, legalistic way of relating to God has become a new dynamic, and he calls his followers to relationship rather than religion. He teaches that it is not by doing new things with our old selves that we change; but it is by embracing new selves that we can act and feel differently. That’s why he tells his disciples in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

We can’t improve the flesh but we can REPLACE it. In his book, “If I Perish, I Perish”. Major Ian Thomas says that we can’t attain spirituality by dressing up our old nature and hoping that he reforms. You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig. Our flesh will ALWAYS be sinful and will ALWAYS long to return to its selfish ways. He cites Israel as an example for us, and points out that God didn’t leave the Israelites in Egypt, hoping that they would evolve into more devout followers. He says “God never intended to improve their lot under Pharaoh but to exchange their land.”

Like He did with Israel, God calls us to a new way of life. They couldn’t patch the old wineskins, but had to get brand new ones. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV). Resolutions to change the outer man won’t help us if we don’t exchange the inner one. If you want to change, make one resolution this year: In 2022, I am going to celebrate with the bridegroom every day!

Exchanging Vows

The bridegroom’s face is beaming with pride,
As all heads turn to see the lovely bride;
They will be exchanging vows and rings,
And changing the future, whatever it brings…
Gone is the independent single life;
From this day forth they are man and wife.
This life will put them through stormy weather,
But come what may, they will deal with it together.
This is what they will strive to do,
As together, they make something new–
And one stronger life is forged from two.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Of All Commands, This is the Hardest to Follow

A Singular Command

Commands from leaders have come and gone throughout history, but this one really stands out: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13 NASB) Think about Leaders and commands.

commands death

Status Quo

The word of a reigning monarch can be a life and death matter. Artaxerxes could sentence someone to death just for asking for an audience with him. The Caesars passed themselves off as deities and used their power to sentence hundreds of thousands of prisoners and Christians to death. There was Adolph Hitler, who orchestrated the Holocaust, and Stalin, who commanded that dissidents be “purged” from society. Despotic leaders throughout history have given commands to commit acts of war, atrocities, and utter mayhem. There have been countless commands from Kings and tyrants which only spread fear and dread among their subjects.

With Absolute Power Comes…

If you were given absolute power over the entire nation, and could do whatever you wanted to without fear of penalty or reprisal, what sort of commands would you issue? (And before you answer that, remember that Winston Churchill said, “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”) You might start out as a benevolent dictator, but be careful: Leaders tend to gravitate towards governance that is self-interested. Often ideals that they say are intended for good actually end up benefitting themselves. (Just look at Congressional perks and programs!)

Religious Power is Not Exempt

Even in the name of religion, there are those who misuse power for evil purposes. Cult leaders like Bob Jones and David Koresh gave commands which led followers to their doom. There have been religious leaders who asked for money, or even other men’s wives. Some have commanded their followers to commit suicide. And there are religious leaders today who command their followers to strap on a bomb and commit both murder AND suicide. Commands given by such men are corrupt at best, lunacy at worst…

Of course, leaders also pass laws AGAINST all manner of crime. Our legal system penalizes people for doing wrong. So, when you read what Jesus commands, it kinda sets you back on your heels for a minute. This commandment from Jesus is remarkable not only in his time and culture, but in all times and in all cultures.

As King of Kings and Lord of Lords, I guess he could command us to do anything, and we’d ultimately have to submit. But get this: He commands us to love one another. “Love one another, just as I have loved you.” You heard him. Love one another today. And I guess pretty much every day! And by the way — if you are reading this, I love you, and I just prayed for you this morning. Boom!

A Command Worth Following

Watch the ones who govern; just look out at all the lands
Where people rule with might and power, issuing commands;
The King of Kings came down to earth and walked across His land
Without the Secret Service or a military band...
He dressed in humble garb. There was no scepter in His hand.
His sermon was his life. He wasn't digital. He had no Brand,
But we still hear His great commandment, just the way He planned.
It's short and to the point, not very hard to understand:
"As I have loved you, Love each other. This is my command."
The world will fall. Will Fall. But Jesus and His words will stand.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Romantic love: Wow! Why do we Love It? Who is it Meant For?

True Love

Solomon, the King with many wives, apparently knew something about being romantic: “All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves–I looked for him but did not find him. I will get up now and go about the city, through its streets and squares; I will search for the one my heart loves.” (Song of Solomon 3:1-2, NIV)

The Song of Solomon (or Song of Songs) is a beautiful picture of romantic love. It weaves a rich tapestry of infatuation and desire, accented with bold allusions to physical delights as the lovers imagine themselves swept away on flights of fantasy together. “Your love is more delightful than wine…Take me away with you, let us hurry!” (Verses 1:2, 4) “Let him lead me to the banquet hall, and let his banner over me be love. (2:4)” The lovers are smitten with one another, and address each other with compliments and longing. They cannot bear to be apart!

Perhaps you have experienced a romance like that, where you were so hungry for contact with your lover that you would say with Juliet, “Parting is such sweet sorrow”, and even after a date where you spent hours with your boo, there would still be late night phone conversations or texts into the wee hours.

The Thrill of Romantic Love

Romantic love is a powerful thing, an emotion that longs for connection and completion. I’m sure you have experienced it sometime, whether it was puppy love or a hot romance. You wanted to share every moment with your beloved, right? So tell me… when was the last time you felt that way about God? When did you long for Him “all night long”? When did you consider Him first and foremost as “the one my heart loves”?

I believe that the Song of Solomon is a picture of how God wants men and women to love each other, yes, but it is also deeper than that. It’s an expression of how we are to love HIM. Our longing for intimacy and connection is a reflection of God’s image and character, and it is why we were made.

romantic buddy

Do you love God? Do you feel romantic about Him? I know you love Him rationally, and feel committed, and read his word, but do you love Him emotionally and passionately? Do you long for Him, search for Him, miss Him when you’re not together, and do you imagine you going with Him to the banquet hall, to His chambers, or frolicking boldly with Him in public? Do you compliment God the way you would compliment a lover? The next time you read the Song of Solomon, imagine that it is speaking not about Solomon and his lover, but about you and God. Insert the two of you (Yes, you and God!) into the hunger, the infatuation, and the desire…

romantic heart

The Way Romance was Meant To Be

Imagine being together with Him, connected and complete, confident that you are beautiful in His eyes. Feel His adoration and delight surrounding you, and give yours unreservedly back to Him. The next time you think “I love God”, take that thought to its romantic and intimate limits. Don’t just love God; Fall In Love with God!

Jars of Clay’s “Love Song for a Savior” says, “He’s more than the laughter, or the stars in the heavens; As close as a heartbeat, or a song on your lips. Someday we’ll trust Him, and learn how to see Him; Someday He’ll call us and we will come running, we’ll fall in His arms, and the tears will fall down and we’ll say, “I want to fall in love with you, I want to fall in love with you.” May you remember being in love with God the very first time; may you fall in love with Him all over again today. And tomorrow.

Love, Me

A Romantic Prayer

Sometimes, even words upon this page
May be unwrought, and dissipate with age,
As Time undoes their meaning and their passion,
Consigning them to but a passing fashion…
Sometimes, love expressed begins to fade
in Time’s inexorable, crushing promenade
Of Best Intentions strides and walks away,
Stealing what those words once had to say.
Sometimes, even though they’re really pure,
The words can lose their zest as they mature,
Or other things move in, crowd out, replace
the passion with the normal, commonplace…

Once I fell in love with you, my Lord;
I thrilled to walk with you and read Your Word!
Help me, Father, never to be jaded,
Adoring You with love that’s never faded.
So if my words seem old to You, and tired,
Help me remember how I was inspired,
Pursued and wooed by You; and how desired!
Remind me how my love for you was fired,
And lives within me, burning, unretired…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Shine: When the World is Dark, Be a Glowing Alternative

A Different Approach

“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” (Philippians 2:14-16 NIV)

Do you ever grumble? Argue? Does it do any good? We live in a society characterized by grumbling and arguing. We run into it everywhere we go! Whether it’s on social media or in conversation, people are ready to do either or both.

The Wrong Kind of Spiral

It seems that every topic in our culture creates polarity and division. People loudly complain that they’ve been offended. Debate almost always seems to get personal rather than productive; and small-minded, selfish people grumble about everything, hoping to pull happier people into their discontent. There’s an old saying: “Misery loves company.” Look around and you’ll see how true that is. Unhappy people love to create a spiral of discontent that draws in everything around them.

Most miserable people want to pull others down rather than lift them up. From ugly comments about leaders to self-serving political media, from the promoting of racial division to “religious” extremism that calls for the deaths of its opponents, the grumbling and arguing in our world are spiraling towards something worse. Everywhere you look, there are warped and crooked people driving events towards more bad news.

Perhaps followers of Jesus are supposed to stand apart from the ugliness, to offer encouragement rather than criticism. What if more people spread love rather than hate, gave forgiveness rather than criticism, and offered contentment instead of contention? Paul says that God’s children are meant to shine as lights in the darkening sky.

(Hmm, that’s very similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Amazing, considering Paul never followed Jesus or listened to his teachings before the crucifixion…) But both challenges call us to the same action.

Onward, Through the Fog

A child in Elizabethan London was looking out the window in the gloomy dusk, watching a worker far down the street come towards them, lighting the new gas streetlights one by one as he came towards their house through the foggy night. The closer he came in the distance, the illumination provided larger circles of light in the foggy night The child exclaimed, “Mummy, come quick! Look! There’s a man outside punching holes in the darkness!” As I look around this world, it sometimes seems to me that it is darker than I remember, that the night is hastening. Perhaps it is time for all of us to shine, and to punch some holes in the darkness.

shine

The world will not gravitate naturally towards unity. It never has before, and it won’t start now. Selfish men, motivated by a carnal spirit and spurred on by the grumblers and the haters, will always point their generation down a warped and crooked road.

Paul says that the only way to bring light to the darkness, the only alternative to living in a twisted reality is to “hold firmly to the Word of Life”. If Christians don’t do it, who will? Become familiar with the Word of Life. Let your light shine in the gathering gloom. Serve others. Reach out to the marginalized. Live without bigotry. Do what Jesus told us to do: love one another. Get out there and punch some holes in the darkness. Shine.

Punching Holes

The London night was damp and cold as dusk began to fall;
Mollie, looking out her window, couldn’t see at all.
She sat there in the living room and quietly watched the gathering gloom,
While twilight bathed the Promenade and turned the world from light to shade.

But magically, and suddenly, a light appeared that she could see,
A sudden glow way down the street that shone with radiance soft and sweet.
And then another spot of light, just nearer now, and glowing bright–
A halo in the cold and damp atop the gas-lit street-side lamp.

One by one the lamps were lit. The night gave way a little bit,
While Mollie, looking through the glass, was wondering how this came to pass.
And then she saw him as he came, the street-lamp man who lit each flame,
Stopping on the avenue where she could see the Park less…
She called out, “Mummy! Quick, come see! The fog is all along the street,
But there’s a man outside who’s punching holes into the darkness!”

And as we sit here in our rooms, while we can see a gathering gloom,
Perhaps it’s time for each of us to climb up on our poles,
To light at least one flickering flame–this world would never be the same,
If we just took the time to shine. Go out and punch some holes.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Remember the Thrill of Your First Love? Maybe you Should

In John’s Book of Revelation he describes one of the greatest dangers to today’s church: losing your first love… “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write…you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love…” (Revelation 2:1; 3-4, NKJV)

When John wrote to the seven Churches in Asia Minor, he wrote to literal church locations. His book about the Apocalypse was carried by messenger and read aloud to each congregation, and his message was cosmic and stunning to say the least. I’m sure that the reading of John’s letters in the late first century drew crowds and created quite a buzz in the local churches!

He Quit Preaching and Went to Meddling

To each congregation he gave a compliment, a criticism, and a command that probably addressed actual contemporary events or persons in that particular church, so I’m sure that listeners had many questions about who was to blame, how things got to be that way, and what to do about it. So in some respects, it was just a normal letter, written to contemporary churches John knew about.

But many theologians also believe that the letters to the seven churches also have a historical application and that each church can be compared to an era in history that corresponds with John’s message. (For instance, the church at Ephesus symbolizes the cooling off of the Church’s first love, and the end of the Apostolic age; Smyrna represents the era of church oppression and martyrdom, Pergamos the church becoming connected to the world, and so on. It’s a stimulating study if you are interested.)

But the application that intrigues me most is the PERSONAL ONE. When you read the messages to the seven churches, what jumps out at YOU? Are there compliments you identify with? Are there criticisms that make you uncomfortable?

Remember that First Love?

As you read John’s words to Ephesus, for instance, does anything resonate in your heart of hearts? “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love…” Our Sunday school class once described the characteristics of new or first love from a romantic point of view, and here is a partial list: “You want to spend time together.” “You think about each other all the time.” “You love talking together. You love being together.”

Ever feel that way? Have you ever been caught up in the new stages of a romance that are so powerful that it commands your thoughts, your time, and your desires? Romance writers talk about it, and surely you can remember it from that time you first “fell in love”!

first love

Now think about the things you felt when you first encountered God’s love, when you learned about Grace it became real to you… what happened on the day you realized that God loved you, that Christ died for you, and you decided to grab ahold of it and love Him back? Do you remember the joy? Do you recall the comfort, relief, happiness and gratitude you felt? For me, it was like seeing the world through new eyes, and about finding a confidence that wasn’t held down by my own inadequacy or insecurity.

If you ever appropriated God’s love by faith, you know what I’m talking about. It’s a feeling of life-changing love and assurance so complete that it is both infinite and intimate. It’s a doorway to new possibilities that include spiritual awakening and eternal life! As I recall, it came with a bunch of new discoveries about life and the way the world works.

Bringing it Home

So here’s the question: do you still feel that way today? Are you walking around feeling loved, touched by grace, grateful that you can spend time with the Father? Have you left your first love? If you have, remember. Remember the early feelings you experienced when you stepped away from the deadly selfishness of the world to the selfless love of Jesus.

If you have wandered away from those emotions, reclaim them. Allow yourself to be courted by the Creator. Read some Psalms or the book of John. Go on a honeymoon with God. Serve someone else in His name, and see how you feel. It’s ok to feel romantic or smitten with God. He feels that way about you, and His first love is also His eternal one.

A Love Sonnet

Oh Lord, when there are times I, failing, doubt,
And do not seek to know Thy love and grace;
When I, in haste and worry, rush about,
And turn all inward seeking from Thy face;
When I forget that you were my first love,
And take for granted how I have been blessed;
When I, with thoughts below and not above
Am tempted, and I fail to pass the test –

When I am sore beset by worldly grief,
For having failed to put my trust in Thee,
While knowing that this trust would bring relief,
And that Thy face would never turn from me;
When our First Love’s romance, Oh Lord, I spurn,
Please call me back, and help me to return.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

There is a Cosmic Romance, and YOU are a Big Part of It

A wedding ceremony is full of romance. In these unique celebrations of love, there are flowers and music. The groom is dressed in his finest, waiting by the altar as the lovely bride approaches. He is nervous, she is blushing. She glows with beauty, and he glows with pride. There is a sense of anticipation and joy that makes a wedding day very special.

With that in mind, stop and think about this: the Bible compares the way the Almighty God of the Universe feels about YOU to the way the groom feels about his lovely bride. It says, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5, NKJV)

Weddings are amazing events, full of love and romance. When you consider the amount of time, creativity, and preparation poured into a wedding day, it has to be one of the most anticipated days of a lifetime. I was the father of two beautiful brides, (and one handsome son as well!) . Each event was significant and special, attended by hours of planning, selecting, decorating, and choosing every element so that the wedding day went just right.

The Perfect Day

At a wedding there are participants, coordinators, flowers, colors, and rehearsals. There are photographers, videographers, tuxedos, caterers, locations, churches, gifts, meals, DJ’s, music, toasts, and shoes… There are countless other things besides mere romance to consider.

When I’ve had the privilege to officiate at weddings, I have noticed that most of these details are very important to the Bride. She is not only giving herself away, she is coordinating the blending of two families to create a new one. That means, of course, that her wedding must be special. It should commemorate the occasion with all of the appropriate decorations and elements. Brides and their mothers (and perhaps their wedding planner) dream of, conceive, plan, and manage every detail of a wedding so that it will be a perfect day.

romance

Grooms… not so much. Most of the time (in my observation) Grooms leave a lot of that preparation stuff where it belongs, with the Bride and her mother. Yes, they smile and say, “Yes Dear”, or “That looks great”, but really, how much work do most grooms have to do getting ready for the wedding? So why didn’t Isaiah say, “As the bride rejoices over the wedding day, so shall your God rejoice over you”? Why did he compare God’s love for us to the groom?

Anticipation the Way it USED to Be…

I’m gonna get real for a minute. In our modern age of birth control, weddings have lost something that used to be a huge part of the anticipation and build up for the special event. Face it, most couples today have slept together already. Before birth control, you were playing Russian roulette with your future to do that, and 60+ years ago, most women weren’t willing to take that chance. I’m not being Polly Anna, and yes I know that people still did it, but not nearly as easily or as often as they do today.

Weddings before birth control still held the romance and pure physical anticipation of intimacy. Physical consummation was scary, mysterious, spiritual, sexual, and highly anticipated, particularly by the groom. He’d been mooning over his fiancé, longing for her, and doing all of the highly charged heavy petting she would let him get away with. 60 years ago a groom approached his wedding day begging for union. That was just the way things were before women engaged in the “sexual revolution”. The danger of pregnancy outside of marriage was a powerful (but not total) deterrent to sex before that special wedding day.

But Wait, There’s More

I’ll pause for a moment and say that even today, when I officiate weddings, it is always a special moment when the bridal procession starts, and I can see from up close the look in the groom’s eyes as he watches his beautiful Bride, prepared and reserved for him, coming down the aisle to be presented to him.

There is always longing, pride, affection and commitment in that look; I mean, it’s a wedding! But where physical intimacy has not yet occurred, the sense of anticipation is that much higher. The desire for intimacy brings the groom an even greater sense of urgency to the bride’s approach. It puts the RRRR in “romance”! The groom is a raging combination of love, romance, and hormones, anxious to consummate this union that he has anticipated so long…

True Intimacy

Lest you think I am obsessing over this aspect of the ceremony, picture this: Isaiah says THAT is exactly how God rejoices over us. That is why Paul quoted Moses in Ephesians 5:31-32: ““For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.” A man leaves his home and family to start a new one, and to become one with the woman he loves. He will find completion and comfort in her arms, and they will discover the delights and pleasures of that union together.

As a groom stands and rejoices that his bride is coming down the aisle to be his—that is how God feels about us. That is how God feels about us!
As we walk down the aisle to be His bride, can you feel His gaze upon us? It is filled with pride, affection, commitment and joy—as well as the pure longing for intimacy that has been planned since eternity past, and will bring joy for eternity to come. Be glad! You are being rejoiced over. You are at the center of the cosmic romance.

The Eternal Romance

The blushing bride is in the aisle, approaching sweet and pure;
She cannot hide her glowing smile, and yet remains demure.
Her face is like a work of art; she looks her very best–
Anticipation makes her heart beat faster in her chest!
Her steps are slow and measured as she walks into the room;
She could not be more treasured by her loving, waiting groom.

He sees her dress, her hair, her skin, the beauty waiting there within,
And drinks this lovely vision in, and knows that she’s reserved for Him!
He looks at her with perfect pride, a love that cannot be denied,
A heart that wells up deep inside with love for His eternal Bride!
Where joy is full and tears are dried, this Cosmic Romance will abide…

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Want God to Appreciate Your Heart? Start Here

“After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’” (Acts 13:22, NIV) What an amazing thing for the God of the universe to say about someone! Would God say that about you? He called David “a man after my own heart”. So, even though David did despicable things, perhaps there is hope for all of us.

Perfection not Required

Apparently perfect behavior was not the key to chasing after God’s heart, so why did God say this? What can we learn from David that could teach us about how to be that kind of person? Take a quick walk through the Psalms and look at David’s intimate connection with God’s loving-kindness, and what it teaches us:

1) David was a man for whom seeking God was a passionate pursuit. “The Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me— A prayer to the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:8). David sought the Lord day and night. He prayed often to the One he called “the God of my life”, and he depended upon God’s goodness and creativity.

heart

2) His daily relationship with God gave him purpose and direction. “Cause me to hear Your loving-kindness in the morning, For in You do I trust; Cause me to know the way in which I should walk, For I lift up my soul to You.” (Psalm 143:8) Would YOUR week be any different if you approached every day like that? When you read the account of David’s life, you find that David was successful when he sought the Lord’s advice and followed it.

3) David’s feelings about God were not a private matter. He sang and prayed to the Lord even in public; he put it out there. “I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; but I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your loving-kindness and Your truth From the great assembly.” (Psalm 40:10)

He didn’t worry about offending anyone or being too vocal about God; he shared and sang and wrote about the love of his life. It was something he could not contain. For David, his relationship with God was like a grand love story that he had to share with everyone.

A Modern Parable

Picture a man who falls in love with that special woman who completes him, and provides all the love and affection he ever dreamed of. So, he marries his beautiful bride, enjoys the ceremony and then takes her home and locks her in the back room. Now, imagine that he only takes her out a few minutes a day or a few hours a week. Would that make sense? NO!! And yet, that is how many of us treat God! We fall in love with the God of the Universe, we call Him Father, and yet we only spend a few minutes a day with Him, or visit Him at his place once a week.

That’s certainly not how David did it. Consider revealing your love for God the same way he did. Learn from his passion, his persistence, his prayer, and his public display of affection. Perhaps God will say, “I have found ________ (YOUR NAME HERE!), a person after my own heart.” How cool would THAT be?

“A Man After God’s Own Heart”

Start with a boy, who, tending sheep,
Beneath the stars, too in love to sleep,
Looks up at the heavens’ glistening art,
And comprehends the Creator’s heart.

Least regarded, chosen king,
Transformed by a giant, a rock, a sling!
A man who gazed at God above,
And understood; And fell in love.

Powerful warrior, loyal friend;
Head of the kingdom without end;
Poet, prophet, singer: dance,
Caught in the grip of God’s romance!

Love the Lord and love His word!
Let your songs and praise be heard,
Reaching countless human ears,
Timeless for a thousand years!

But O! That sword can cut two ways:
For those same lips that sang God’s praise
Will kiss their way into a fall,
A story shown and known to all…

Scheming, lying, murderous lust;
Broken hearts and broken trust,
Written down for all to see,
Captured for eternity…

Deep your capacity to transgress!
But deeper, a longing to confess:
To bring your contrite, broken heart
Back to the Maker’s matchless art.

Honest now, with no pretense,
No vain attempt at self-defense!
Broken as a consequence…
Confessing, teaching us that this
Is how to have a heart like His.

Acts 13:22 “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart…”
Matt. 22:37: “And Jesus said to him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy god with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind…”

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Priceless Love: It Has Nothing to Do With Mastercard

A few years ago there was a series of priceless MasterCard commercials which depicted different special events and then broke down the costs involved in getting there. (Naturally you could put all those costs on your credit card!) Each commercial concluded by reminding us of the true value it had: Tutu, $48. Dance lessons, $800. Shoes, $54. Seeing your daughter dance at her first recital: priceless. That “priceless” theme is still used on some memes, and it often points out that there are things so valuable we can’t put a price tag on them.

priceless shirt

Priceless Value

The Bible talks about value as well: “Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep… How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! Both high and low among men take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:5-9, NIV)

David was called a man after God’s own heart, and many of the Psalms he wrote reflect his passion for and devotion to the Lord. He was smitten with the priceless love of God. If you are ever stale in your daily time with God, just start reading a Psalm a day and reflecting on God’s love and majesty the way David did. It will open your eyes. This passage offers several insights as to why David was so close to God:

Look At It This Way

1) David had the right perspective. He understood the Lord’s place in the universe, and he understood man’s place as well. God is majestic, more glorious than nature, loving, righteous, just and faithful. He transcends nature and has authority over man. The greatest evils in the world have always occurred when man reverses those roles and places himself in authority. Even when David made huge mistakes he maintained proper perspective and stayed humble before the Lord.

2) David understood that God’s love is more valuable than anything else. (Bread for your brothers at the front, 4 shekels. Five smooth stones, free. Sling, 2 shekels. Protection of the Living God: priceless.) David reflected often upon God’s priceless love and loving kindness. He sang about them as a shepherd and as a King. He believed in the unfailing riches of God’s love and kindness, took refuge in them, and proclaimed them to be universal, offered to all men great and small.

priceless love

David took sustenance from God’s love, and likened it to a “river of delights”. When is the last time you truly felt that way about the love of God? Actually felt like you were seated at the banquet table of His feast, or bathing your parched lips with the coolness of living water? Pause for a moment and pray through those images the way David did. Enjoy a helping of God’s amazing grace and take a deep drink of God’s priceless love. Feel better?

Getting Well and Truly Lit

3) David saw that human wisdom and understanding were only relevant if they were connected to God. “In your light we see light.” There are dozens of light and dark references in the Bible, so this one might be easy to miss. But David was a man after God’s own heart because he sought illumination from the one true source rather than from something man-made… Some of my former Young Life kids would talk about “getting lit”—street talk for getting stoned. It may offer escape, but it’s a poor substitute for what David knew that REALLY worked. If you REALLY want to “get lit”, go to the light. The closer you get to it, the better you’ll see…

Truly Priceless

Your love goes to the heavens, Lord, your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like majestic mountains, strong and wise!
Thy justice is unfathomable; your loving presence brings
The great and small a refuge in the shadow of your wings.
Your holy love is priceless: from the greatest to the least
You offer us abundance in your house and at your feast.
We drink eternal water in your river of delight;
Your fountain gives us life, and in your light we see the light.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

What Are You Doing Here on Earth, For Heaven’s Sake?

I bet at some point in your life someone asked you, “Just What the heck do you think you are you doing?” That question usually refers to a specific action, but I wanted to challenge you to reframe that into a much more cosmic question: in the grand scheme of things, what are you doing here on earth? Although our current culture focuses a great deal on how we feel, remember this: Life is not about feeling, it is about DOING.

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12: 12-16, NIV)

Paul started this “love chapter” by exhorting us to be living sacrifices, and to follow Christ’s selfless example. In verses 9-11 he talks about the need for sincere love. Here in verses 12-16 he says that DOING love is more important than FEELING love…

He acknowledges that love is a great motivator, and I bet your own personal experience would bear that out. (Think about some of the things you have done because of love—whether foolish things to pursue romantic love, or acts of service inspired by unselfish love… We have all found ourselves doing something differently at some point because of love’s motivational pull.)

The Foolish and the Sublime

Here are two very different examples: The summer I was 15, I was on the aquatics staff at YMCA Camp Flaming Arrow in Kerrville, Texas. Hoping to meet girls on our day off, I put “HI THERE” with adhesive tape on my chest for about a week. You know, that way at Ingram Dam where everyone gathered to swim, I could just point to my chest instead of making introductions…

When I removed the tape, my tan lines said HI THERE all by themselves for at least a couple of weeks. So it WORKED! (True story. Yeah it’s a dumb thing, but I was 15 and it did actually help break the ice with local girls a couple of times. It was, however, a little embarrassing on Parents’ Day at the end of the session, since I was on the aquatics staff and was in the pool working with kids with a chest that said, “HI THERE”…) True story.

  (NOT an actual photo)

doing

A few years later, I was on staff at the Navigators’ Eagle Lake Boys’ Camp in Colorado Springs. At the end of the summer, I donated a big portion of my salary to the camp (which, my Dad pointed out, was supposed to be my spending money at college that fall; when he had to replace it, it actually meant that HE had given the money to Eagle Lake. Sorry, Daddy. My heart may have been in the right place, but the net result of my decision fell on you…)

Both of those actions were motivated by love in one form or another—one foolish, and one sublime—but both were done in hopes of having a different outcome than would have been achieved by standing pat. The point is, what are you doing differently today because of love? What outcome are you hoping for?

Paul says here that love will help us overcome adverse circumstances. The circumstances may not change, but Paul says that doing thinks in love creates new possibilities. It enables us to view the world differently: to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer. I have to say I am ashamed at how often I am NOT patient in affliction or faithful in prayer. How about you?

Doing the Thing that Changes Everything

Love inspires generosity towards others, and it even helps us act differently towards those with whom we disagree. Do you bless those who persecute you, or do you curse them? If we are living sacrifices, Paul says, we will be empathetic and live in harmony with others. Burt Bacharach’s1965 pop song said, “What the world needs now is love, sweet love”… The Beatles said, “Love is all you need.” How true.

One of my best friends in college was a summer missionary in Zambia, Africa. During her term she saw villages ravaged by poverty and malnutrition, and it touched her deeply. When she came back home, she told the director of the Summer Missions program how disturbing it was, how uncomfortable it made her, and asked, “How can God love those little children?”

His answer was surprising: he said, “I hope you are never comfortable again, Kathy, because one of the ways God shares His love is through you.” Yes, God loves the world through his Son and through His Spirit; but as believers who are part of the body of Christ today, He is doing His work on this world through us. What are we doing in this world for heaven’s sake?

There is too much division in our world and in our culture, and not enough blessing; too much selfishness and not enough sacrifice. Paul said a living sacrifice is not stuck up or conceited, but spends time doing loving things, which creates a means for God’s love to reside on earth through us, to us. Be loving today. Make the same decision tomorrow.

Doing Life, Doing Love

Love is not emotion or the giddy way you feel;
It is more than feelings, (although feelings may be real);
Love is more than romance, or the love songs used for wooing:
Love is found in how you do the things that you are doing.
Do them well, and serve as if you worked for God above,
And fill your life with godliness by doing things with love.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread