Thursday, September 29, 2011

Every day love

I wrote the other day about love as an order, a command. For Christians it's not an option - we must love others, even our enemies. Because Christ first loved us.

But what does that look like. Knowing we should love, and actually loving are two different things.

Well, it's actually more simple than you think. In the words of old school DC Talk, luv is a verb.

You act it out.

Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for a friend.

We often think of that verse in terms of dying for a friend. We say it - would you be willing to die for another person out of love? Like Jesus did.

But Jesus didn't only die for us, he also lived for us. And he lives for us.

Dying for someone out of love is almost a piece of cake compared to actually living for others out of love. Dying you only have to do once. Living is every single day.

What can you do right now to show love? Act it out. Even if you don't feel it, yet.

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Love - it's an order.

Romans 5:8
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Do you get that?

It is that Romans 5 passage that is what my whole blog hangs on - hence (Romans) five: one - eleven. While we were still sinners... That's what Gods love is like. Completely undeserved, and yet completely unconditional. Would you die to save someone else? Perhaps if it was your closest friend or loved one. What about an enemy? Someone who would never do the same for you? Someone who would be happy that you were dead...

When I asked this of some students, one said, "Will me dying definitely save them, or is there still a chance that I would have died for nothing anyway?"

Good question. Did Jesus die on a guarantee? No - we were still sinners. And we have a choice. That means Jesus died for people who may never even choose to be saved because of it.

That's God love. Risky, bold, extreme, self sacrificing. And if we say we are followers and imitators of Christ, then it's required of us too.

Matthew 22
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Love God. Love others. Everything else hangs on this.

And loving your neighbour as yourself? That means seeing others as equal to yourself, in the full understanding of your own sinner status - meaning you are no more or less deserving than anyone else. We are all equally as undeserving.

Matthew 5:43-47
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

It's easy to love those people who love you back. Those people who are nice to you and think you're an awesome person. But anyone can do that.

What about those who don't really care about you. Or those people who despise you? Or actively hate you? Do you love those people too?

Thanks for loving me God, but that's hard. I'll try, I guess, but I can't promise anything...

John 15:9-17
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

So, you want to remain in God's love? Obey His command. What is that?

This is my command: Love each other.

See that little word - command. Yes, I know you physically see it. But do you really get it?

If you were in a group of soldiers in the middle of a war, and a command came through - what would happen if instead of obeying immediately everyone stopped to question it. 'are you sure', 'ok, but that sounds difficult', 'can't we do it later?' Bang, bang, bang. Everyone's dead because they were standing around thinking.

That's what a command is. It's not a suggestion or a 'pretty please, if you get around to it'.

Love each other. It's an order.

John 13:34-35
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Love is a big deal. And it's unusual. Real, true love - not simply the warm fuzzy feeling we have towards those who are easy to feel good feelings for. But the intense, consuming love that has no conditions or boundaries.

People will know we are Christians by this kind of love, if we can do it, because that kind of love is what the world is desperately looking for. They'll know it and want it when they see it; the question is, will they see it?

Because I think a lot of us as Christians are walking around desperately still searching for that kind of love ourselves. How can we show it if we don't have it?

We love because He first loved us. First you have to understand and be filled with God's love for you.

Seek Him.

Peace and joy - and all consuming love. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

That's an understatement...

The Bible is so wonderfully and frustratingly understated. A whole event, that may be several pages long in an embellished childhood Bible story book, can take place in a single verse. Often leaving us underwhelmed as to the true significance of what is contained in those few words.

Even the conception and birth of Jesus - a pretty important event, I think we'd all agree - is summed up in six verses in the first chapter of Matthew.

And so when we read quite sedately that an angel told Mary that she would have a baby from God, that Joseph thought of divorcing her, but then was told in a dream to marry her, and did - we just carry on sedately reading like thats all normal.

Wait, what? Hang on. First of all, an angel tells a girl she's pregnant even though she's a virgin. Just imagine your friend or daughter coming to you and telling you "I've never done the deed, honest, but I'm pregnant.".... Oh, sure, Mary.

And add to that, "God told me" and I'm sure that sort of thing has been grounds your family having you committed. Or burnt at the stake.

It sounds extreme. But seriously, imagine it. Would you have believed her, truly?

And then Joseph. Understandably, he comes to the conclusion that some other guy has made her pregnant. As far as he is concerned that leaves two options. One, quite legally, is to have her stoned to death. Horrific as it sounds to us, that would have been quite an acceptable punishment for what everyone would have considered adultery.

Joseph, though, was obviously a good man - he decided on the second option - to just quietly divorce her. As far as everyone else was concerned, he would have been well within his rights to get justice in the situation. But instead he chose to protect Mary and just quietly walk away.

But God - you know how he is, always turning our plans upside down - tells Joseph in a dream that Mary is telling the truth, and that the baby will be the Saviour, and his name will be Jesus.

Oh, ok. So off he trots to marry her. Off we go sedately reading again now...

Um, let's back up a little again. First of all, how convincing would a dream have to be to make you go against your instincts and forget what everyone else would think? Because this would have been scandalous! Imagine the gossip! Move over, Charlie Sheen.

Even in our society, where we hardly bat an eyelid and sex and pregnancy, we would wonder what on earth was going on with these people.

"Did you hear about Mary? My cousins friend's mum lives next to her mum, so I've heard it all."
"What you mean that crazy girl who thinks God got her pregnant."
"Yeah, that's the one. I mean, how silly does she think everyone is, to think we wouldn't know she's just been fooling around."
"Poor old Joseph, I wonder what he'll do."
"Well, you think he'd be at least happy to get out while he still can. Would have been a narrow escape, if you ask me. But, I heard he's going to marry her."
"What? When she's pregnant to some other guy? And crazy, to boot. Why would he...unless, it's not some other guy..."
"Exactly...why would he do that, unless he's got a guilty conscience. He got her into this mess, so he figures he better marry her."
"The whole things a mess. I'm just glad it's not my daughter! Can you imagine? I couldn't look my neighbours in the eye ever again with a family like that...."

And that's just a mild look at what we might think. Imagine the intensity of judgement that would have come from a society that stoned people to death.

Yet through it all, through what would have been a scandal and a stigma to follow them everywhere, through the danger and judgement...they were obedient to God no matter what it cost them.

And from that obedience came Jesus.

If Jesus was a store, the sign would read "Jesus Christ. Disrupting our comfortable lives since 6 B.C."

But aren't we glad he does.

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Friday, September 16, 2011

SFF: Better than nothing

I'm always waiting for the perfect time. The perfect time to start eating healthier, lose weight, start an exercise program, sort out my wardrobe...

Trouble is I never have enough time/energy/motivation at any one time - so it's never the perfect time. So I never even start.

You see, I feel like if life isn't in a routine enough to start an exercise program and actually keep it up consistently for a long period of time, then why bother starting yet. But when is life ever in a routine consistently?

Or if I'm trying to start eating more healthily or lose weight...well, I've got all those events and get togethers coming up where it will be too hard to manage what I'm eating, so I'll start after that...But when is there ever going to be a time where nothing is on?

Every time I look the state of the clothes in my wardrobe...or should I say out of my wardrobe, because the floor and the bed and the washing basket generally contain more clothes than the wardrobe does...I just think, it's too big a job. I don't have the time and energy to sort that mess out right now, so I'll do it later. But who, looking at a mess, ever feels like they have the energy for it?

So everything stays as it is. I stay not exercising, not eating right, same weight, same mess. Because it's not the perfect time yet. But when will it be?

Never, that's when.

Because rarely do big overhaul changes work. But there is a time when something is better than nothing.

Like I've got 5 minutes right now... If I get down and do some sit ups, well I may not do anymore for another week or two, but at least it's better than nothing. Or if eat an apple now instead of those chips...well I may eat a bowl of ice-cream later, but at least I got that nutrition which is better than nothing. Or if every time I go into my room I put away two or three things, then at least something got done, rather than nothing, even if it's still messy.

And you know what, things change. 5 sit-ups this week, turns into some calf raises while standing in the shower and some dancing while I sweep the floor next week. And gradually the healthy to unhealthy food ratio tips back the right way, even if for now it's just eating one handful of chips instead of two, and a smaller piece of cake. And eventually the wardrobe once again contains at least half the clothes.

Then I can see things changing...even I'm still not fit, still not super healthy, and still see mess.

Because sometimes that one thing is better than nothing. Whether it's health, weight, exercise, housework, parenting, work, prayer, reading the Bible....

Don't wait for the perfect time/enough motivation/the exact right devotional book that will just solve it all. Don't wait for perfection before you start. Or you never will.

Big changes happen through small actions.

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

I can do all things...but should I?

You could do it. If you were given that task, job or responsibility that is beyond anything you've yet done or beyond what others think you are old enough or experienced enough for - you could do it.

And you could even do it very well. But at what cost? It would be at the cost of fair few mistakes and a whole lot of learning from experience. And probably at a cost to your peaceful sleep and low stress levels.

Sometimes when God is saying "not yet", he's not actually questioning or doubting our ability. He's not saying "no way, you would be hopeless at that". He knows you could do it. He also knows what it would cost you. He also knows how much more satisfying and effective it can be when you take the time to prepare - mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

He's saying "what I've got in store, you will enjoy it so much more if you wait until the right time, until it's not a stretch but a natural and right progression."

There is a reason Christians in ministry (or just life) burn out so often. It's not because God asks too much of us - it's because we take "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength" to mean "I Should do all things."

If God is saying "not yet", don't worry. He knows you could it. But funnily enough, God does actually want us to enjoy our lives and His plans, not just strain to reach higher and higher.

It's ok to wait.

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

God's just lettin' you know

We think God is a god of mission statements and commands. Like if he tells us something, it's because he then wants us to carry it out.

"What's this, a message from God...ok, I'm listening. Right, got it. I'll get right onto that. I'll be back when I'm done to get my next assignment."

Maybe we think we're meant to be some kind of secret agents or action heroes - Your mission, should you choose to accept it...

We go off and try to make it happen - largely on our own, maybe with a few cursory check in's with 'mission control' - mostly to make sure God still knows we here trying our best.

We try to work out what steps to take, what effort to put in, what to do and say and put into place. And then we wonder what's going on when it seems like such hard work. Or we give up. Or we think we were wrong about the whole thing. This really is mission impossible, when we do it this way.

But sometimes, God probably wasn't giving you a command or mission statement that you had to carry out. Maybe he was just letting you know - "hey, kid - because I love you and because we're friends, I thought I might let you in on what's happening and the things I'm doing. Then we can share and enjoy them together!"

Sometimes it's right when we finally given up struggling to complete a mission that we have realised is beyond us, that God unfolds his perfect plan and his perfect timing; we discover he has placed everything where it needs to go already. We can relax. We can rest in him.

The path is already laid by God - yet for some reason we continue to think we need to build it; and so we busy ourselves digging ground and laying uneven pavers - until God gently guides us back and says, "Here, I've laid this path for you. It's straight and clear - let's walk on it together."

If you feel like God is telling you things, if he's given prophecies over your life, or revealed things that seem important - rejoice, and then relax. You can be excited and eager, but assured that God will direct your steps.

He's not telling you because you alone have to understand it all and make it happen somehow - you're his friend and his child, he wants you to be excited and in on the plans he has. Maybe he's just lettin' you know.

Then in Him is the impossible, possible.

Peace and joy. (Romans 5:1-11)


But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.