Monday, August 15, 2011

Remembering Love

"If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." (1 Cor. 13:2)

Lately, I've been thinking about how easy it is to talk about love - know about love - think about love - learn about love - plan to love - meditate on love - and everything thing else - besides actually love.

There are certain scriptures that have been hitting me lately. Here is a big one:

"He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not." (Isaiah 53:3)

Esteemed Him not. We don't put God in His rightful place. This might be the best description of sin in the entire Bible. We often don't even think of God at all throughout our day. And our mindless search for him leads us to very dark places - replacing His purpose and the life He offers with anything else to fill that hole. We might occasionally glance in His direction, but - for the most part (if we haven't established the discipline seeking) we don't even think about God. We don't esteem Him. "We esteem Him not."

And the truth is - we don't really esteem each other too. We're too concerned about ourselves to actually think about others - unless there's a personal benefit.

So - what would it look like to esteem God? And esteem others? Well - here's a clue:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

The first part of esteeming is acknowledging - noticing. Do we take time to notice God? This small step might be one of the biggest steps one can take. Learning how to notice God in every place we find ourselves, in every part of our day, might be one of the best disciplines we could ever learn.

Another scripture that hits this point:

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thes 5:16-18)

Prayer is that constant conversation - both listening and speaking - to God. First and foremost, though - it's acknowledging God's presence. It's the first step in esteeming God. There are many other scriptures in this same line of thinking. The Bible's packed with messages for people to open their eyes to the very real presence of God.

Noticing, acknowledging, and esteeming God - easy to comprehend - but difficult to do. And it gets harder...

What does the Bible say about esteeming people? Well, look at these often quoted scriptures - and look for the idea of "esteeming" within them:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Luke 10:27)

Another:

“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

When we esteem others - we esteem God. When we esteem God, we esteem others. Funny how that works. When we notice and acknowledge others - we can open our eyes and notice God too. And what we actually do for others - in a practical sense - is what we do for God. And that movement towards action is love. In some ways - it's that simple. But love carries a cross - simple to understand, difficult to follow. Thankfully, we don't follow on our own merit - but on God's work! So, as we stumble along - His work is good enough - His grace is sufficient. But - that's a whole other topic...

It's blatantly obvious that God wants us to love people. The first step in loving others is to esteem others.

Turning the focal point onto the people in our lives, it's very clear that the relationships that we lose over time are the ones that we esteem not. We might get busy, we might move out of the area, we might have major conflict, and we might have completely different goals. Whatever the case, we begin to not esteem our friend - we esteem them not. Ultimately, as time goes by, we lose contact with them and we lose the closeness we used to have.

I've seen this countless times in my relationships. I might have the closest friendship ever - but - over time and distance, the person that I'm friends with slowly exits my thoughts and my mind. They're always my friend, but the real relationship slowly disappears. Sometimes, I'll scratch my head, and think, "Whatever happened to so and so..."

This happens to many families as well. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter become the only time that a family might come together in the entire year. Some esteem their families not.

I know one of my personal problems is that I avoid conflict like the plague. In that avoidance, I'll avoid the actual person - friend - or family member. This creates a bit of a separation - even in my mind - about the other individual. That separation creates a break in the relationship - and I end up esteeming them not. It's not their fault - it's mine.

So - what do I do about this issue? How do I personally esteem my friends? My family?

Well - I'm learning that I first need to acknowledge them - notice them. Just like with God. I think that might be the first step. Often - I don't acknowledge my friends/family - unless they're in my face. That'll have to change if I ever want to have long-suffering type relationships.

A word the Bible uses often - especially in the Old Testament - is a simple word that drives this point home - remember.

I need to remember my friends, my family. It's so easy to disappear into my own agenda - into my own mind. There is definitely a long process of refining that I need to go through - but - writing these thoughts down is part of the process for me.

So - these are the words I'm working on in this long walk home:

remembering

acknowledging

noticing

May I learn to esteem God, and others - and through that, may I learn how to love better.

Have a great day!

Jer

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Truth

I heard a speaker say this: "The good news isn't that you're awesome. It's the opposite actually. We're despicable. And when we give our life to Him, he saves us from that."

This is popular Church theology. Basically - you're a pile of crap until you give God your life. Many preachers make this point, over and over again. It's nauseating.

I believe the good news is so much better than that. I wish the speaker had said something like this:

"The good news isn't' that you're awesome. The good news is that God is awesome! So awesome - He actually invites you into His very own family! To be His kids!!! And He made that possible because of what He did through His life, death, and resurrection. "

For many - the difference between these statements might not seem at all noticeable. But there's a giant difference. Many people preach the good news as "this is what you get." The good news becomes about what one might receive. The good news is about ME.

The good news in the bible is a person: Jesus Christ. It's sort of become cliche, but but the good news isn't about me - it's about Him. Going in a little nerdy route - when the good news is about me - truth becomes subjective. Now - we might perceive God subjectively - but who He is and what He is like is OBJECTIVE.

Ok - what does that mean? Subjective truth depends on the eye of the beholder. Beauty is subjective. I might think something is beautiful, you might think it's ugly! We perceive the same object differently. Our tastes are different - even though the object is the same.

Objective truth ISN'T dependent on the beholder. 2 + 2 = 4. That equation is true, whether I agree with it or not. It's also true, whether I know it exists or not. Objective truth is truth outside of the observer.

God's love for humanity and His characteristics are OBJECTIVE - not Subjective. The problem with much of Church Theology is that they turn the "good news" into a subjective good news. It becomes all about me. Me me me me me me me me me.

Like I said - nerdville. That's a little deep. But the point is - the good news is NOT dependent on how I perceive it. The good news is who God is - and what he had done to reveal Himself to us! God's good news is so good - it's Him. And He's available to all - everyone!!!

So - how is the first statement (above) subjective? Well, if you read it again, you'll notice that the emphasis on good news is on transformation of an individual. It becomes about what I become and am saved from. In the second statement - the emphasis of good news is about God's characteristics - who He is - and what I've been saved for. Go check. That's a very big difference, and it makes all the difference in the world when talking about God.

Does that mean that transformation is bad? or wrong? NOOOOO! In fact - God changes people all the time - amazing transformations!!! And many of those transformations are good news! However - His good news is even better than individual transformations. It's His person - who He is! He is NOT dependent on what you think of Him. He is good - whether you believe it or not - and whether you think it exists or not. He is not dependent on you. If you really think about it - that's incredibly good news!

So go seek out the good news. He's not far from you at all - He's actually with you now. He knows everything about you - and in spite of that - is madly in love with you!!! Because that's who He is - Love. He is good - He is awesome!

Have a great day!

Jer