Beyond

We cannot stay here. I know, you just got comfortable and you are really starting to like it, but we really cannot stay. I know, you have progressed so much and you have come so far, but we really cannot stay. We have to move beyond.

Photo by eszter

We have to move beyond being motivated by fear to being motivated by love. I know you have heard it said that there is a heaven to gain and a hell to shun, and it’s true, but there is so much more than that. There is a nail-scarred Savior who loved us more than He hated our sin. Everything we do, and for that matter, everything that we don’t do, should flow out of our love for Him. Do we love Him?

We have to move beyond a Christianity that serves me to a Christianity that glorifies God and serves others. Jesus was our example. He taught some suprising things like, “The first will be last and the last will be first,” and “He that is greatest among you will be your servant.” Maybe you already know that but I am just reminding you, I’m reminding myself, because we like to say things like that to our fellow Christian but we still aren’t very good at saying it to ourselves. It sounds pretty good when you say it in your sermon but reality hits when our plans are interrupted with an opportunity to serve.

We have to move beyond pardon to purity. I don’t know about you but I get pretty tired of asking God to forgive me for the same things. Repentance is not asking God to give us a pass or turn His head while we sin. I don’t want to be pardoned. I want to be purified. I want to love the things that God loves and hate the things that He hates. I don’t just want God to forgive me for my sin again; I want Him to take the desire to sin out of my heart. I am thankful for forgiveness, but holiness is what I long for.

Will you go with me? I must go beyond.

Tennyson Unsuppressed

I have been reading some poetry by Tennyson here and there the last few months. Here are a couple of my favorite stanzas (taken from The Suppressed Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson).

Heart
Photo by wHaTEvEr
Love & Sorrow
O maiden, fresher than the first green leaf
With which the fearful springtide flecks the lea,
Weep not, Almeida, that I said to thee
That thou hast half my heart, for bitter grief
Doth hold the other half in sovranty.
Thou art my heart’s sun in love’s crystalline:
Yet on both sides at once thou canst not shine:
Thine is the bright side of my heart, and thine
My heart’s day, but the shadow of my heart,
Issue of its own substance, my heart’s night
Thou canst not lighten even with thy light,
All powerful in beauty as thou art.
Almeida, if my heart were substanceless,
Then might thy rays pass thro’ to the other side,
So swiftly, that they nowhere would abide,
But lose themselves in utter emptiness.
Half-light, half-shadow, let my spirit sleep
They never learnt to love who never knew to weep.

And this one from Taliessen:

Alas, Church writers, altercating tribes–
The vessel and your Church may sink in storms.
Christ cried: Woe, woe, to Pharisees and Scribes!
Like them, you bicker less for truth than forms.
I sorrow when I read the things you write,
What unheroic pertness! what un-Christian spite!
Alas, our youth, so clever yet so small,
Thin dilletanti deep in nature’s plan,
Who make the emphatic One, by whom is all,
An essence less concentred than a man!
Better wild Mahmoud’s war-cry once again!
O fools, we want a manlike God and Godlike men!

Gifts

I don’t remember all the details.  I was young.  What I do remember is the little American flag and the intense desire to make my father happy.  Allow me to fill in the blanks with my best guesses. 

I had gone with the neighbors to a flea market or something similar.  I searched up and down the isles for that perfect something.  Not something for myself.  I wanted to buy a gift for my father.  I didn’t have much money, I’m not sure if I had any.  Maybe the neighbor bought my gift for me?  No matter, it wasn’t the money that counted.

I finally found something that I was certain my dad would love.  Looking back I feel a bit silly.  I waited with anticipation as the item was paid for and wrapped in a brown paper bag.  I held it with care, making certain it wouldn’t be damaged or misplaced before we got home.

When we finally arrived back at our home on Raintree Road, I proudly carried my gift inside and presented it to my father.  I don’t remember his reaction as he pulled that “Made in China” hand-held American flag out of the bag but it must have been a positive one because I distinctly remember the satisfaction of feeling like I had made his day.  It must have impacted me deeply because after all these years, I can’t forget that little flag or the joy of giving a real gift of love.  And looking back, I realize that the value of the gift had nothing do with what I gave, but rather with my desire and motive to give it.  It was the gift of a child’s love for his father.

This is the kind of gift that I long to give to my family and friends this year for Christmas; to my dad and my mom, to Jeff and Aaron (my brothers) and to my closest friends: Phil, Mitch, and Jon.  There is no way that I could wrap up the love and appreciation that I have for them.

Photo by mmlolek

They are my gifts everyday.

Give real gifts.

Merry Christmas!

Marching Orders: 4

Part 4 of 4

In the first post I gave three orders given by the Apostle Paul to the Church at the end of the Church age (Hebrew 10:22-25).  Each order begins with the words “let us”.

1. Let us draw near.

2. Let us hold fast.

3. Let us consider one another.

In part two of this series, we looked at the first of these orders.

In part three we looked at number two.

You guessed it, part four will be concerning the third “let us” of the Apostle Paul.  “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:”

Photo by rhythm beating silence aka rbs

It is easy to find fault, it is easy to focus on the negative, and it is easy to consider ourselves before others.  Anyone can do that!  But Scripture teaches us to do the opposite.  We need to have compassion on each other.

 1 Peter 3:8-9 8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

Compassion will lead to edification.  To edify is to build.  Let’s face it, tearing something down is a lot easier than building it up.  Someone’s reputation for example; it takes time to build a good reputation but it can be destroyed by one bad decision or one lie.  Be like God.  God is a builder.  Satan is a destroyer.  

Also, focusing on others causes us to take our eyes off of ourselves.  We stop asking “What can my church do for me?”  Instead we ask, “What can I do for my church.”  Too many have a cruiseship mentality when we need to have a battleship mentality.

Warriors of Morning – Consider Others and Be Unified!

Macchiato

I love my coffee, but I will be the first to admit that my latte lingo is not up to par with the Starbucks menu.  I was getting a late-night coffee fix with some friends the other night when one of my buddies asked the barista what a “macchiato” was.

“Macchiato means marked,” was her response.  Basically, a macchito is an espresso drink marked by milk.  You have probably seen some of the macchito art if you have ever been in a half-way decent coffee-house.

I think of our Savior.  He was marked.

Isaiah 53:4-5  Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he [was] wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

I think of the Church.  We are marked.

Mark 16:17-18  And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

John 13:35  By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

What will it be?  Are you Macchiato?

The Changing Question of Obedience

I have been thinking lately about this idea of obedience to the Lord and how it relates to our lifestyle.  Why do we live the way that we live?  Why do we abstain from certain things even though they are culturally acceptable?  Why holiness?  Why standards? And mostly, why do we disagree and fight and complain over these issues within the Church like we do?

I think a lot of it has to do with the changing question of obedience.  At least it should be a changing question.  The problem is that sometimes, and for some people, it never changes.  Let me explain what I mean by “changing question.”

When someone first believes, the question of obedience is, “What must I do.” (Acts 2:37)

And that is a wonderful question.  It is a question we all must ask if we are to be saved.  It is impossible to really ask this question unless you have realized the great sacrifice and love of Jesus Christ.

However, once this question has been answered in our life (we have repented, been baptized in Jesus’ name, and received the gift of the Holy Ghost according to Acts 2:38), then the question should change.  The question of a Holy Ghost filled child of God should no longer be, “What must I do?” It should be, “What can I do for Him?”

Which question have you been asking?

If our relationship with the Lord begins to stagnate, the question tends to change back to the original, “What must I do?”  And this time, it is not asked out of a spirit of conviction, but out of a sense of drudgery.  Any relationship that is driven by a sense of duty and obligation is no relationship at all.

Do you need to change your question?

God Art

Sometimes you end up in a different place than you intended, and that’s okay…sometimes.

The plan for our vacation last week was to spend six days hiking the Appalachian Trail, we made it for two.  We spent the remainder of our vacation in the beautiful Smokey Mountain National Forest.  If you have never been, it really is a piece of art.  The brush strokes of light, the cool morning breezes,  the mountain sunrises and sunsets, and the river’s babbling song set the scene for God’s masterpiece.

I couldn’t help but think that I was in God’s museum. Think about it, we have museums full of art conceived by man and we admire and enjoy their work.  These works, born in the creative minds of mankind, often inspire us to dream dreams of grandeur. But the thought struck me as I enjoyed God’s artwork, “every work made by man put together does not compare to the complexity and perfection of one scene in God’s museum…and this earth is under the curse of sin!”

We spent our first day off the trail driving around the park and admiring the beautiful sights. This is when I found God’s greatest masterpiece; the most inspiring and interesting of all His art, men. I was surrounded by the beauty of the mountains and the streams, majestically carving out a scene of God’s glory, but every time we passed people, they stole the show. I couldn’t help but to watch them, to admire them, to be in wonder of their behavior and the unique makeup of each one. And though each person is an incomplete work of art, they are His greatest masterpiece.  Out of all creation, in His eyes, we steal the show.

“When I consider the works of your hands…what is man that though art mindful of him?”

As I looked at the incomplete works of art as they rode their bikes down the trails, fished in the streams, and enjoyed the company of their companions I couldn’t help but notice that there was missing in each of them a mark of their maker.  You see, the paintings of men are never complete until the painter is painted in.

Don’t forget how valuable you are. He painted you into His masterpiece!

Firtst three pics taken on my Motorola Droid during vacation.  Last pic via www.creativemyk.com.

Be A Lovecat

Love Is The Killer App

Tim Sanders wrote a book WAY back in 2002 that is more true today than it was when it is written.  This is a rare feat in the world of business books.  Many of you have probably read this book, but if not, it would be more than worth your time to pick up a copy (here) and read it.

This book is packed full of practical application which you can utilize whether you are in the business world or a church leader.  The basic premise is in the title; Love (the selfless promotion of the growth of others) is the Killer App (an excellent new idea that either supersedes an existing idea or establishes a new category in its field).  Sanders argues that those of us who use love as a point of differentiation in business will separate ourselves from the crowd.

Sanders will have you purring like a Lovecat.  He is, afterall, the original Lovecat.  What’s a Lovecat?  I’m glad you asked.  A Lovecat is someone who shares their (1) knowledge, (2) network, (3) and compassion with others.  Success in the future (read “today”) will depend on your willingness to share these intangibles.

If you take a look in the biz world today, some of the most successful people are the ones that are bringing Love to the workplace.  They are helping others grow and succeed.  They are giving their knowledge and network away.  They aren’t afraid to be human and show compassion.  That is why the message of this book is so relevant eight years after it was written.

Tim Sanders also blogs. He is constantly adding value.  Check his blog out here.

Spread the word.  Be a Lovecat!

This Hurts Him More Than It Hurts You

My Bible (ESV Study) has headings, or titles, throughout the text.  Leviticus 26 has two headings; Blessings for Obedience and Punishment for Disobedience.  I found myself reading the section titled “Punishment for Disobedience” with much anticipation.  It goes something like this…

“But if you will not listen to me…I will set my face against you.” (Plus lots of other unpleasant punishments)
“Then if you [still] walk contrary to me…I will continue striking you.” (And other unpleasant punishments)
“If by this discipline you are not turned to me…I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.” (And other unpleasant punishments)
“But if in spite of this you will not listen to me…I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.” (And, yes, other unpleasant punishments)

It may seem strange to you, and it did to me, that each time the Lord punished Israel for their sin I felt extremely relieved.  Relieved?  Yes, relieved.  I wondered why I felt so relieved.  The reason came to me.  I was relieved because each time I read the words, “If you continue to sin,” I was fully expecting to read that God was going to take His presence away.  And I realized in that moment how merciful God was being even in these harsh punishments.

You see, there is something far worse than the punishment and correction of God.  What if He left?  What if He gave up on you?

If we have heard it once, we have heard it a thousand times, God punishes those whom He loves.  But this passage (and my expectations) revealed to me just how merciful God is when He punishes us instead of leaving us.

It will not always be the case.  There will be a separating, a judgement, but until that day every punishment from the hand of God is an act of mercy trying to guide you back to proper relationship and obedience to Him.

And yes, it hurts Him more than hurts you.

Oh, How He Loves Us!

P.S.  When I ran spell check on this, it asked me if I meant “presents” rather than “presence” when I said that I was expecting God was going to take His presence away.  No, that is not what I meant.  My version is a much more terrifying prospect…for some.