Tag Archives: hate

It’s not Weakness; It’s Strength

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Philippians 2:5-8
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

We live in an arrogant age. The race of men have deemed themselves worthy of all that is around them. They continually speak of all that is their right or what they are entitled to. When they are treated harshly, then they are consoled by others who explain that they don’t deserve such treatment.

I cannot simply refer to society as “they”; it is “we” and me as well.

Our children get everything they desire and aren’t taught how to do without. They don’t see what they are being given as being a privilege. They see it as a necessity or right. They deserve it.

I think of times when people drive down the road – if someone cuts them off or drives too slowly they get angry. In fact, people get angry for a lot of things these days. We don’t seem to know how to take it easy anymore – our society is a high stress society.

We are arrogant people who say we are right and everyone else is wrong. We condemn more than the lifestyles that others live, we condemn the people that live them. We get angry and make sure we have the “right” to say our piece or to get them back for what they said or did. This is all arrogance.

Arrogance and selfishness go hand in hand. Every sin ever committed had its roots in selfishness. I can’t think of a single sin that you can’t boil down to selfishness.

Please don’t get me wrong – I’m not pointing fingers at a lot that I’m not involved in. I’m just as guilty, though I’m learning to be more aware each day.

Through our arrogance we bicker and quarrel. We see humility as weakness, or at best we say we desire humility but keep acting in our arrogance. We have a hard time considering others as our equals or even as our superiors, though this is exactly what Jesus did. He put our needs before his own as he went to the cross for us.

Humility, I find, is not weakness. In fact, it takes a strong person to be humble, but those who are truly humble don’t find strength in themselves for we are all frail humans. True strength that sustains humility is found in the confidence that God is sovereign and cares for each of us.

It is because of Jesus that I can take the insult without retaliation. It is through his strength that I feel no need to put myself first. It is only through his wisdom that I can put my wants aside for the sake of others’ needs.

I have a long way to go as I seek the humility of Christ in me, but I desperately want it. Unfortunately, in order for anyone to learn humility God will put them in situations where they must practice it among people who aren’t.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. In fact, there has been a recent study of the most successful businesses in America that showed that the vast majority of those business’s leaders are successful because they are humble people who seek quality in their work without need for praise of others.

Even more so, however, the scripture reminds us over and over that God brings down the arrogant but exalts and gives grace to the humble.

May we become more like Christ as we seek true humility in our lives. May we do more than just say words that sound like humility – may we truly be humble. Then, may we be the catalysts for change in our communities as people see the nature of Christ in us, for if we continue in our arrogance we will only see decline and contempt for the church.

I hope this impacts you like it does me. I want this badly, and I’m going to be pursuing this. I don’t expect it will happen overnight, but I want the nature of Christ to be event in me – Philippians 2 calls me to that.

 

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The Secret to all Relationships is no Secret

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I want you to think of someone you know. This is a person you really love deeply. It may be a spouse or child or long-time friend. Why do you love them? You share so much with one another. Sure, they make mistakes, but you overlook those because of all the positive you see in that person. You love them because they continually live up to your expectations, or even better, you have no expectations of them at all – you just love them for who they are.

Now I want you to think of someone you can’t stand and you don’t love. Why don’t you love them? Do they not share the same vision for life as you? Do they continually make mistakes that you think are so simple to avoid? Do they not live up to your expectations? Do they offend you or do things that hurt you? Do they hurt the ones you love?

Both kinds of people are very real in your life. Each of us have friends, children, relatives, coworkers, and even spouses that fit into one of the two categories. Either we love them unconditionally, or we don’t.

Our world paints such a skewed vision of love. It is destroying our relationships every day. This kind of love is based on self-gratification. If you love someone just because they are good to you, or you hate someone because they are bad to you, both reactions are selfish in nature and therefore neither will lead to love. 1 Corinthians 13, when defining love, says it is not self-seeking.

Not every relationship will be awesome. You will have coworkers you will have to put up with, but you are called to love them anyway. Your children may reject you, but for most parents there is not even a question as to whether or not you love them. You have acquaintances you can’t avoid because they are friends of your friends, but not avoiding them is not edge same as loving them.

Marriages today are the most susceptible to demise based on this non-love that is being taught. We are constantly shown images of fairy-tale like relationships where both parties are blissfully happy forever. Not all marriages will be like this, and you need to know that it is ok. Your marriage doesn’t have to have all the movie-like bliss, but it does have to have love.

Love overlooks the bad. Love doesn’t get angry easily. Love doesn’t hold a grudge. Love doesn’t seek self first. (See 1 Corinthians 13 again)

How are you treating those you don’t like? Are you thinking about those definitions of love? Are you loving them unconditionally?

Jesus loves us in just that way. The bible says that while we were still enemies of God Jesus loved us so much that he died for us (Romans 5:6-11). Did you get that? We were the people who were unloveable, and for the most part we still are! We still sin and do what is against God’s will for us daily. We still don’t love those who are God’s children.

We don’t deserve the love God gives to us, but He loves us anyway. He asks us to love one another in that same way.

Imagine what it would be like to love like that. Imagine loving your coworker despite his annoying and offending personality. Imagine loving that homeless person even before you get to know them. Imagine loving your spouse despite all their countless flaws.

Oh, and loving them doesn’t mean just putting up with them. Loving them is serving them and doing what’s best for them and speaking health and beauty into their lives.

When we love like this then the world will know that we are disciples of Jesus (John 13:35). Then the world will want to know more about the love we’ve been shown. As long as we pick and choose who we love and let our emotions drive our decision (or indecision) to love, then we have no witness in this world for that is not how God treats us daily. He always loves us no matter who we are or what we’ve done, and He proved it by the cross.

Who do you need to love? Is it a spouse or coworker or neighbor? Will you join with me in choosing to love them in spite of them? That’s what God wants – love for love’s sake – not for our sake.


Believers, Demons, and Christians. Oh my!

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Are you a Christian? What does that mean?

There are all kinds of Christians in the world. Some are republican and some are democrat. Some are one kind of denomination and some are another. Some Christians go to war and some don’t. Some Christians use hate and fear-mongering to persuade people to Christ, and some don’t.

People who go by the term “Christian” have done all sorts of things in the name of their religion. They have killed and enslaved and rationalized and warred and devalued all in the name of Jesus.

But are they really Christians?

Some people say they are Christians, but they’ve never been baptized. They claim to believe in Jesus. They may even have said some prayer, but does that make them a Christian?

The bible says that even the demons believe. Does that mean demons are Christians?

Jesus said whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Where’s the sinners prayer there? By the way, some people use a different verse that talks about the confession of Jesus as Lord and say that means that baptism isn’t necessary. As best I can tell I have to look at all of the bible and not just one or two verses. When Jesus defined salvation he talks about belief (the first step) and baptism (the marriage ceremony).

If you’re reading this and you haven’t begun your walk with Jesus by being united with Him in baptism, then what are you waiting on? I’d love to talk with you more about that. It’s not magical or hard, but when you realize what’s going on there, you will see that it is beautiful.

Ok. Ok. Ok. So some of you have been baptized. Does that make you a Christian?

Jesus calls us to follow him. Does your life reflect his? I’m not talking about looking at his rules and regulations; I’m talking about his life. What characterized Jesus? Does that characterize you?

So many people pay attention to all the rules of Christianity. They obey them well, but they’ve missed out on two key attributes of the first people who were ever called Christians.

1. They were super excited and everyone around them knew it. Who could blame them? They had just been saved from themselves. All of their junk and baggage and mess-ups and hang-ups had been forgiven by the Messiah. Even better – they were considered children of God! They could have relationship with God! They weren’t treated like prisoners waiting to mess up so that they could receive the chopping block. They were free – totally free – from all that hinders them: traditions, illness, legalism, oppression, worry, selfishness, sin! Sure, they still dealt with those things reflected in others, but they were no longer hindered. They were set free, and they lived free.

2. In their excitement they loved intensely. They loved those in their towns. They loved the slaves and women and children in a time where those groups were ostracized. They loved the tax collectors who were considered by their fellow citizens as traitors. They loved the people who ruled over them even though it was an oppressive regime. They loved in ways that made them stand out from the world, and the world responded.

Sometimes their love and excitement would create conviction in the hearts of those around them. These Christians weren’t standing on street corners yelling “Turn or burn!” They were loving everyone – even the unloveable. Their love showed up in stark contrast to the selfish lives of all those around them. So this love and excitement brought harsh persecution, and you know what? The Christians rejoiced even in their persecution! Nothing could get them down.

Other times, though, their love and excitement stirred up a desire in others to have the same results in their lives. People came to Jesus left and right because his followers actually lived like Jesus. Sure they messed up. Sure they sinned, but they weren’t burdened with the constant chastisement from their brothers and sisters in the faith. They were encouraged to move on – to stop sinning – and continue to love.

You see, many people think they are Christians, but they are not. A Christian is a person who has chosen to live as best as they can in the light and example of Jesus – an example of perfect love. When that person falls short of perfection (which happens a lot) they live in the grace and forgiveness that Jesus continually gives through his death and resurrection.

Christians are more than believers. Christians are more than rule-followers. Christians are people who live like Jesus. Don’t ignore how Jesus has commissioned you to begin your relationship with Him. And when you do begin, don’t be the kind of Christian that the world expects – harsh, grumpy, judgmental, spiteful, hate-filled, rule-driven people. Be the kind of Christian that your life speaks louder than your words. Love will do that. Live in love.


Cake and Roses and Fluffy Puppies

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I’ve written before about my love for mountain climbing or just climbing in general. The feeling of standing on the top of a high place and seeing the world from above is breathtaking. However, the top isn’t the only part of the journey worth talking about.

When you set out to climb a mountain there are a lot of undesirable issues you must deal with to get there. There is the hassle of camping and gear if you choose to make it an overnight trip. There is the issue of sustenance, for you will surely need the energy to make it to the top. Because you must have sustenance you will have to carry that weight on your back. This creates more weight for you to have to haul up the mountain.

Then there’s the sheer feat of climbing the mountain. No mountain is “easy”. Some are less difficult than others, but your body does strange things above 10,000 feet of elevation. As you climb there are rocks that you trip on. There is often snow to be traversed. There are aching muscles from the constant upward motion. Then there’s the dreaded issue of having to go to the bathroom above tree line (embarassing).

Climbing a mountain is fun and rewarding, but it is also difficult and painful.

When you listen to many preachers talk about life in Christ you hear about love, joy, peace, kindness and other such beautiful ideas. You hear about grace and forgiveness. Who wouldn’t want those things? Christianity sounds awesome, right?!

What they don’t tell you is that Christianity is like climbing up the mountain. The summit experience is awesome, but you have to go through the climb of life to get there. It isn’t all cake and roses and fluffy puppies. Sometimes Christianity is tears and pain and division and struggle.

Jesus was very clear that the Kingdom of Heaven – the kingdom that is here and now in those allowing Christ to rule in their hearts – is much more desirable than the kingdoms of this world with their selfishness and tyranny. However he also made a couple of statements that aren’t so popular.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

He also promises this:

“In this world you will have trouble.”

Well, that’s not very happy. It doesn’t seem like Jesus is doing the best job marketing this new kingdom life.

Think about it though. Have you ever made a decision you knew was right, yet everyone around you was angry with you for the decision you made? Have you ever loved someone even though they hurt you? Have you ever risked your life for someone else? Then you know what Jesus is talking about.

We choose to live for Christ because He is teaching us the way of love, but not everyone likes this way. Some people even hate this way of life because our living this way exposes the darkness within them. They revile against it, and division is created, and relationships are damaged.

In Luke 14 Jesus encourages us to count the cost of being his disciple. It will be a struggle, and you will have to be wiling to sacrifice everything for him, but what you gain is so worth it. Forgiveness, grace, eternal life, relationship with the Creator, purpose in this life. Those things cannot be given a value.

After Jesus promised that we will have trouble in this world, he said “but take heart because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus doesn’t leave us alone to deal with these struggles ourselves. He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He has promised to take every circumstance and bring good out of it (Romans 8:28). He has promised to love you, and he showed it by dying for you. He gave his life for you. Are you willing to go through a little bit of struggle for him?

One more thing.
In Jesus there is a new perspective that I learn day by day as I follow him. The more I live like Jesus the less concerned I am with myself because I am learning to love others more. This brings pain at times when I am rejected, but this also brings hope in all things because of the resurrection. I now have a choice on how I look at the hard times. I choose to look at them as learning experiences and refining fire that makes me stronger. I choose this because I know that this life is not all there is for me. My eternal life began when I gave my life to Jesus, and it reaches its fullness once this physical life reaches its limits. Death is not the end, so I live this life with joy and hope whatever the situation.

Count the cost before you come to Christ, but know that the cost is well worth it for the joy of knowing the Creator and living in His presence. And if you’re already in Christ, live with the perspective of hope in all circumstances. Jesus is with you. His Spirit lives inside you. You are eternal – your pain doesn’t have to be.


Fear is easy; Love is hard

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You may be reading this article before Valentines Day. You may be reading it on or after Valentines Day. In any case, this article is NOT about Valentines Day. But it is about love.

When we talk about what it means to be a Christian, the most basic answer is love. The two laws of Christianity are love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). When mentioning faith, hope, and love, the apostle, Paul, said that the greatest of these three is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

The problem with love is that we aren’t very good at it, and therefore we aren’t very good at the one thing that should define us as Christians. Sure, we love people. We have deep feelings for those we love, but love is not actually those feelings. In fact, you can love without any feeling at all. Love is not an emotion. Love is a choice.

The reason we aren’t very good at love is that we are raised in a culture that teaches us that the world really should revolve around us. Every thing should cater to our whim, so we invent microwaves and fast food restaurants because we deserve to have what we want when we want it. As children we are given things we want because others love us, but the constant showering of love creates a type of narcissism that places us at the center of our own universe. We aren’t very good at love because we are selfish.

We also aren’t very good at love because we are afraid. There is much hurt and betrayal in our culture, and we don’t want to fall victim to that hurt. Maybe you’ve been hurt in your past so you’ve built up walls of protection out of fear of being hurt again. Jason Gray sings a song with the lyrics “Fear is easy. Love is hard.” I tend to agree.

So, we are supposed to love, but we find that love is difficult. How can we overcome that? It begins with an understanding of what love is and isn’t. Love is a choice. It is not an emotion. 1 Corinthians 13 says love is patient, kind, not envious, not proud, doesn’t boast, not rude, not hot tempered, doesn’t hold a grudge, doesn’t gloat, looks for truth, is long suffering, is trusting, finds hope in all circumstances, and is not fleeting or fickle.

Oh, and I forgot one. Love isn’t selfish.

I’m selfish, and so until I die to the idea that my desires come first I cannot love anyone – not even my wife. When we are afraid it is because of our self focus. That is what causes us to retaliate and feel the need for anger and frustration. Love is none of those things because love has no needs for itself. Love is selfless.

Look at Jesus. He is the perfect example of love. What did he ever do that was self-seeking? Nothing. He took the role of a servant though he was ruler and creator of all. He died for you although you had done nothing for him. He offers you sinless perfection while all you can offer in return is broken sinfulness. His love for you is not dependent on you. His love for you comes from a choice, as your creator, to love you selflessly despite all you have done to reject him.

If we love like that we will be hurt. We will be cheated. We will be taken advantage of. But if we love like that non of it will matter because we will have died to self, so there’s nothing left for them to kill.

Fear is easy. Love is hard. But it is totally worth it. Love is how we will change the world. Love is how God intends to bring us peace and joy and hope and forgiveness and all the things we truly long for in ourselves.

Choose love.


The Least Popular Article I’ve Written

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This will not be my most popular article.

Are you a Christian? If you say yes, then this article is for you. If not, you are welcome to read this because you may get a glimpse into what this life is all about, but you should know that the standard set before us in this article is not for you…not yet. Hopefully, however, you will find that the Savior, Jesus, is well worth whatever it takes to seek Him.

So, are you still with me? Good!

As humans, we have a tendency toward brokenness. If you look at the world around us you will see that we are a broken species living broken lives in a broken environment that we choose broken procedures to try to repair to a less broken status. Because we are a messed up people, then when we do things, by our nature, we mess them up.

This is true of our ability to follow Christ.

We are called to be Christians, but for many people this is merely a moniker, a title that gives us religious clout in whatever circles we desire to reveal that title to others. We are but fans of the One to whom we declared our allegiance when we became Christians.

There is a difference between being a fan of Jesus and being His follower. Unfortunately, since the beginning of Christianity, the majority of people who claim his forgiveness are not much more than fans.

Maybe you’re reading this, and you’re saying, “not me!” I hope so, but let’s look at the calling to which you were called.

First of all, Sunday morning worship services and Wednesday night classes are not the penultimate experiences of the Christian life. We are not called to worship on Sunday and Wednesday only. We are called to offer our bodies daily as living sacrifices to God. Worship is supposed to come from us all day every day. In many churches the people who do show up barely even sing anyway, and the attendance on Sunday morning is considerably different than the actual church membership roster. However, this is only a small sampling of evidence for fandom.

What have you sacrificed/given up for Christ? When we are called to Christ, we are called to die to ourselves. In fact, Jesus says we must take up our own cross. He wants us to come to Him and die with him. Can you imagine if the new church slogan was “Come and Die”? Would you want to worship with that group? You would if you understood what Jesus was calling you to.

He is not calling you to a life of luxury. If he were, would he have spent his life and ministry with no home and little food? Wouldn’t he have had a great financial base with which to do ministry?

He didn’t really focus on wealth and prosperity. In fact, he said as a promise that if you follow him you are guaranteed hardship as a result. Have you suffered hardship because of Christ? If you haven’t, then are you truly following him the way you are called to do so?

He doesn’t call us to live for him when it’s convenient. He doesn’t call us to live for him when we aren’t at work or school or doing something else important. He doesn’t call us to go on mission trips and to revival weekends. He calls us to live in mission wherever we are all day every day. We are called daily to revival as we seek His will for our lives.

In America, the American dream of prosperity and status has had an open door into the mindsets of our churches, and it won’t be until we rid ourselves of the needs and desires for things of this world that we can truly put our hand to the plow and not look back.

The world is watching. Recently I was told by a couple of different people that the reason they didn’t want to come to Christ is that they couldn’t see that it was doing anything special for His followers. That is sad, and it convicts me on so many levels.

You aren’t called to be a fan of Jesus. You are called to be a follower, and following means going where He would go and where He is calling. He went to the broken and hurting and dirty people of his day. He went to the poor and the lame. He went out into the world and didn’t associate with the religious cliques of his time. He is calling you to follow him there. He is calling you to get uncomfortable for Him. He is calling you out of YOUR life and into HIS.

Jesus knew this would be tough, and he knew you would have to make some hard choices. Some of you may even have to reject your family because you choose Jesus over them. You may have to change jobs or friends. You may have to tell your boss you can’t work at certain times because you are dedicated to something greater (and being with the saints on Sunday is something greater). I know of a farmer who dedicated to God that he wouldn’t work on Sunday even during the harvest, and he always got his crops in…in fact he had a bumper crop from that point forward.

When we follow Jesus the way he calls us to follow, then we can truly begin to live in the Eternal Life He is calling us to.

If you’re not willing to give yourself up in that way, then consider the choice. It’s time for all of us to stop pretending we are one way and living another. Jesus spoke a lot about that too, and he said it to the religious folk of His day.

So, I hope you’re still with me. We have all fallen short of this, but through the grace of Jesus He helps us get back up and continue to dedicate our lives to Him. When you fail, don’t wallow in self pity. Stand back up! Jesus has already forgiven you.

Please share this with your friends who are Christians. Please make changes in your life as you truly seek Christ with all your heart. Let hypocrisy die in us as His Spirit comes alive in us.


A Love/Hate Relationship with Walking

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About a month ago I got a pretty serious infection in my foot. I had been in some nasty water and then got an ant bite. When I scratched it, infection set in and swelled my foot right up. I got to where I could feel the pain from the infection all the way up my leg and down the other leg before I got treatment. It was painful to walk. I mean REALLY painful.

Then, one day the infection came out, and oh the relief! I have never been so grateful to be able to walk in my entire life. Walking had been so difficult, and now it was easy. I actually thanked God for the ability to walk.

A few weeks ago my truck stopped working. It had been having some trouble, but it finally got to where it just wouldn’t start. I am a very mobile person with a lot to do, so this was difficult for me. I tried to ride my bike, and one day I set off to run some errands around town on my bicycle. About two-thirds of the way to my first destination my pedal came right off. The threading had stripped. I was too far away from the house to go back home right away, so I just did the errands on foot – pushing my bicycle along.

It was frustrating. I really wished I didn’t have to walk.

You ever feel this way? One day something is a blessing and the next day it is a curse. Maybe it is a job or a house or a car or even a relationship. Why is the grass always greener on the other side? Why are we so fickle? Why can’t we just be content with what we have?

We want what we do not have and do not want what we do have because satan is a liar and we buy into his lies.

God has placed you in that house or job or relationship to glorify Him. How can you do that if you are always worried about how horrible your situation is or how much better it would be if this or that was different. Husbands and wives, how can you glorify God in your relationship if you are always wishing your spouse was different rather than celebrating who God made them to be?

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews said this:

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5

Are you content with what you have? If you’re always complaining about it or wishing it was different then you aren’t. Contentment comes from know that it is God who provides, and you are under His care. Contentment is trust in your Heavenly Father to take care of you and to have provided what is best for you.

Do you trust God? Show it by being content with your life, job, house, car, income, and especially your spouse. Then you will be able to glorify Him for His innumerable blessings.


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