Friday, January 21, 2011

What is Love? - Thoughts as Valentine's Day approaches

“Love…a word that comes and goes…but few people really know what it means to really love somebody…” – Kirk Franklin, “Love
“We are His hands, we are His feet. We are His people, children of the Lord…” – Whiteheart, “We are His Hands

Both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant share a common desire, that we would love God and love one another. Whether you looked to the instructions of Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, or the descriptive passage in 1 Corinthians 13, one finds that loving God and loving one another are important in terms of living the life of a God-pleaser.

One of the biggest differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is the locus of control. Under the Old Covenant, the believer was given the Torah, what we call the Law, but really means “instruction” more than it means “legal code.” These instructions, if followed, were the key to pleasing God. Unfortunately, the Israelite believer had nothing within him that enabled him to keep the instructions other than his own self-will, which, at best, bore mixed results.

Now, under the New Covenant, we have been given, not merely a set of instructions, but power to please God because the Holy Spirit is within us. All we need to do is know how to access that power, right? If only it were that easy, then we could just buy another product from Evangelist ___, or Pastor ____, or maybe Prophet ____, and before you know it, you are the perfect Christian!

In fact, long before we finish that book, DVD, or tape, we find that love is still an elusive quality, sometimes hiding tantalizingly out of the reach of our heart, mind, and strength. Love cannot be captured by more education, more busy work, or more charitable giving. It only comes when you see the value in someone, whether it is God, or the person sitting besides you who is trying to see God while at Sunday worship or the Wednesday Night Bible Study. The only way to do that, though, is to see what God sees.

God the Father sees Jesus Christ as the Beloved Son, fully sharing the Father’s nature, heart, and will. So should we. He sees the rest of our family members, our co-workers and classmates, and the strangers who pass through our lives, as people for whom His Son died. So should we. These people are so valuable, that Christ gave up His heavenly glory and power, to become common, ordinary, and powerless. In His steps, and in the name of true love, we should give up our relative glory, our self-importance, our time, and our desire for preeminence, to help them find the Lord Jesus.

In the end, as Pastor Marvin Sapp sang, “Nothing else matters, than being with Jesus.” Whether it is “for me and my four,” or those strangers who make us nervous, proud, or frustrated, true love is never having to say that anyone passed through our lives without having experienced Christ’s love through us. This can only be said by those who seek, not by their own energy, but by trusting in Christ to supply what each encounter requires, to allow God to use them as a conduit of love, a channel of grace.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A new year, a new decade, and a new creation

As you may have noticed, we are in a new year, starting a new decade. If nothing else, time markers encourage us to take stock of ourselves. For this year, I hope to put my love of, and talent for, writing to good use.

Last year, I claimed the words of Phi 3:14 as my verse for the year. At this point, I do not know how well I submitted to that goal, but I do know that I am still here. Of course, part of my reason for being here, I believe, is to raise my son in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and prepare him for the work of ministry that is his destiny in Christ. Another part, I believe, is that I have more growing in grace to do.

This year, I want to submit to Phi 2:5-8. Paul joyfully described himself in every epistle as a slave of Jesus Christ. I want that same understanding, because I know that I will serve someone. I know that the Lord is a loving, wise, benevolent, and holy master, while Satan is hateful, foolish, wicked, and common. I must serve one of them, however, and I am aware of the end of the story. I want to win, I want to live, and I want to please God.

There are those who do not understand this, but believe that they are autonomous, and are choosing to indulge the flesh as they see fit. I have seen, however, that those who have rejected the Lord Jesus Christ are compelled to walk against His will. Inevitably, that leads to sin and death. I have never met a godly atheist or a holy hedonist.

As you enter this new year/decade, I hope that you will also consider yourself, and take a look at the road you are traveling along. Make sure that your path leads to life, and if not, God still allows for u-turns.