Are You There Yet?

I remember when Treasa and I were first married, I was in the Army and we lived down in El Paso, TX, stationed at Fort Bliss. Treasa would talk to me, (or sometimes passionately talk to me with raised volume) about things I was doing that were hurtful to her, frustrating to her, or just plain confusing to her. I remember so vividly, even all these years later, the thoughts that went through my mind as she spoke. "What right does she have to judge me for these small inconsequential things, when compared to all the guys around me, I'm a saint! In fact, she's so lucky, she shouldn't complain at all, about anything!"

If you find yourself judging me in this moment, go ahead, but I imagine by the end of this short conversation, you may change your tune.

I was so focused on the competition of my choosing, that I was comparing all of my choices to theirs. So if I was a little more self-aware, I would have more honestly said this to Treasa... "Babe, I am way better to you, than my single, alcoholic, womanizing, non-Christian friends are to their girlfriend of the week! What more do you want from me?"

It has quite a bit less of a zing when put in that context. 

Yet this mistake I made as a brand new ignorant husband directed toward my poor wife, is the same mistake many of us make in our Christian walk. 

We say, "God, I am way more holy and committed to you, than my unsaved, ignorant to Your goodness, not filled with Your Spirit, unreached, unfamiliar with the Bible, not recipients of the power and love of the local church, lost friends are to You! What more do you want from me?"

Yikes.

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ, and I'm not here to guilt you into, or out of something. I do however, want you to consider how you are living.

Does your life show plainly that Jesus is Lord (ruler/leader/in control) of your life? Philippians 2:5-11

Do your words contain light and life for every hearer? Ephesians 4:29

Are you loving your spouse, family, friends, kids, and neighbors in a radical and sacrificial way? 1 John 3:16

Let's take a good look at where we are standing, and ask ourselves, "Do I really believe I have arrived already?" When we realize that indeed, none of us have, let us ask God, "Where Lord are you calling me to grow? Where Lord are you calling me to surrender? Where Lord are you calling me listen?" 

You'll be so glad you did, and I'm right there with you, walking out and asking the very same questions, right alongside you!

What is in Front of You Now?

I spent a large portion of my late teens and adult life wondering and fretting over what was next for me. No matter what I was faced with that day, it seemed to be overshadowed by my curiosity and desire for what was next. 

I don't believe praying for, wondering about, or even planning for the future is bad; but missing the beauty and importance of the lessons of today for the sake of dreaming of tomorrow is a practice we need to avoid.  

I am sure we can all remember recent conversations when we were trying to tell a story, or connect with a friend or family member, and they were busy on their phone texting, posting, or searching. It is a unpleasant experience, and even though we are likely guilty of the same thing at times, it is not much fun to be dismissed for the sake of something or someone else. 

This momentary expression of divided attention in a conversation, is a smaller picture of exactly what we are doing with our every moment when we are constantly distracted with tomorrow and our future. 

This is of course unkind to the people who are present in our today, but there is a larger context that is important to understand in this as well. 

James 1:4 says, "And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

Our ability to be present, to stand, to take in, to learn, to participate, and to hear and see everything that is in our present moment is what prepares us for tomorrow. 

Consider then, if you and I float through today not learning the lessons of the day, how painfully ill-equipped will we be for tomorrow? 

Seasons of learning prepare us for seasons of teaching; seasons of serving prepare us for seasons of leading; seasons of being part of a team prepare us for seasons of leading a team; seasons of listening prepare us for seasons of speaking; seasons of receiving prepare us for seasons of giving.

You have no doubt heard expressions like, "Until you fully understand the practice and power of following, you will never be a great leader." or "Until you have been faithful with a little, you will not be trusted to be faithful with much."

Sayings and verses like these, are the proof of this truth. Fully embracing the lessons of today and the challenges in front of us, make us ready for the challenges and opportunities we will walk into tomorrow. 

Allow me to encourage you with this, if you are looking at what is in front of you, and find yourself constantly wishing you were past this season and onto the next, consider perhaps that it is God's goodness that keeps you where you are, so that you can be well prepared and ready for tomorrow. 

Consider what is in front of you now. Serve there, learn there, listen there, and grow there. Before you know it, you will be made ready for the future you have been dreaming for.

Overthrown in a Really Great Way

When Jesus came, the Jewish people in large part were expecting a much different type of Messiah or Savior. They were expecting a conquering king who would overthrow the Roman rule, and the people were sorely disappointed when Jesus came instead as a baby boy born into a poor carpenters family. 

They were upset that Jesus didn't come to overthrow any governments or rulers, but the truth is, that is exactly why He came. 

Ephesians 1:11 says, "In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will."

I like how the Message Bible paraphrases this passage, "It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living."

When we walk into relationship with Jesus, we call Him Lord. Lord means, ruler, authority, leader of our life. Jesus came to overthrow governments and rulers, just the one's inside our minds and hearts. 

If you and I allow our own personal desires to determine fully our decisions for life, we have an authority and ruler in our life, and it isn't Him. 

If you and I allow our view of ourselves to be narrated and created by the approval or disapproval of mere men, we are submitting to an authority in our life, and it isn't Him.

Jesus came to overthrow every authority, government or ruler, outside Himself, in the life of every believer. His desire is to be Lord in our lives and that we would know and follow Him. His heart is that nothing outside of what He, His Word, and His promises say, would ever rule us.

Allow me to ask you, what's ruling your life? Who have you made your authority? If it isn't Jesus, today is a really good day to welcome Him to come in and overthrow some authorities in your life. You will be so glad He did! 

Stare at Him, Not Them

Have you ever had one of those moments when someone phrases something a little bit off, and your brain starts to race and wonder why they would say such a thing, and worry about what they really meant?

If you're good at it, you can come up with some really extravagant things, tapping into misguided fears and distorted impressions of people's unintentional facial expressions. 

It's a lot of fun if you're good at it. (I hope you were able to detect my attempt at using satire)

Many of us have been there, it's an uncomfortable moment, and our imagination can get the better of us. 

I have some great news for you, it doesn't have to be this way. 

In 1 John 4:7 it says, "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God."

You and I are not bound, defined, entrapped or limited by anyone else's viewpoints or opinions. Even if that glance that you've allowed to travel further in your mind than you should have is completely true, it doesn't change anything about reality. 

Not only are you still loved, even if someone else dismisses or does not approve of you, you are commanded to love them in return. Not with your own love, not through your gritted teeth and by your own effort, but with the love of God. 

His love for you is greater than their thoughts or words, His love for you is greater than your insecurities and fears.

This is the beautiful thing about the love of God. His love takes a weak moment and turns it into something beautiful, He returns back to it, an investment of love. 

Friends, God's love is enough. Enough to destroy our out of control thoughts, enough to overcome criticizing accusations, and enough to pay back an attack with a gift of love.

Let's stare at Him in those moments, allowing His love to guide our thoughts, allowing His love to fill us with something worth dwelling on, allowing His love to fill us with a response worth speaking out.

Love Deeply, Love With Purpose

Love is one of the most powerful words in our language, and there are a thousand different definitions floating around concerning love. 

I think most people, regardless of their religious beliefs, background, or personality, would say the world needs more love. The challenge is, what we mean by that varies so greatly. 

Imagine for a moment you are looking at a person who is standing on the side of the road with a sign asking for help. One see love as, "We can't help them where they're at, that will only encourage them to stay there. They need tough love." Another might look at the same person and say, "They are the poor and hungry, it is my moral or religious responsibility to do something to help them." Of course, outside of these two examples of response, there are still a thousand more that people could say or think. 

The passage that I look to the most, when I think of love is a common one.

1 Corinthians 13:5-7 "Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."

This passage is so full of explanation, definition, and above all, is extremely challenging for me.

Love is not simple, love is not shallow, and love is not one thing.

This world does indeed need more love, but the love the world needs is this kind of love. Sometimes what people need is your patience which could be less about what we say. Sometimes what people need is kindness which could be more about what we do or say. Love is also a lot about who we are or how we think

My challenge to you, is consider, what are some opportunities for you to love that you can walk into this week? How might this list help you in your pursuit of love? Regardless of what it is, get out there and walk it out. Love people, love deeply really considering them and their circumstance, but also consider what's going on inside yourself. This will help us love people not only with depth, but with purpose and to great benefit for them.