Uncategorized

Is God Love?

What do you think of when you hear the phrase, “Love never fails?”

Does it bring to mind some previous bad experience with someone who professed love but didn’t show it? Is it an encouraging thought for you or does it seem like some lame greeting card blurb that has no real truth?

How we take this message has more to do with our own perception of love than it does with the validity of the point. We can take this at face value and attempt to understand it in light of our own human experience, in which case it could be uplifting or sarcastic and hollow, or we could find the Truth in it.

Let’s look at this another way. What if we edited the phrase a bit and made it, “God’s love never fails.” Would that make a difference? Though earthly love can be awesome or painful depending on your experience, God’s love is perfect and pure and precious. God’s love is the standard by which all other behaviors claiming to be love should be judged. With God, love isn’t just a word tossed out on occasion like treats given in exchange for some preferred behavior. It is real and complete and life changing.

We’ve all heard that “God is love,” but have you thought about what that means? Often this fact is used to excuse false belief. Since God is love, He wouldn’t really make Jesus the only way to heaven, it isn’t inclusive. If I am a “good” person, a God who is love, will certainly overlook my sometimes bad behavior. God must not be real, because if He really was love, then there would be no disaster or disease or death. In truth, we have taken the prime attribute of God and made it lazy and cheap and tawdry in order to justify any number of temporary things.

God is eternal. He is unchanging. He is the only standard of right and wrong. His character is constant. His truth is rock solid. He has been the same for every generation since the creation and will be the same for every generation to come. We are the ones who waiver and waffle and wander. That’s on us, not Him. He gives us all we will ever need and He knows our need before we do. He withholds no good thing.

Because of His great love for us, He arranged a way to exchange our earthly nature for an eternal relationship. Because He loves us, He made this arrangement voluntary for us. He allows us to refuse. He doesn’t force us to join Him. We have the right to rebel. If we tell Him to get out of our lives, He will step away. His love for us doesn’t end there, though. Because God can’t abide sin, He knows where our rebellion will lead us and that isn’t okay with Him.

Sometimes He may allow bad things to happen so we see what horrors await us if we die in our waywardness. It is not in His plan for anyone to die without Christ, the only way to eternity, so He allows things that will get our attention.

If we won’t open the door to the knock, there may be a phone call that wakes us up in the dead of night. It is impossible to know how many difficulties were allowed just so one lost sheep could be found. Sometimes, in the storm, God is asking, “Can you hear Me now?” because He Is love. He is completely, utterly devoted to us in pure love that neither lessens nor ends.

We change. Our interpretations of what love is change. Culture and moods change. Thank God His love will always be the same.

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

–1 John 4:7-10, NIV

Advertisements
Uncategorized

Incorruptible

Integrity is one of the most overused words in the English language.

Everyone talks about integrity. We expect it from our leaders, our government officials, our friends and family, and, pretty much, everyone else we encounter. Do we really mean it, though? Do we really expect everyone to act with integrity?

Do we really even know what that means?

The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus lists one definition of integrity as, “conduct that conforms to an accepted standard of right and wrong.” Think about that. Right away this can be problematic. Who’s standard should it be? Who will be doing the accepting? How many people must agree with something for it to be acceptable behavior.
The issue I have with this definition and, by default, with the overuse of the word integrity itself, is that it is too relative.

What happens when cultural opinion shifts? What happens when louder voices drown out quieter ones? It seems that every day we see or hear of things that society is getting comfortable with that, in times past, were not acceptable behaviors. While this is not the time or place to get into the full discussion of this phenomenon, I will submit that, using this definition creates too much freedom. This gives me too much leeway in what is acceptable and what is not. If the foundation of what is right and wrong is based on what those around me find acceptable, then there really is no true right and wrong. If I change my crowd, does my right and wrong change? If I move to another state or another country does what was unacceptable suddenly become acceptable. If so, then things like lying or cheating or stealing, which I believe to be wrong, are only wrong based on where I live or who I am around. If I work with people who lie and cheat and steal as a general course of business then that is the accepted form of behavior. If I participate in that behavior, then, I can still say I am acting with integrity. On the surface, we would say that comparison is ludicrous. If so, then why do we behave that way?

God has given us His definition of integrity. The entire written word of God is his definition of integrity. Because of this, I think a better word to use would be incorruptibility. Webster’s describes this word as, “not subject to decay or dissolution,” or, in other words, unchanging. God’s truth is incorruptible. What is right will always be right. What is wrong will always be wrong. An incorruptible thing will always be exactly as it is. It will not change with time like the latest hairstyle. It was and is and always will be. This is because the true Judge of right and wrong is God, who was and is and is to come. God’s definition of integrity changes it from a relative to an absolute. Now, under this standard, even though I may work among people who lie and cheat and steal, it is NOT alright for me to do the same. By the saving grace of Jesus’ death and burial and resurrection, what was once corruptible is changed to incorruptible. That means me. Because of Jesus, I am being made incorruptible. In order for me to live a life that truly exhibits integrity, I must behave as one who is incorruptible.

Here, then, my responsibility has just gotten a lot more serious. It is not enough for me to not lie or cheat or steal. I must stand up to that behavior in others. It is not okay for me to look the other way, just as long as I don’t participate. Silence is acceptance. In order for me to not be corrupted by that atmosphere, I must flee from it or stand and oppose it. Either choice would work. If I stay, though, I must be prepared for ridicule and opposition. Those who use the Webster’s definition of integrity will not be comfortable around any person who uses God’s definition. We are ultimately accountable to God alone. His instruction is to walk in integrity. No matter where we are or who is watching, He has set the expectation.

That expectation is that we stand incorruptible.


Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever….”

1 Peter 1:22-23, NKJV

Uncategorized

Lukewarm

There are all kinds of leaders in the world.

Almost anyone can lead. All it really takes is for someone to step up and take charge.

There are those who lead with evil intent and those who lead for good. There are some who lead with fiery passion and some who stay calm and composed in the midst of the flame.

There are still others who are so unsure of themselves, that they are neither passionate nor self-controlled. Having no real image of who they are, they are blown to and fro with every wind of change, not knowing when to stand or when to walk away.

These leaders are the most difficult to follow, and the most dangerous.

Jesus warned us about these kinds of people.

In the book of Revelation, Jesus sent messages to the various churches. To the church at Laodicea, He sent a warning. He was dissatisfied with them because they did not have an accurate view of who they were. They believed they were doing very well for themselves. They had become wealthy and believed they didn’t need anything. Because they were so self satisfied, and likely self absorbed, they could not see that they were, as Jesus called them, “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked.” (Revelation 3:17, NIV)

The Laodicean church did not see themselves the same way Jesus saw them, and that was going to be their downfall if they did not change their ways. He compared them to water. Since they were neither hot nor cold, He was going to spit them out His mouth.

Water is a very common theme in the Bible. In this example, Jesus is making a great point. Hot water cleanses and heals. Cold water refreshes and rejuvenates. They did neither. The church at Laodicea was only lukewarm. Lukewarm water is good for nothing. It neither heals nor refreshes.

If the Laodiceans had a more accurate picture of who they really were, surely they would have behaved differently. Certainly, if they knew how poor they were, they would have turned back to Jesus and accepted the refined gold He offered. If they had seen their nakedness, surely they would have taken the robes that He had washed white as snow with His blood sacrifice on their behalf. Wouldn’t that have made them WANT to be hot or cold, healing or refreshing?

If we, here and now, lose sight of who we are in Christ, we have done the same thing. If we do not have an accurate picture of our own state, we cannot lead as He expects us to lead.

As Christ followers, we must see ourselves with God’s eyes. When Jesus died on the cross, He descended into Hell in our place. At His resurrection, He defeated Death and Hell, forever. Now, when God looks at us, He sees Jesus. When it is time to give account for all of our words and deeds, Jesus will be there with us. Our debt has already been marked “Paid In Full,” not because of anything we have done, but because of Jesus. We are victors. We are more than conquerors. We have been redeemed. Our robes have been washed white as snow.

We are no longer orphans, we are children of the King. We are heirs to the Kingdom. The time for lukewarm is over. It is time to be hot or cold. It is time to bring the hot water of healing or the cold water of refreshing to the people God has put before us.

The people are in pain. They are thirsty. They are looking for what we already have. In our communities, businesses, and schools, they are looking for someone to show them Jesus.

Whether hot or cold, it’s time to lead the way.
________________________________________
To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth….Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”

Revelation 3:14-16, 19-20, NIV

Uncategorized

The One Way Street

Respect is a two way street.

We’ve all heard that before.

There’s a good chance most of us have said it before.

If we really think about it, though, this only comes to mind when we want to give ourselves an excuse for disrespecting someone we feel has first disrespected us. We too quickly take any perceived slight as an open invitation to lash out or hold a grudge against the offender. We speak harshly to them or give them the cold shoulder. We grumble and gossip about them and all the while feel justified because they treated us badly. In our all consuming feelings of insult, we may take to social media to extol our victimhood and show the world how we have been so shabbily treated. This would probably be about the time we end up telling anyone who will listen that, “Respect is a two way street, you know.”

The problem here is that this statement is wrong.

Respect is not a two way street. Sometimes, respect is a one way street with no jay walking allowed.

If we only respect those people who respect us, what have we done? What has made us different from the rest of the world? Where is Jesus in that? The answers to these questions are…nothing and nowhere.

Here’s a news flash: Jesus never asked for respect. Honestly, since He knew ahead of time what His mission was, that means He also knew ahead of time that He would not get respect. He came to this earth, on purpose, to be disrespected. He came to save the world with His life. If anyone, ever, had the right to feel victimized, it was surely Jesus. He gave up EVERYTHING for the very people who spit on Him, beat Him, and murdered Him. He did this for me and you and everyone else on earth. He didn’t do it for respect and He never played the victim.

If He never told us to respect Him, what did He tell us to do?

He told us to love one another. He told us to love God. He asked us to feed His sheep. He didn’t tell us to retaliate or hate or destroy. I’m pretty sure He doesn’t approve of us taking to Facebook to bash someone who spoke rudely to us.

He asked us to go. He told us to go to the ends of the earth to share the Good News with all the world. That includes the place where we are right now. Wherever we find ourselves as leaders, we are to share the Good News, both by our words and our deeds. As leaders, it is not alright to only respect those who respect us first, and then only for as long as they never slight us. We are to respect everyone, always, in every situation. That doesn’t mean I can’t call you out if you’ve done something wrong. Jesus did that. It does mean, though, that I must do it professionally and respectfully. I can look someone in the eye and tell them that they are not meeting the expectation of the job without being mean or hateful or aggressive. This may be really hard sometimes, but not so much if you consider the disrespect our souls cost Jesus on the cross.

Oh, and one more thing Jesus did say.

He told us to turn the other cheek.

Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.”

John 15:20-21, NIV

Uncategorized

Lead With Diligence

If you will lead, then do so with diligence.

Diligence is defined as steady, earnest effort.

The greatest leaders are passionate, engaged, and involved. They inspire their people to be the best they can be. Lackluster performance or a lazy attitude will sink any effort to achieve excellence. Your team will see through this faster than light through glass. The members of any team feed off the energy, or lack of energy, of the leader. If you expect your team to perform to high standards, you must perform your position with that same excellence that you expect. A lazy leader cannot achieve the best results. I often refer to these types of leaders as Cruise Directors, though I don’t mean that literally. I’m sure there are scads of awesome, passionate, engaged cruise directors out in the world. I am only referring to the look and feel of this type of leadership. I’m talking about the kind of person who moves through the workplace carrying a cup of coffee while directing the work of the employees. Pointing out more work for them to do with your coffee cup is demeaning to them. It is insulting and only undermines the morale of the team members. This is not engaging, it’s bossy.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

Expecting the best of the team while performing to the bare minimum, personally, reflects a lack of integrity. Do not presume to tell someone to work harder while you sit in an office somewhere browsing Facebook or surfing the web. The people see what you are doing. They know what you are about. These leaders will struggle to maintain the respect and support of the team. Once you lose respect, you’ve lost the ability and freedom to lead. The loss of respect is almost always fatal to your personal brand.

Do As I Do

I will say, again, if you will lead, do so with diligence. Be at work on time. Study to stay ahead of your competitors, processes, procedures, or projects. Be prepared. Be respectful. Strive for excellence. Use your work time for work. Keep a positive attitude. Lead with passion. Feed your team the energy and drive to win.

Play your position to the best of your ability and expect those you lead to do the same.

For by the grace given me, I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you….We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us, If your gift … is to lead, do it diligently.

Romans 12:3, 6a, 8b