asking the wrong questions

“Love someone.  Anyone.  Any way you choose to.  But you need to do it at the right time, with the right flowers and at the right restaurant.”

Stop and think. What is wrong with this command? Read it again carefully if you need to.

It tells me when to love, with what to love and even where to love, but what other details might you need? How about who and how? Do the what, where and when really matter if you have the who and how figured out? I don’t think they matter one bit.

Isn’t it refreshing that God’s New Covenant commandments to us don’t even bother with the what, where and when? Let’s look at the Two Commandments of Jesus Christ.

1. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Do you see anything in these that have to do with what it looks like to do this, or where or when to do this? Of course not. It appears that God isn’t as concerned with what, where or when we love Him, but instead is concerned that we indeed are loving Him and how we love Him.

Another example about this from Jesus is His discussion with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria about the differences between Jews and Samaritans. She reminded Jesus that Jews believed that the Temple in Jerusalem was the TRUE place for worship, but that the Samaritans were actually the right ones, because the real TRUE place for worship was the mountain in Samaria. The reply of Jesus is paramount. He told her that the time was coming and had already come when she would not worship God on the Samaritan mountain or in Jerusalem. (What!?!) He then tells her that True worship is not where, but in Spirit and in Truth (how).

Who do we love? The LORD first, and then our neighbor.
How do we love them? With everything that we have. Every affection, moment, possession, thought, feeling and effort.
Where and when do we do this? What do we do with with? It just does NOT matter.

Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for not attending the latest, hippest Christian conference.
Don’t let anyone pressure you attend an event.
Don’t listen to those that tell you you MUST read this book or do this bible study.
Don’t believe the idea that certain rituals of prayer, bible-study or worship are any better than others.
Don’t let anyone control you but God.

but it looks like love

What does it look like to love God and my neighbor?

I know, I know. You might be getting a bit numb to the topic of love. Maybe you have love figured out. If so, stop reading right now. This article won’t apply to you. If you’re like the rest of us, you can probably admit you have a thing or two to learn about True love.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were clear, precise, practical examples of what True love is? Then we could stop guessing and just do it, right? Some of us long to be told just what to DO in order to demonstrate True love. Would that help? I’m not convinced that it would.

You see, what looks like love isn’t always the real deal. Truth is, we ALL know what love LOOKS like, even if we don’t know what love IS. Just think of all the donations to charities all over the world that would never be made unless someone was looking. There just has to be something in it for us. It’s not flattering, but it’s the truth. The world runs on selfishness. And what’s really scary is when selfishness is disguised as humility or generosity.

So I won’t waste any time telling you to talk to your neighbor even if they aren’t like you; I won’t try to tell you where the line is between affection and disrespect for your boy/girlfriend’s body; and as much as you might like me to, I won’t try to tell you how to learn to love people you don’t like or that don’t like you. That is behavior modification, and it doesn’t work. Sure, it might make things look a little bit better, but at the end of the day, no change results.

What I WILL do, is point you once again to the best example of love that we have. The one act of Grace that echoes through all eternity, silencing all other acts of love. The sacrifice that out-does all of our petty performances of trying to love others. The death of Christ.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” – 1 John 4:10-11

May God’s love be perfected in us… period.

-Dale

help! i’m not acting right!

Thoughts, Feelings, Actions

Here’s a theologically loaded statement:
Right beliefs (ortho-doxy) create right feelings and lead to right actions (ortho-praxy).

As Christ-ians, our life (and thereby, our life-STYLE as well) is all about Christ. This is true isn’t it? Whatever we think, feel or do ought to be thought, felt or done in regard to Christ. Pretty amazing to think that Christ wants to renew our thinking, give us joy, and (as if that’s not enough) DO great things through us.

Thoughts
It starts with our thinking or our beliefs, doesn’t it? They are of utmost importance. When we actually believe that the God of the universe would not just merely be interested in us, but also would be willing to die for us, that has an effect on us!

Feelings
Once we are thinking straight, and it starts to sink in that Christ paid a debt that we would never have been able to pay, I’m just guessing that our feelings should take perhaps a small positive turn! That is what joy is all about! Would a prisoner that had been freed from a death-sentence show no emotion? Well, whether you realise it or not, or just have forgotten, If you are a Christian, you were a prisoner, and you have been set free from your death sentence!

Actions
This is where it gets interesting. We tend to be terribly distracted when our actions (or someone else’s) are either lacking or not of the right “kind.” If we’re not careful, we can slip into a pattern of thinking that our actions shape and form our beliefs. It’s the other way around. Our REAL thoughts and beliefs are seen in the way we act. It’s a tricky distinction that can easily be missed. Put plainly, you can’t serve your way into having Christian beliefs. You can, however, believe your way into serving in a Christian way. As church-type-people, we often act like the former statement is true. We care less about what people believe or how they feel, and instead just try to find ways to get all of the Christian jobs done! We must not do this.

If you are experiencing a ‘dry spell’ in your Christian life, check your beliefs and feelings. One of the many great things about the Christian life is that we are not simply converted and then put on a shelf, we are grown, tested, tried, bruised, etc. These bumps are to cause us to remember Who we are intended to rely upon. The dry spells aren’t there to get us to try harder, but to help us realise our inability to please God with our flesh, and remember Who our strength is. One of the greatest passages in the Bible about God’s will for living the Christian life is the beginning of the 12th chapter of Romans. Among other things, it says to “be transformed (continually) by the renewing of your mind.”

Thoughts are important.

Blessings,

Dale

no offense…but you’re worthless

It’s just not what you read in the newest self-help books.

It’s completely contrary to every trend in society. We adjust grading methods to make students feel better about themselves. We say that everyone is special and don’t stop to consider that by saying that, we make no one special. (this is well illustrated in the brilliant movie-cartoon: The Incredibles) Why do we do this? What’s the deal?

So many of the belief-systems in the world struggle to deal with the condition of humanity. I think this is very interesting. The fact that humans are bent on selfishness is quite possibly the easiest truth to demonstrate! We all hide our wrong and promote our good. Yes, even in churches! We look for the fastest lane in traffic, and the shortest line at the grocery store. We’re always looking out for our own best interests!

I love Christianity for many reasons, one of which is it’s realness. Jesus wasn’t out to flatter humanity. His disposition with humankind is very succinctly described by His half-brother James, who wrote that God “opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

One of Jesus’ most striking message to humanity was that we aren’t good enough. He raised the ‘bar’ of morality so high that nobody would be able to say they were good. That is why Jesus was always barking at the Pharisees! He called them white-washed tombs, and made no ‘bones’ (pardon the pun) about how he felt about their self-righteousness! In sharp contrast, He forgives and welcomes sinners who are repentant and aware of their moral bankruptcy. The Apostle Paul echoes Jesus’ message in passages like the third chapter of Romans, where he quotes various passages in the Psalms: “There is none righteous, no, not one… none who seeks after God… they have together become unprofitable (see title of this article)… etc., etc.

As Christians, our confidence is NEVER in ourselves. Not in the past, not now, and not in the future. We were never good enough, we are still not good enough and we will never be good enough! The technical-theological definition of grace is undeserved favour. Take a good guess why it is undeserved. Because we can’t earn it, and we don’t earn it!

Why are so many Christians BORED with the Christian life? I think we have forgotten just how BIG a deal God’s grace is!

May we live in the awe of God’s grace to the point where we see for ourselves just how ‘amazing’ it really is.

In Him,

Dale

through the week

Greetings,

So how was your church on Sunday?

This phrase illustrates how grossly incorrect we use the word ‘church.’ We use the word as if it means a place and a time (most commonly the church ‘building’ on Sunday morning). Some of you will be familiar with the Greek term behind our English word church which is ‘ecclesia.’ The literal meaning of this word is ‘those called out’ or ‘called out ones.’ So in the book of Romans for instance, the apostle Paul was not writing to ‘the building in which Christians meet’ at Rome, but to ‘those called out’ at Rome. Many of you will know that many early churches in the first century met in homes. For centuries, however, the majority of Christians have met in buildings. Lately, you will have noticed that the trend of ‘home groups’ has been popular all over the world.

Can I just say that I don’t really believe it matters WHERE or WHEN the church meets? Can I also say that even though we must meet corporately together, the Church is not (or at least should not be) defined by what happens when ‘it’ meets? We tend to compartmentalize our lives in to sacred or secular sectors, and this ought not be so.

In Acts 2, the earliest Christians met daily in the temple, but that was a central place of community for their Jewish culture. Reading these kinds of passages, you quickly get the idea that there was never a time or place when the early Church was not being the Church. We ought to follow their example. Didn’t Jesus himself say that WHENEVER two or more are gathered in His name, that He would be there with them? So why do we argue about where and when to meet?

In modern days, Christians are very concerned by how our services run, and what percentages of people are in small groups, etc. We find safety and comfort in such noble things as mission trips, bible studies and meetings.

I’m interested in joining God in being a part of a culture of Christians that are letting Christ live in them to the point that it makes sense that they bear His name. Not a once or twice a week irrelevant gathering of warm bodies, but an ongoing, constant culture of self-sacrificing, serving, slaves of Christ. May we begin that culture in our own hearts.

In His Grace,

Dale

excuse me, nurse?

Howdy,

This week, I want to focus on ‘realness’ in our Christian lives. Let’s be honest, most of the time, Christianity is a dog-and-pony show where the ‘most spiritual’ award goes to the one with the least sin, and the biggest smile on Sunday morning. Is that the goal? Is that even reality? Is that what Jesus had in mind for the church? I think not.

We need to be open and honest with each other. I look at a church (not the building or the time spent in the building, but people) as a HOSPITAL. Hospitals are full of people that are hurting. Hospitals are places where people go to have their wounds healed. Can you imagine how ridiculous it would be if an injured person went to a hospital and the doctors and nurses were appalled and disgusted by the wounds they had?

“I’m sorry, miss, but we don’t allow bleeding here, can you please cover that wound? It’s making many of the others uncomfortable.”

Is this not what we do in our churches? Sure, we give much lip service to the idea of being a place of healing, but secretly, we wish for good, clean, sin-less, happy, European, comfortable church members that are more ‘like us.’ I desire to be the kind of Christian that people know they can come to when they are hurting.

This week, ask the Holy Spirit two questions…
1. Am I the kind of person people can confess sins to? Can people be ‘real’ with me?
2. Am I confessing my sins (specific) to anyone? Am I being ‘real’ with others?

May our lives and our churches be hospitals of mercy and clinics of grace…

In His Grace,

Dale