“Control” is a loaded word. It can evoke a visceral reaction in various individuals, in negative or positive ways. And as Americans, we cherish our freedom sometimes to the point of demonizing any form of control. We don’t want people to infringe on our rights, we want to speak freely without consequences and we want to the freedom to make decisions often without the complementary responsibilities.
If we are followers of Jesus, however, there’s an alarming verse that recently arrested my attention: 2Cor 5:14a, “For the love of Christ controls us, . . . ” When I read this, I tried to find some wiggle room in the Greek for the word “control”. But alas, I had no luck. I’m supposed to be controlled by Jesus’ love.
So if we identify as a follower of Jesus, this means that His love:
influences my conversations to make them edifying rather than snarky
priorities my resources to be less selfish & to consider others
applauds those random acts of kindness that run contrary to my fleshy instincts
filters my thoughts & emotions to remove unforgivness, judgment, condescension, etc
Let’s allow Jesus’ love to be the controlling & defining essential in our lives!
“What’s wrong with her?” I was recently walking through the largest brothel in Bangledesh & noticed a lady sitting on a bench & she was crying. I immediately sat next to her & put my arm around her, feeling her sadness pouring out of her. Some people with me asked her in the Bengali language what was wrong & there was a brief dialogue where she said why she was crying in seemingly few words. I continued to hold this young lady, absorbing her pain & she began to cry heaps more.
She was crying because she was homesick for her parents who live in a different district & she had been working in this brothel for more than a year.
I could continue explaining more & more details of her life to help you, my reader, understand why she was crying.
But let’s be careful that we don’t qualify our love on understanding first. Indeed, I sincerely don’t think we begin to understand until we decide first to love.
If you truly want to begin understanding someone, decide that you will love them & you’ll find that you begin to understand them more & more!
There’s plenty of darkness in our world & lots of that darkness comes from letting hate & apathy into our hearts. For example, my friend was telling me about a brothel in Bangladesh where the underage workers are forced to take bovine steroids to force their bodies to develop & be more appealing to clients. Obviously, the steroids have very negative results on these girls’ bodies to say nothing about the babies born & toddlers raised in this environment. Truly, brothels like the one I described are dark & deplorable.
Enter nightcare with Saving Moses. In Cambodia, we have four nightcare centers where we look after the babies & toddlers of prostitutes while they work. These sex workers have no way to look after their babies or toddlers while they work, so our centers are essential to the nurture, upbringing & worldview for these lovely treasures! Jesus talks about caring for Him when we look after “the least of these” in Matthew 24.
Be sure to watch my blog over the next week as I visit Bangledesh to bring love & light to the least of these!
That’s a stupid question.
But actually, it’s a very important question because what seduces us can give us insight into weak spots & things that can possibly cause us to go off the rails.
For me, I’m a bit of an odd duck. What seduces me isn’t chocolate, wealth, image, clothes, etc. I’m more enamored with intellectual stuff, March Madness & the NCAA college basketball tournament, along with adventure & exhilaration.
Let’s be sure that we keep the stuff that interests us in proper alignment to our love for Jesus. If I let my interests in college basketball, intellectual pursuits or thrill seeking get more intense than my passion & love for Jesus, then I’ve become a victim to idolatry.
We don’t intentionally set out to be idolaters but that’s the problem with seduction. It’s subtle & creeps up on you often before you recognize it.
This is one of the reasons I so deeply love the Holy Spirit who keeps me away from deception & distortion while staying passionately in love with Jesus! Let’s pay attention to the things that seduce us!
This morning, I read a verse that hit me between the eyes – 2Kings 17:41, “So while these nations feared the Lord, they also served their idols; . . .” This verse really spoke to me about my passion to follow Jesus.
I think that we generally have respect for God, but all too often we serve idols. No one sets out, usually, to be an idolator but there are lots of subtle idols that can allure our attention. Greed seems to be the most obvious idol & it has certainly a firm foothold in our culture & values! Another subtle idol is image & vanity. Of course sports & fitness can be an distraction from serving Jesus & so can consumption & food. Comfort & convenience have also become significant values that often sway our priorities.
Let’s be sure that we respect & serve God with both feet!
I like to pray because in my mind, praying is simply conversing with God. Prayer is a dialogue between God & me, not just a monologue shopping list. From time to time, however, I sense God challenging me to make known my requests & not just stay in the listening mode. Over time, I’m learning to take very seriously what these requests can be for the simple reason that God answers our prayers.
Consider these weighty requests:
Patience – when we ask God to help us be more patient, often the resulting journey to that destination can be tumultuous
Trust – help me trust You more / better; the places in our lives that need this work can get very uncomfortable from the Holy Spirit answering this request
Love – I’ve asked God to help me love better & despite some hotspots, the results are worth the risks
It’s not bad to make weighty prayers, but let’s be prepared to make the changes such prayers require.
I love my family, full stop. Sometimes it’s easier to love than others, but my love for each member of my family is embedded deep in my heart. Regardless of my deep feelings & commitment of love, it’s important that I express this love to each individual & that requires me to pay attention really well. Expressing the love that’s in our hearts is an essential ingredient for remaining connected but how I express this love has to be meaningful to the person receiving my loving expression. So for example, one of my family members really like to hold hands, hug & cuddle. So for this person, I need to remember that love in their perspective is most meaningful by touch. I have another family member who likes to have time & a listening ear, not holding hands as much. So with this member, I endeavor to keep some dates on the calendar to have some one-to-one time.
The premise for loving well is grounded in the 5 love languages: touch, gifts, service, time & affirmation. Let’s learn what is a meaningful expression of love to the people we love so that we can love them in ways that nurture our connection with them! Let’s remember to love well!
Jesus miraculously fed thousands of people on two occasions because of availability. On each occasion, everyone was in dire straights, but Jesus came through with a miracle of plentiful provision based on the simple principle of using what was available. Jesus used a meager few fish & loaves of bread, the provision that they had, along with His disciples as distribution agents. I would speculate that maybe one or two of the disciples thought it was crazy to be sent to feed thousands of people with such a paltry provision & yet because they were available, Jesus worked His miraculous provision through their available hands & feet. Jesus prayed for the provision & then told His disciples to go & give.
Seems to me that the same principles apply to us today. Jesus merely asks us to be available & then to go & give.
Watch this video of some magnificent peeps recently who did exactly what Jesus said & multiplied His love by being available:
This picture is from a pretty shady neighborhood in Phnom Penh Cambodia. When you go into this apartment complex, it can be super creepy & intimidating. But it’s full of people & this is why it’s great because Jesus loves people!
Doing love well is an essential ingredient to following Jesus based on John 13:35. But it’s not easy, sometimes. It’s not easy to love a drug addict mom who neglects her kids to feed her addiction. It’s not easy to love when your body doesn’t feel well. It’s not easy to love someone who can be prickly & cantankerous. It’s not always easy to love.
But this is what Jesus says is the defining mark of those who follow Him – that we will be recognized by our love for one another. Let’s choose to love & let God love others through us, even when it’s not easy 🙂
I’m continually amazed at the complexity God put into not only creation but more so in our human existence. For example, I’m learning just how amazing the balance system is for our bodies since mine has been messed up from a concussion a few months back. Sometimes our thinking can also get complicated because we can think about various decisions, about our emotions, about our values & heaps more. There are things which absolutely need to be complicated, but there are things that don’t need to be complicated. Let’s be careful to not make simple things too complicated:
Let’s keep our love for Jesus, others & ourselves simple & clean
Let’s keep our priorities simple, not trying to squeeze in too much
Lets keep our focus as simple as we can, particularly over this holiday weekend
It is very disturbing to read the unfolding news about the mass shooting yesterday in Orlando. A muslim security guard, armed with a semi-automatic machine gun, entered a gay bar in Orlando and began shooting. He was confronted by an off-duty police officer and manuevered into the bathroom where he maintained a stand-off for three hours while the Orlando police and emergency services worked to protect and rescue victims from the carnage and violence. Of course this story is continuing to unfold in the news and I have no doubt more information will come to light over time.
In the political world, various leaders are advocating better gun control laws, some leaders are rallying support for the LGBT community and many leaders are blaming the immigration struggles with which the US is wrestling.
As a follower of Jesus, it is my sincere prayer that my community rallies around the words of Jesus more than the world of hate. There are some people who would try to explain that because this was an attack on a gay bar, God is expressing His judgement and wrath on the homosexual community. There are other folk who would seek to ostracize muslims because of this violent atrocity.
Seems to me that when Jesus was hanging on the cross, He didn’t ask the Father to get revenge on these wicked, violent and undeserving sinners. He asked the Father to forgive the people who violently beat, condemned and hung Him on a cross – the most innocent and pure human to ever grace the human race. May our words and actions be overflowing with the grace and love that have been so richly lavished on us. Let us freely give what we have so abundantly received. We need the Holy Spirit to work into our thoughts and actions the redeeming life of Christ.
My parents always encouraged me to continually work on my people skills & I’m grateful for this for two reasons:
I’m an introvert & sometimes I can seem prickly (sometimes I AM prickly)
People are God’s first priority so being close to God also means it’s good to love who God loves.
With that being said, I frequently come across people who are usual & even strange. How I treat people who are a few clicks off of norm is a significant reflection of my love for God. I say this based on 1John 4:20 where it says that we can’t love God & hate people simultaneously.
So no matter what kinds of people you find in your life, let’s allow God to not only love us but also love THROUGH us 🙂
Be sure to preorder Heavenly Help! It’s number 2 in Amazon’s new releases!!
I’m a huge fan of Genuine Love but not as much with the romance stuff. While I certainly like my share of chick flicks, candlelight dinners, snuggling & nice cards, the idea that romance is the same as love leaves my soul cold & withered.
Romance is nice, sometimes frothy & often temperamental. In contrast, Genuine Love is the sturdy & robust soil in which intimacy flourishes, deepens & makes for opulent & desirable fruit. Consider what Paul says about love in 1Cor 13:4-7
Let’s be conscience of the difference between romance & Genuine Love, opting for substance, sacrifice & continuous sustenance for our souls. Keep in mind that 1 John 4:8 says that God is love 🙂
I pride myself in not being scared. I’m not scared to:
try new things,
go new places,
try different foods,
fail during a learning experience
stand alongside someone when they go through difficult seasons.
As I think about being scared, generally I think of myself as fearless, until I consider various situations that I avoid because I’m intimidated or afraid. I think that all of us wrestle with fear but in different ways. So let’s be honest about the unique fears that are difficult for us. If we aren’t honest about our fears, such fears will often control our decisions because we refuse to be honest & face them.
In general, I want to live a fearless life, but the one fear that I want to nurture & protect is the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 9:10 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom & I need all the wisdom I can get! So having a healthy respect for God is an essential ingredient for letting wisdom flourish in my life.
Furthermore, remember that perfect love casts out fear 🙂
Pay attention to your fears & keep the ones that cultivate wisdom but challenge / toss the ones which try to control & shrink you!
Yesterday, I read a thought-provoking story that I think you’ll also find to be at least curious. I read about this wealthy businessman who was really into Jesus, having been heavily influenced in very transforming ways by a pastor whom he greatly admired. This particular pastor only briefly passed through the businessman’s life, but his impact was revolutionary. Subsequently, this businessman began to treat his employees with more grace and generosity. But here was the rub, one of his employees severely ripped him off and then went missing. After several months, the wealthy man received an email from the distant pastor that he’d accidently bumped into the rogue employee and the thief had repented and decided to give his life over to Jesus’ leadership. The pastor was sending the thief back to the businessman! In the email, the pastor put the squeeze on the businessman, requesting him to do two things: forgive the thief & then let him go back to the pastor to help in his pastoring work. Clearly, the businessman was in a quandary. Justice said that the thief should pay for his crime, but grace said that the businessman should forgive his fellow brother in Christ.
When I read this story, there was a totally riveting sentence that keeps echoing in my thoughts. In the email, the pastor told the businessman that the former employee was useless as an employee, but now he was altogether useful as a fellow member in Jesus’ family: useless as an employee, but useful as a brother. Seems to me that we often determine the value of a person on their function rather than their relationship with Jesus.
This story is my paraphrase of the story of Philemon in the Bible – a super short epistle from Paul to Philemon, the businessman. Philemon had a slave, Onesimus, who stole from him and ran away, only to bump into Paul, who helped Onesimus become a follower of Jesus. Upon returning Onesimus to his former owner, Philemon, Paul placed the supreme value on Onesimus being a fellow brother in Christ & made his position as a slave a virtual disposable value.
As a follower of Jesus, we need to be better at loving people than using people 🙂
Jesus was born in kind of a shady way – an unmarried teenage chick, Mary, gets pregnant, supernaturally & gives birth to the Messiah. Maybe her parents were a little suspicious of the “supernatural” thing & maybe it’s good that Mary took a few months to chill w Elizabeth her cousin while they were both pregnant. Although Mary became pregnant because the Holy Spirit overshadowed her & Elizabeth became pregnant supernaturally, their babies were gifts from God, filled with the breath of the Almighty.
Just because a baby is born in kind of shady circumstances doesn’t make them disposable nor less valuable than a baby born in more “normal circumstances”.
I love my work with Saving Moses because it’s genuine love in tangible expression. It is a very practical way to walk humbly with God, do justice & love mercy.
Please join me in this journey & get behind Saving Moses in your finances, prayers & energies. God has a great future for each of the babies we get to love 🙂
Waking up this morning, I was horrified to read about a church shooting in Charleston, SC at a Bible Study last night. From what the news said, there was a Bible Study in the church basement of Emmanuel AME and the shooter just began to shoot people. At this time, 9 people have died from the shooting and the police are calling this a hate crime. The police say the shooter is still at large and obviously there are boatloads of unanswered questions.
Here are a few things that we can do, as outside observerers and fellow believers:
pray for the families of the victims: peace, grace, strength, courage and for the comfort of the Holy Spirit to be very real to each family member
pray for the police as they search for the shooter: protection, wisdom, clarity, discernment and truth
pray for the shooter: it is a very disturbed individual who walks into a church and randomly shoots innocent people at a Bible Study
pray for the church: Emmanuel AME is a very famous and historic church, founded in the late 1700s. This church has had it’s share of historic events, including a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr in 1962; the pastor for Emmanuel AME was shot and killed last night, so our brothers and sisters at Emmanuel AME very much need our prayers
I’m in Angola finishing up our first day – highs & lows. At our first stop, we hopped out of the car only to meet face first a baby who just died along with her mom who was just shattered. I’ve landed at this clinic too many times to come with flippant indifference. The fight for life here is literally every day.
On a relatively positive contrast, I visited a neighborhood & keyed in on a baby who’s not doing well at all. Please pray that she turns up at the malnutrition clinic in the morning, her name is Josephine. While I’m extremely sad to see Josephine’s condition, I’m also thinking that some prayer & proactive work has a really good chance to keep this baby from dying.
God redeems pain & maximizes opportunities to maximize life!
If you’re like me, we want to run away from revolting smells, we want great distance from troublesome people, we want to keep our space from difficult situations & too much garlic can repel more things than just people ,)
One of the things I so desperately love about Jesus is that He isn’t repelled by us, never. When everyone leaves us, Jesus runs to us. When we retreat & repel people out of dysfunction & hurt, Jesus runs to us.
When we’ve failed & want to hide, Jesus runs to us.
When we want to run away from broken people, Jesus runs to them.
I’m so thankful that Jesus consistently does the opposite of what seems to be human instincts. Jesus runs to us
Jesus runs to help the babies of prostitutes with nightcare through Saving Moses. Jesus runs to us, no matter what we’ve done or not & regardless of the situation in which we find ourselves. Jesus runs to us for the clean & simple reason that Jesus loves us, full stop.
Having grown up as a pastors kid, I’ve had the honor of meeting all kinds of wonderful & interesting people, some nice & easy to love & others who were more complicated ,)
But let’s be super clear that you are easy to love, full stop. You are easy to love not only when you’re being good, friendly, warm, cordial & sweet. You are also easy to love when you’re cranky, contemptuous, grumpy, impatient & ugly with lettuce in your teeth & an epic deodorant failure. Even at your worst, for your Heavenly Father, you are entirely easy to love, full stop. You are easy for God to love because love is natural for God & not based on your performance or behavior. Because God is love, you are easy to love & that my friends is reason enough to keep your head up on this fabulous day in January 🙂