Traveling around the world, I get to see lots of distinct preferences. For example, in Bangladesh they tend to enjoy spicy food & sometimes it’s REALLY spicy! In Brazil, they prefer community over individuality & the German language prefers precision over approximation.
But there’s one universal constant: everyone craves genuine love & I suspect this is by Divine design.
So if the universal constant throughout humanity is the desire for genuine love, it begs the question about how we can express genuine love.
When I think about expressing genuine love, I almost immediately feel inadequate & incapable. But if I think about expressing genuine love just a little more, then I’m not as discouraged. Here are some possibilities for consideration:
Affirmation & encouragement: recognize & vocalize something good to total strangers with sincerity
Gratitude: expressing thank you is a polite essential for genuine love
I see you: not the exterior trappings of wealth, success, begging, poverty, dirt or broken
Listen: hearing someone, being interested & asking questions is a way to be present & express concern, attention & genuine love
Borrow love: there are always people who we find challenging to love. So think in terms of borrowing love from someone you know & letting that shape your mindset for the tricky people.
Ask for more love – let’s never believe that we have enough genuine love. We exist, in part, for God to love not only us but also through us!
Is it possible to be overprotective? Of course. But let’s think of this in broader terms than just raising children, border & immigrant concerns, your reputation, financial investments, etc.
Heres a really important place to think about being overprotective: your heart.
This is what happens to all of us, we get hurt, disappointed, discouraged or disillusioned so we decide to avoid that pain & shield / protect our hearts. In some ways this strategy is functional, but there’s a downside. When we shield / protect our hearts, we begin to compromise our ability to have close relationships & the worst place we can do this is with Jesus.
We must believe with unwavering confidence that Jesus loves us, has a good future for us & is both wise & strong enough to bail us out of any & all misfortunes.
Let’s never protect our hearts from an increasingly intimate relationship with Jesus 🙂
Don’t text & drive. Why? When our attention is divided, the quality of our focus decreases & our ability to engage declines. Simple translation: you’ll get in a wreck 🙂
I would suggest that the same principle applies to spiritual values as well. Because we live in a tangible & natural world, it’s easy to get our focus / attention on natural & flesh stuff. But if we become entirely absorbed with natural stuff, we’ll have a spiritual wreck. To be sure, we need to have balance with our focus & attention. Let’s be sure to give our attention to spiritual growth & not only natural urgencies & inclinations.
Last week, I jumped out of my car & ran up to a guy on the street & gave him a Bible verse. He didn’t speak English, so it was a little rough going. But the reason I did this was because the Holy Spirit led me in my morning prayer time to give this specific Bible verse to someone who was wearing a very distinct color of green. When I was driving down the street, I saw this guy wearing that specific color of green, so that’s why I stopped & did what could seem a little bit unusual 🙂
This question hit me between the eyes in my prayer time this morning because of what Paul says in Romans 8:14 – those who are led by the Spirit are the children of God. This verse says that if I’m God’s child, then I’m led by the Spirit. Of course I want this to be accurate & true, but when I think about being led by the Holy Spirit in my daily living, it’s not always true.
For example, there are certainly times when I put my schedule & convenience at a higher priority than following the Holy Spirit. I must also admit that there are plenty of times when I’m scared, or I feel intimidated or it feels uncomfortable to follow the Holy Spirit. I would suspect that you might also have some similar thoughts & feelings.
Let’s be careful that we make it a priority to be led by the Holy Spirit regardless of how we feel or what seems to be convenient!
We live in a world that is inundated with information. It’s super easy to find out all kinds of information, so sometimes we can drown in such an abundance. But there’s some information that needs to stay in our thoughts everyday! These things include:
You are loved by God, deeply & wholly
You can’t increase nor decrease God’s love for you
The more you love sincerely, the more fully love can be experienced.
I’ve been watching a trend across our nation pertaining to churches & marketing. There’s no shortage of articles or content being generated about the decline in church attendance across the generations as well as a significant concern related to the seeming increase of moral depravity. Consequently, we have loads of marketing strategies to reach a younger demographic, become more appealing in our doctrine with more trendy & hip music, along with clothing adjustments & scheduling conveniences. I think all of these things are great, with one MAJOR interjection (or interruption):
In my brief years on this planet, I’ve come to see that genuine Jesus is nothing but altogether irresistible, full stop. Indeed, the original marketing plan that God has laid out for us is in John 12:32, where Jesus says, “If I be lifted up, I’ll will draw all men unto Me.”
In our efforts to attract people to Jesus, let’s never make it ever about anything more than genuine Jesus!
I appreciate watches that work & these do not. Using an unreliable watch is kind of like driving on a tire that needs air – pretty soon, stuff gets messed up! Schedules go awry, anxiety increases, appointments get missed & people get frustrated, not just a little. But all of these challenges can be avoided with a functional watch.
This goes to my point with prayer. Keeping our prayer life in tune, steady & practiced is essential for our internal stability. When my prayer life goes awry, it’s only a matter of time until life hits the fan.
Who’s up to watch & pray with me?
Maybe I’m the only person to struggle with his, but I find it challenging to be truthful & sincerely loving at the same time. For me, this is a tricky balance because I find it easier to be loving & less truthful or more truthful but less loving.
In Proverbs 3:3, it says that we should keep both love & truth around our neck & written on the tablets of our heart. In this verse, we don’t get to pick one over the other, love over truth or truth over love. Instead, we are to blend them together as they connect our head to our body (as a necklace) & permanently inscribed on our hearts to inform our core values & define our actions, conversations & outlook.
With the Holy Spirit helping us, let’s blend love & truth throughout our daily living!
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, stretched too thin & as Bilbo said, “Too much bread & not enough butter.” Its true that I often do this to myself, attempting to squeeze in too much, yet again. But there are also times when I’m running to catch up to the busy lives of three teenagers & a thoroughly magnificent husband, to say nothing of my own workload. Today is one of those days. From the time I woke up, it’s like I can’t keep up with everything I need to do.
Do you ever feel this way? So what to do?
Here’s some real time lessons:
Do what’s immediately in front of you
Keep a running list of stuff you need to do – this can help you to stop worrying about something falling through the cracks
Solicit help – I just asked someone to give me grace on a deadline & they graciously agreed
Be careful with your attitude – when we’re in hyper busy mode it’s easy to get snappy & curt, only making everything worse
Pray – nothing is more helpful than requesting divine input & intervention
I changed my plans for today at the last minute. I was going to go snowboarding, but decided that there are more pressing needs at home than my snowboarding interests.
In 1Samuel 13, Saul changed his plans as well. He & Samuel made a plan to make a sacrifice together but he got scared & offered the sacrifice without Samuel. This was a major downfall for Saul & Samuel explained shortly after Saul’s fearful decision, that God had sought out a different leader for Israel, a man after His heart (1San 13:14).
Saul changed the plan he had made with Samuel because he was afraid of his enemy, the Philistines, & saw the Israelite’ support of his leadership rapidly eroding.
While I’m a massive advocate of flexible planning, I’m growing to appreciate the importance of keeping God’s goals as unchanging piers to anchor my soul, regardless of my environs, feelings or selfish preferences.
God’s goals always related to genuine love & connecting humanity to God’s heart in deep intimacy. Let’s be sure that we keep God’s plans more central to our choices rather than our selfish interests, including my snowboarding plans 🙂
Looking at this picture, you would likely tell me to fix it & turn it around since it looks like Jesus is upside down. However, sometimes I think the Holy Spirit wants to turn us up on end so we be right side up, based on the Holy Spirit’s perspective. Some areas where we might need some adjusting could include:
Money: getting is never as blessed as giving
Time: sometimes I need to remember that prayer can be the key for productive rather than staying busy
Mercy: being judgmental appealing to our flesh, mercy wins with Jesus!
Leadership: serving is the model Jesus gave us if we’re going to be the Jesus-kind of leader
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!
There’s a popular tv show out called “The Voice”. The general idea is related to finding vocally talented peeps & putting them on tv to compete for the top prize. There are loads of phenomenal individuals who have amazing voices, but there’s only one Voice that needs our steady attention & the is the voice of our Good Shepherd, from John 10.
When we think about all the voices in our lives (appetites, worries, relationships, things we need to do, etc), we can get overwhelmed with this barrage of input. But alas, there is one Voice who is worthy of our consistent attention. There is one Voice who invites us to experience genuine Love. There is one Voice who leads us along paths of peace & divine productivity & that is the Voice of our Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
Let’s be sure that the volume is appropriately adjusted for the various voices in our lives so that Jesus’ Voice gets our best attention & obedience!
Tonight is the final game of the World Series – the annual culmination of the baseball season in the US. The Cleveland Indians & the Chicago Cubs haven’t competed in the World Series for more than 60 years each & the series has been a nail biter to be sure! If you can’t tell, I’m UBER excited about this game tonight, but alas I won’t be watching the majority of it because we have church tonight & I’m scheduled to preach.
I’m not writing this to get your sympathy but rather to talk about what’s important. If the truth is known, I’m a really big sports person & I love watching almost every sport. But in the grand scheme of important priorities, sports don’t really carry eternal significance. For that matter, I seriously wonder if many of the things that we stress over, goals that we work towards & stuff that we spend time on, I wonder if many of these things really have any bearing on eternity.
Let’s be careful that the things we deem as important & worthy of our attention / energy are really the important things with lasting impact!
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!
Our world can get complicated super fast – technically continues to evolve at warp speed, our schedules get increasingly dense & we are encouraged to be strategic in our thinking & planning. These things aren’t bad but they can add layers of complexity to our daily living. So for me, it’s a breath of fresh air to stop the proverbial roller coaster & refocus on my essential priorities.
It helps to take a deep breath, close one’s eyes, sit in the car for a few minutes & be still. Our brains can of course make this challenging but let’s keep our essentials as the bull’s eye for our living:
Springtime always seems to ramp up the activity level. There’s fresh air outside that’s not too cold, the trees bloom with fragrant life, the hibernation of winter dissipates and of course there are all of the activities that go with school, Easter, graduations, weddings, showers, etc.
More often than not, Springtime wears me out with the hustle and bustle of demanding activities. So this Sping, I’m endeavoring to strike a better balance, integrating some rest into the mix. Here are some ideas that might help you with finding rest in a busy Spring:
be careful not to fall in the “value in achievement” trap – you’re valuable because God loves you, full stop
consider Spring cleaning your calendar / schedule and not just your house
be sure the way you use your time accurately reflects your priorities
don’t ditch church 🙂
Of course I’m always keen to recommend reading a good book as a form of relaxing & a great book to read in preparation for Pentecost in a few weeks is Heavenly Help
One of my offspring, who will remain nameless, became distracted during their kitchen cleaning chores & flooded the kitchen sink, floor & down into our basement. I yelled & I’m still in the unhappy camper zone – it will take me some time to come off the ceiling & not be snarky (nicknames like Noah, Ahab from Moby Dick & swimming snipes are fully flourishing in my brain).
All of this started when someone didn’t pay attention to an important responsibility. And this is a problem any one of us can experience. I don’t even want to think about how many times I’ve had to compensate or fix something that’s been messed up for the simple reason that I was distracted.
Let’s keep our focus on the important stuff: do justice, love kindness & walk humbly with God, Micah 6:8 🙂
As I was making my way home from Singapore yesterday, I checked the news & saw there was some kind of uproar about Starbucks & Christmas. Since I’m a coffee fan, I decided to briefly look into the uproar only to be disappointed. I’m disappointed because there are many issues in our world today that are super important that need our prayers & attention. And today, Donald Trump jumped into the conversation, leaving me to speculate about not only cup decorations and caffeine, but now I get to add politics into this busy buzzy world.
All of which brings me back to thinking about what’s important & specifically what’s important about Christmas: God loves humanity & Jesus’ birth into human existence.
In the grand scheme of things, let’s keep the Main Thing, the Main Thing 🙂
There are things that get under my skin & there are things that BUG me. I get agitated when people tailgate me, I don’t like it when my family leaves a dirty knife on the counter & I don’t like that my car’s alarm goes off randomly. These things are annoying. But in the grand scheme of things, it BUGS me that we withhold our love because someone doesn’t believe like we do. It BUGS me that we use religious jargon to manipulate & even shame people. It BUGS me that I can sometimes be the same hypocrite that I judge someone else to be.
It doesn’t bother me that my nails haven’t been manicured in countless years. It doesn’t stress me out that I wear wool socks to keep warm in the Winter & I’m not jittery that my clothes don’t always match well 🙂