“Are you the church or do we seek another?” These were the words of Pastor Lee Shipp as he preached at New Beginning Fellowship yesterday morning, and they have been thundering in my heart ever since. Just as the life of Jesus manifested the Father, even so our lives should manifest Jesus Christ. “As He is, so are we in this world.” (1 John 4:17)
But are we? When the world looks at us, do they see the body of Christ, the representation of Jesus Christ, or are they left seeking another because they have seen much of us but little of Jesus? Oh how a world perishes for the lack of Jesus Christ revealed among His people!
Where is the crucified love of Jesus in our midst? Jesus said that He was given the power to lay down His life by the Father (John 10:18) and He has given this power to us…..the power to die to our selfishness and desire to please ourselves, that our lives might be poured out and spent for the Lord Jesus Christ. And how do we do that? By letting that love that’s been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) pour out of our hearts by the power of that same Spirit. It’s a love that reaches out to restore the broken, comfort the hurting, give to the needy, love the unlovely, bring good news to the hopeless. It’s a love that may often be misunderstood and unappreciated. But it is THAT love which will identify us as followers of Jesus. (John 13:35)
If we have committed our lives to Jesus, and our lives are now to be given that the person and love of Jesus may be demonstrated through us then is there any risk, any sacrifice, any scorn too great to bear?
Where does love draw the line? At what point is the cost too great? Shall we love this far and no farther? Is our own comfort and safety the boundary of our love? Shall we love just up until the point of someone else’s displeasure or disapproval? I’m glad Jesus didn’t love us like that…but He loved us all the way to the cross. He didn’t draw the line at thorns and nails. There were no boundaries to His love…none imposed by Himself or by others. Lord help us to be bold enough to love like that….that those seeking Jesus may find Him in our midst.
Where does love draw the line? At what point is the cost too great? Shall I love this far and no farther? Is my own comfort and safety the boundary of my love? Shall I love just up until the point of someone else’s displeasure or disapproval?
I’m glad Jesus didn’t love me like that…but He loved me all the way to the cross. He didn’t draw the line at thorns and nails. There were no boundaries to His love…none imposed by Himself or by others.
Lord help me be bold enough to love like that.
There were two women who passed by us on the sidewalk several times Friday afternoon. What caught my attention about them was how entirely they were trying to look like men. I prayed a simple prayer in my heart for them, that God would reveal Himself to them and help them to understand who He is and who they are. A little while later they were passing by on the sidewalk again and this time one of them headed directly for me. I braced myself, expecting her to angrily confront me concerning what Christians believe about homosexuality. But instead she asked me where I went to church. I told her and she said she thought she had seen me before and we discovered that we had gone to the same church more than 10 years ago. She told me how she had walked with Jesus for twenty years, being very zealous for Him, until her godly husband died, leaving her in a place of sorrow and confusion. And then she confessed “ after he died, I went down a path that I knew I shouldn’t have gone down”. With tears she said God had been dealing with her heart. I only had a few brief moments to offer her some encouragement to return to Jesus. Still crying she said “thank you for what you’re doing”, hugged me and walked away down the sidewalk. I hadn’t given her a gospel tract. I hadn’t even preached the gospel to her. But just standing on the sidewalk for Jesus was all God needed in that moment to speak to a precious soul that had strayed away.
Yesterday afternoon we did our first outreach at an LSU baseball game. It’s a great opportunity to put the gospel message into the hands of many people in a short period of time, which we are always glad to do. But we are very watchful for opportunities to speak to people. Yesterday a precious young lady, a high school senior, stopped to talk to Charles for a few minutes. I could hear bits and pieces of their conversation from where I was standing and was very disturbed to hear that her family had been asked to leave their church after her mother was divorced. They hadn’t really been involved in church since then. She walked off shortly afterwards, but passed by us again later that afternoon. I stopped her to tell her how sorry I was that her family had been treated that way, that I was also divorced but had found forgiveness in Jesus and love from His people. It broke my heart to think of her and her mom feeling thrown away by God because of how they had been treated by church people. God forbid that we should be the reason people don’t find their way to Him. It matters how we treat people.
Later that night we were on Third Street and within a few minutes of getting there a college student stopped to talk when I handed him a gospel tract. He had been raised to believe in God but had strayed away from any interest in Him. At LSU he had listened to the people who came to preach at Free Speech Alley, wanting to know truth, but very turned off by the manner in which the preachers dealt with people, even when they only wanted to ask them questions. Even though he did not disagree with their message, he wanted no part of something that was presented in such a way that it seemed so angry and hateful. He and his girlfriend had been talking about spiritual things….. they are seeking and wide open to Jesus right now. And being pushed away by people who claim to represent Him. It matters how we treat people.
Born again believers…..we represent Jesus Christ on this earth. It matters how we treat people.
Today I spent some time with a client that I see several times a year. Each time I meet with her we catch up on what’s been going on in life. She told me a story today of something that happened in her family a few weeks ago:
Her daughter, son-in-law and their 2 year old son were at a barbeque on Memorial day weekend. One of the guests at the barbeque brought her 90 pound Doberman with her. The man and his son had just gotten out of the pool and the little boy was eating a piece of candy, when the dog spotted him. The dog bared his teeth and growled as he charged towards the helpless child. The daddy, seeing the impending danger, called out to his wife and pushed the boy towards her and then stood between his family and the approaching dog. It took several men to pull the dog off of him, but not before it had severely mauled his face and head. By the time the ambulance got him to the hospital he had almost bled to death.
He will require multiple surgeries over the next few years to repair the damage that was done that day. The doctors expect that they will be able to correct the damage so completely that eventually there won’t be any visible scars. But for several more years his face will bear the marks of love for his son. I can almost imagine this little boy climbing up into his daddy’s lap, touching the scars on his face, and saying “Daddy, tell me again about how you saved me from the dog”. The story will never get old to that boy…because it was his rescue from death.
I can’t stop thinking about this…..it so reminds me of the gospel. When death and hell were running towards me and I was powerless to escape, Jesus stood between me and death. He took the full force of it for me and rescued me. I could not have overcome it, but He could not be overcome by it. Now He bears the scars of His love for me. I want to remember this over and over. ….coming to the secret place of prayer with this request…….“Tell me again Jesus, about how you rescued me from death”.
In stillness with my heart uplifted
Unto You in the heavenlies
I search for words that lend expression
To my soul’s unspoken pleas
Something perfectly poetic
A lovely masterpiece of words
Enduring terms of adoration
Worthy of my King and Lord
But words escape me, I am silent
Thoughts disjointed, unexpressed
Unspoken praise burns deep within
And seeks release in wordlessness
I have nothing lovely for You
Just a heart that feels as though
It’s broken in a thousand pieces
Can I lay this at Your throne?
Expressed in tears of liquid praise
May each one say what words cannot
Though I’ve tried a thousand ways
So I sit at Your feet, dear Jesus
Silently and gaze at You
Content to dwell in wordless wonder
My quiet love I give to You.
Several weeks ago in our Sunday night prayer meeting, one of the men opened the service with a passage of Scripture. Quoting Hebrews 2:3 from memory, he said “How shall we escape so great a salvation.” He immediately corrected himself, inserting the words “if we neglect”. But it was too late. I had already grabbed onto what he had originally said. My heart seemed to almost burst with joy as I thought about a salvation so great that we couldn’t escape it. Trapped by grace! Oh, He has caught me in His snare of love!
Anyone who has ever wandered from the Lord for any period of time knows the truth of this – He is too wonderful to stay away from. What a great salvation we have! What a great Lord we serve!
“Therefore I sent him the more eagerly, that when you see him again you may rejoice, and I may be less sorrowful.” Philippians 2:28
As I read through Philippians 2:25-30, at first glance there didn’t seem to be much to discover in this passage. But as I reread it a few times, a familiar theme in Philippians began to surface – connectedness.
Epaphroditus has been sent by the Philippians to minister to Paul. Their love for him is so great that they send one of their own to bring aid and comfort to him during his imprisonment. Yet, while he is gone, Epaphroditus becomes sick, almost dying. The Philippians hear this news and they are so sorrowful, so concerned for their brother. And Epaphroditus himself is longing for his brothers and sisters at Philippi because he knows they are worried about him. Paul cannot bear to leave the Philippians sorrowing any longer and sends Epaphroditus back to them.
These people really love each other. Their lives are bound up together, their hearts joined to one another because of the love of Christ.
My heart aches sometimes because I do not consistently see this kind of love and connectedness in the Church today. And I don’t see it in myself either. There are reasons…..our culture is different, our society is more fast paced, etc…..
Reasons, but not excuses.
Jesus commanded us to love one another. And we have not obeyed. We may say that we love each other, but where’s the fruit? We are not involved in one another’s lives. We do not mourn with those who mourn. We do not rejoice to ‘spend and be spent’ for other believers. We disobey Jesus in this and justify it with our excuses.
I don’t want to do that anymore.
I enjoy waking up early when everything is quiet. The chaos of life hasn’t had an opportunity to interject itself into my thoughts yet and my mind seems like still waters. No ripples of worry, no fretting over tasks to be accomplished. Just a blank slate waiting to be written upon.
One of my first activities of the morning is to spend some time reading the Bible. Once I begin preparing for work, I find that my mind continues to ponder the morning’s reading.
Recently, my morning’s reading included this phrase – “love your enemies”. I found that phrase rolling around in my thoughts that morning. It was quickly followed by 1 Corinthians 13.
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (v. 4-7)
As I thought on these two passages I realized how radical this was, and how far short I had fallen in living this. I had considered that if I tolerated those who were unkind to me, which sometimes amounted to nothing more than ignoring them, that I had fulfilled the command to love my enemies. But this type of treatment would not even reach the standard of what in previous generations had been considered mere common civility.
I have turned the command of the Lord, which is a command of action, into a passive command. Matthew 5:44 gives these instructions:
Love your enemies
Bless those who curse you
Do good to those who hate you
Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.
So it seems to me that this passage, along with 1 Corinthians 13, gives us a comprehensive love plan. Matthew 5 tells us what our outward, active response should be, and 1 Corinthians 13 instructs us as to a proper attitude of the heart.
The Lord, as usual, has covered all the bases. Now all that remains is for me to obey.