Love others sacrificially and boldly

“Only the gospel gives us the security (of union with Christ) to risk reputation and hurt in order to love others sacrificially and boldly.”- Jared C. Wilson

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”- Romans 12:12

Jared Wilson continues Chapter 7 of The Imperfect Disciple with the first three of Nine Irrefutable Laws of Followship.  Furthermore, Pastor Wilson stresses that these laws really are God’s laws – and His promises.

1.  Be Ye Loving.  Left to our own devices, all of us center on our own fulfillment and happiness.  Hence, we’re unable to muster up the energy to love the way we ought to.  In fact, more often than not, we focus on people’s love for us rather than on our love for other people.  Therefore, Pastor Wilson adds:

“Only the gospel orients our love appropriately, because only the gospel reminds us that we are more sinful than we realize . . . and that we are more loved than we know . . .”

2.  Be Ye Joyful.  Although we think of joy as a feeling, Jared notes, the Bible defines joy as “both a command of the law and an implication of the gospel.”  As a result, Jared explains the source of our joy:

“God is not expecting us to muster up happiness in him from the void of some nebulous religions inclinations, from the black hole of our empty emotional reservoir.  He puts the joy inside of us that he demands from us.  What grace!”

3.  Be Ye Peaceful.  Jared notes that the world , set against our peace, wants us desperately afraid.  And the truth is, the author adds, there’s always something to fear.  Also, the more the things of God bore us, the more vulnerable we are to fear when difficulty comes.

However, over time, as we walk with Jesus, we start to see how much He loves us and more of the ways He works in the world.  Jared adds that “the impulse to rest in him becomes more immediate.  The heart’s ‘muscle memory’ toward the gospel gets stronger and quicker.”

Today’s question: What Scriptures empower you to love others sacrificially and boldly?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Impatience – confusion about control”

To neglect communion with God

“Some things may be neglected with but little loss to the spiritual life, but to neglect communion with God is to hurt ourselves where we cannot afford it.”- A. W. Tozer

“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.  Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”- Ephesians 3:19 (NLT)

In John Eldredge’s foreword to Susie Larson’s book  Your Powerful Prayers, he compares giving up on prayer to a solder laying down his arms in the midst of a firefight.  Prayer, Mr. Eldredge adds, “is something you grow into, something you mature in and get better at over time.”  In addition, John adds that prayer’s far more like learning to drive than sneezing.

Thus, as Ms. Larson notes in her introduction, Jesus wants us to be comfortable with, as well as undone by His great love for us. As a result, God’s love and acceptance of us has everything to do with prayer.  Furthermore, Jesus invites us to:

  • know Him more intimately
  • walk with Him more profoundly
  • trust in His Word more confidently

Most importantly, Ms. Larson exhorts, as we get to know God’s love, our life spills with grace, insight, and power.  The author explains:

“If we want to be powerful in prayer, we must spend our lives learning to accept and embrace how fiercely God loves us.  We must continually stand in awe of the fact that Jesus defeated death and sin for us.  And then from there, live our whole lives in response to what Jesus has already accomplished for us.  This is what it means to stop striving and to know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).”

Today’s question: During your desert, land between time, what circumstances cause(d) you to neglect communion with God?  Please share.

Coming Monday: the new Short Meditation, ”

Tomorrow’s blog: “That place where joy and faith collide”

Love — the resetting of broken bones

“As long as we are on earth, the love that unites us will bring us suffering by our very contact with one another, because this love is the resetting of a Body of broken bones.”- John Ortberg

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 21 of The Me I Want to Be as he talks about the final three ways post-traumatic growth occurs.

2.  Adversity can deepen relationships.  Pastor Ortberg states suffering uniquely softens hearts and deepens friendships.  Also, people experiencing deep grief develop a deeper appreciation for other people.  They wake up to how much other people matter.  John explains the relationship of love and hope to grief.  He writes:

“Love is not simply something to be recovered from.  Hope does not mean returning to happiness as soon as possible.  God comes to us in our grief and shares it.  In that shared grief, we find love.”

When God comes to us in our grief and shares that grief, it starts to mingle ever so slightly with hope.

3.  Adversity can change your priorities about what really matters.  Suffering accentuates the folly of chasing after temporal gods.  As a result, the sufferer vows not to return to their previous way of life once things return to normal.  However, the key to accomplishing change involves an active response to the Spirit’s work.

4.  Adversity points us to the Hope beyond ourselves.  When circumstances look bleak, Pastor Ortberg notes, it’s likely we’ll wonder if anything’s going up.  Yes, John answers, the:

  • chance to trust God in difficult circumstances
  • prospect for modeling hope for a hope-needy world
  • possibility of cultivating a storm-proof faith, because Biblical truths remain unchanged

In conclusion, John notes, God remains in the redemption business.  Therefore, God “specializes in bringing something very, very good out of something very, very bad.”

today’s question: What broken bones has love reset for you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Dangerously noncompliant in a broken world”

When we live in disconnectedness

“Not only do we suffer when we live in disconnectedness, but then other people whom God place around us get cheated out of the love God intended us to give them (emphasis author’s).”- John Ortberg

“Anyone who does not love remains in death.”- 1 John 3:14

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 16 of The Me I Want to Be as he stresses that God designed us to live in connectedness.  Therefore, to help us avoid slipping into disconnectedness, John takes a look at five gifts connectedness brings.

1.  The Gift of Delighting.  Love involves action more than it involves feeing.  Hence, servanthood marks the circle of connection.  In Galatians 5:13, the apostle Paul urges us to “serve on another humbly in love.”  Thus, we give life to the people we notice- and vice versa.  Also, in that process of self-forgetfulness, our own soul flourishes.

2.  The Gift of Commitment.  Too often, Pastor Ortberg notes, the people most in need of cheers get them the least.  Everyone needs the gift of commitment.  Encouragement requires work.  It doesn’t just happen.  But, connectedness reaps incredible rewards!

3.  The Gift of Love. As of today, name one person in your life who just needs you to look them in the eye and say: I love you.  The Holy Spirit constantly works in us to prompt such expressions of love.  Hence, every moment provides an opportunity to practice a gesture of love.

4.  The Gift of Joy.  Pastor Ortberg observes that, while we know love we joy, we often forget the power contained in joy.  Joy:

  • gives us strength to resist temptation
  • brings the ability to persevere
  • is the Velcro that makes relationships stick
  • gives us energy to love

5.  The Gift of Belonging.  Simply stated, belonging – God’s gift to us.

Today’s question: During your desert, land between time, what sufferings resulted from living in disconnectedness?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Step into openness – stop pretending”

Our capacity for connectedness

“Part of what it means to be made in God’s image is our capacity for connectedness, because god created human beings and then said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone (Genesis 2:18, TLB).’ “- John Ortberg

In Chapter 16 (“Make Life-Giving Relationships a Top Priority”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg asserts that people nourish your soul.  More than anything else, God uses people to form, or shape, people.  Thus, no interactions between people occur outside of God’s presence.  The Holy Spirit yearns to work personally in every encounter.

Therefore, the word fellowship carriers a much deeper meaning than church basements, punch, and awkward small talk.  Pastor Ortberg defines fellowship as “the flow of rivers of living water between one person and another, and we cannot live without it.”

In fact, John notes, researchers name one specific factor that separates quite happy people from less happy people.  This factor consistently separates the two groups.  That factor, John states, “is the presence of rich, deep, joy-producing, life-changing, meaningful relationships.”  Also, the love of God and other people not only roots us, but also nourishes our souls.

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg stresses, our capacity for connectedness finds its roots in God making us in His image.  Connectedness roots and establishes us in love (Ephesians 3:17).

Conversely, John notes, connectedness isn’t the same as knowing many people.  For we may have many contacts in many networks, but few, if any friends.

When love’s present in your life, that releases you to truly become yourself.  You-ier!

Today’s question: After your vocation loss, what connections help you persevere and maintain hope?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “A vivid point of light from Scripture” (Crown’s 2,000th post)

Never worry alone – defeating toxic anxiety

“Never worry alone.  One of the most powerful ways to stop the spiral of worry is simply to disclose my worry to a friend.”- John Ortberg

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”- Romans 12:2

John Ortberg concludes Chapter 10 of The Me I Want to Be with two ways to grow out of timidity.

1.  Let love cast out fear.  Toxic anxiety causes us to recycle our negative, self-defeating, persistent thoughts.  Therefore, toxic anxiety prevents us from taking action.  In addition, it paralyzes us.  Hence, Pastor Ortberg suggests several ways to let God’s love cast our fear.  God’s love casts out fear in your body when you are:

  • alone with God
  • pray with a few people
  • read about the life of Jesus
  • sing a hymn or listen to music
  • blessed as the Holy Spirit uses other people to comfort you

John concludes that prayer = the single most fundamental spiritual discipline for putting off anxiety and putting on peace.

2.  Take direct action to face your fear.  Living in peace (a) not only involves our inner thoughts but also (b) flows from what we actually do.  In fact, the Holy Spirit helps us grow in peace as He leads us in circumstances we’re tempted to avoid in fear.  As a result, we need to step out in trust.  Simply hearing messages about God’s care provides insufficient impetus to move forward.

In conclusion, John summarizes why we must place ourselves in the flow of the Spirit:

“There is no way to get the peace of God from our head to the rest of our body besides trusting God enough to directly confront our greatest fear. . . . The Bible and prayer were not given to us as forms of anxiety avoidance.  In the long run, anytime we avoid doing the right thing out of fear, we die a little inside.”

Today’s question: How have you practiced John’s advice to never worry alone?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A ‘stained-glass’ image of prayer”

The reason to read the Bible

“The reason to read the Bible is not to fulfill a spiritual duty or to gain more knowledge.  It is to jump into the river.”- John Ortberg

“Blessed is the one . . . whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.”- Psalm 1:1-2

In Chapter 9 (“Feed Your Mind with Excellence”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg observes that whatever you feed your mind shapes it.  Most importantly, Satan attempts to infiltrate your mind when you’re not looking.  Furthermore, the Evil One tries to distract you from noticing what you’re putting into your mind.

Therefore, Scripture represents one of the greatest gifts God’s given the human race.  Yet, we often turn this gift into a burden.  For example, we question how much we should read the Bible each day.  According to Pastor Ortberg, there’s a much better question: What can you feed your mind with so that it can flourish?

Next, John looks at the phrase “meditates on his law day and night” from Psalm 1:2.  On the surface, those words might sound intimidating, unrealistic, or undesirable.  However, Pastor Ortberg tells us, an old saying states that if you can worry, you can meditate.  In addition, John defines meditating as “simply turning a thought over and over in your mind.”  Thus, you can’t help thinking about what you delight in.

In conclusion, Pastor Ortberg explains what it’s like to delight in the law of the Lord:

“It certainly is something deeper than being thrilled about a bunch of rules in the Bible.  It starts with a vision of being loved by God.  God is way out of my league . . . in the perfection league.  This wonderful God, this mysterious, all-powerful, all-holy God — he loves me!”

Therefore, John believes, the psalmist describes ways to carry thoughts of God’s love and protection into his inner flow.  This makes his whole life richer.

Today’s question: How would you describe your main reason to read the Bible?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “We’ll never walk alone down the Red Sea road”

Love is from God

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and  whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”- 1 John 4:7

In Chapter 5 (“Is Love God or Is God Love?”) of How’s Your Soul?, Judah Smith states that our souls yearn, search, and long for love.  Therefore, Pastor Smith takes a look at what he believes is the key to understanding and experiencing love.  The key to experiencing love focuses on:

  • the realization that God is love
  • knowing, believing, and living in the love of God
  • experiencing God’s love for us on a soul level
  • learning to love as God loves

Just as our souls need hope and stability, our souls fundamentally desire love.  Furthermore, ultimately our souls don’t have a home without love.  Unfortunately, Christians haven’t always represented God’s love to humanity.  Partly as a result of those misrepresentations, many people opt to disassociate human from divine love.  However, a “love is God” philosophy = an inherently disconnected philosophy.  As a result, Judah states, “when you replace a person with a concept, whoever defines that concept has ultimate authority.”

Removing human love from divine love leaves one with lawlessness.  Hence, God must define love.  Judah explains:

“God wants us to flourish.  He wants us to enjoy our lives — and he wants those around us to enjoy theirs as well.  That is why it is imperative that we not just understand how paramount love is but also define it in a heathy, God-inspired manner.”

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how have others witnessed “love is from God” to you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: He (or she) didn’t mean it”

Downward mobility

“Grace is always a movement of downward mobility.”- Ann Voskamp

Concluding Chapter 15 of The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp observes the sun cascading down an old wooden barn ladder next to the dinner table.  She likens grace to the spilling down of that sunlight.  Ann encourages:

“The world changes when we don’t categorize, polarize, or demonize people with broad brushstrokes — but when we apologize, empathize, evangelize, and prioritize people with these quiet brushes of grace.”

As a result, Ann believes, we manifest Christ in the world “to the extent that “you see Christ’s presence in the world (emphasis Ann’s).”  In contrast, we only refuse to manifest Christ to others when we decline to see Christ in each other.

Therefore, it strikes Ann that only light breaking into us makes sight possible.  Furthermore, with this sight the vulnerabilities, prayers, and hopes of the weak and small become ours.  Love bears all things.  For those outside the gate, we are the Esthers who bear whatever it takes (emphasis author’s).

In addition, nothing’s worth having inside the gate as long as pieces of ourselves remain outside the gate.  Leaving people on the other side of the gate necessitates losing parts of ourselves.

In conclusion, Ann emphasizes, our actual fruits define us- not the intentions of our imaginations.  There’s enough abundance and grace available to us so we can risk everything for those in need.  And since God’s abundant grace extends to us, there’s abundant grace for all of us.

The only life worth living = the one you lose.

Today’s question: How does Ann’s description of grace as a movement of downward mobility resonate with you?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Give them pieces of your heart”

Love like there’s no tomorrow

“Love like there’s no tomorrow, and if tomorrow comes, love again.”- Max Lucado

“Christ goes to the cross, and we are invited to follow to the same cross.  Not because it is the cross, but because it is His.”- Peter Kreeft, Making Sense Out of Suffering (1986)

In Chapter 13 (“The Inconvenient Truth No One Tells You”) of The Broken Way, Ann Voskamp asserts the clearest way to love your life involves imagining losing parts of it.  Furthermore, you realize how much you love only when facing life without the loveliness of those you love.  Therefore, everything changes when you read suffering as Christ’s invitation to not only follow Him to the cross, but share His cross.

As a result, Ann exhorts us to pray for a bravery bigger than the hard thing at hand.  Battling brave means working through the hard thing, not praying too quickly for the hard thing to go away.

Furthermore, Ann notes, every soul must pass over the river of suffering to reach the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus’ cross, nailed together with love, enables us to cross that river of suffering.  In fact, Ann believes, if you avoid suffering, you avoid love.

Consequently, Ms. Voskamp describes the way through brokenness.  Ann explains:

“The way through brokenness is, and always has been, to break the sufferer free from the aloneness of the suffering by choosing to participate in the suffering with them — koinonia — choosing to stand with the suffering, stay with the suffering,  and letting it be shaped into meaning that transcends the suffering.”

In order to do this, Ann observes, choose the option of prayer warrior- not panicked worrier.  Perhaps, Ann concludes, the most painful chapters of your life = the most meaningful.

Today’s question: During your desert, land between time, how have you given love like there’s no tomorrow?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the Christmas Short Meditation, “Tinsel in a tangle”