Monday, August 27, 2012

Truth and Dare

Casting Crowns has an excellent song entitled “Love Them Like Jesus.” It encourages us how to comfort others during their trials just as Jesus would do. But do we, the Body of Christ, really understand what it means to “love people like Jesus”?  People who hate us just because we love Him? Or people who lash out at us because they trust we’ll forgive them?  Read 1 Cor. 13:4-8 where Paul says: “Love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

We do okay with some of it and we do very well with other parts, but then there are places where we stumble and scrape our toes on a rock of truth.  For me, it’s often: “Love keeps no record of wrongs.” We like to say we forgive others; we know it’s our Christian duty. But do we really let go of the ways in which others wrong us or do we secretly hold it in our hearts, reminding ourselves of their past transgressions every time they commit a new one?

Maybe you’ve got forgiveness down pat and you never throw up to someone their past mistakes. How about this one: “Love is not selfish.” The KJV says: “Love does not seek its own.” Somehow that translation resonates with me more. Maybe it’s because saying “seek its own” sounds like the phrase should be followed by the word will or way. That hits closer to home to me to hear those words because they remind me of Jesus’ Gethsemane prayer: “Not My will, but Yours.” It’s hard not to demand our rights, not to insist people treat us a certain way simply because we’re a person created in the image of God. But don’t forget:  Jesus set the example as He “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:6-7).
So today, I dare you to live out the love of 1 Cor. 13. But before you take that dare, you better know the truth.  Loving like Jesus is a difficult thing to ask of us limited creatures, who were formed of dust.  And frankly, it’s risky. If you love like Jesus, you will get hurt, sometimes deeply.  Look where His love got Him…tortured, slandered, nailed to a cross. Now look where His love got us… because of His death and resurrection, we get to spend eternity with Him and the Father in heaven.  So ask yourself, are you willing to swallow your pride, are you willing to let your heart be torn, and are you willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to “love them like Jesus”?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Remembering Momma

Special: adj. unique, prized, valued, treasured. (Lovvorn’s Modern English Dictionary)

On Aug. 15, 2008, Momma went home to be with the Lord. I am filled with sadness each year as the anniversary approaches. But on the actual day, I try to celebrate Mom’s life; it’s what she would’ve wanted. Momma’s motto came from the movie Mame: “Live! Live! Live! Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” Flamboyant? Sure. But that was Momma and they were not just words she espoused. They were words she lived by, right up until the time the Lord called her home.

Momma was larger than life. I tell people she was a force of nature. How else could she have survived 15 years of serious illnesses and multiple near-death experiences? Well, that and God’s infinite grace. Momma would want Him to receive credit for she always taught us that God said, “I’ll share my glory with no other.”  (Isaiah 42:8)

There were lots and lots of things Momma taught. She was a natural-born teacher, but one of the most important lessons I learned was simply by observing her. Momma had this extraordinary ability to make everyone she met feel special. Whether she was speaking with a renowned French physician or a movie star whose son she was treating or a critically ill pediatric patient she was caring for or the lady cleaning her room when she was a patient, Momma had the ability to make each one feel as though he or she was the most important person in the world and there was nothing Momma would rather be doing at that moment than talking to him or her.

Momma was known for talking and she could go on and on with lengthy explanations. But what people who really spent time with her learned was she was also a very good listener with a contemplative mind, a deep faith, and heart full of sympathy. I try hard to live out this lesson- how to be a good listener and how to make people feel special. I hope I’m successful and that Momma is proud of me for striving to follow in her footsteps.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Armed and Dangerous

One friend recently shared this anecdote:
            A grandmother traveled to Chicago with her middle-aged daughter and when they arrived at the hotel, the elderly woman pulled out her Bible and a pistol.
            “Mama, why’d you bring that?” the daughter was shocked that her mother came packing heat.
            “I figured if one doesn’t work, the other one will.”
            While I greatly admire her spunk, for spiritual battles you can’t bring a gun to a swordfight. You can only bring a sword and the one God has provided is His word. In Ephesians 6:17, Paul calls Scripture the “sword of the spirit.” In Hebrews 4:12, he tells us it is “living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
            But like all swords, ours can become rusty with disuse so it’s very important to keep your sword sharp and in good repair. How do you do it? “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)  The more Scripture you know and understand, the sharper your sword. It’s a good idea to take a Bible with you often and to even keep cards or notes with verses on them in your car and purse or wallet. But ultimately, you need Scripture written in a place where it can’t be lost or destroyed—you need it written on your heart.
            “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” Jeremiah 31:33
            “I’ve hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11)
            When you hide God’s word in your heart, it can’t be taken from you and the Holy Spirit will bring it to mind at just the time you need it. Don’t be discouraged, though, if it’s been a while since you’ve picked up your sword and it’s sitting in a corner rusty and dusty. You can start today to sharpen your sword, even if you simply go back to basics to John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” There’s really no better place to start.