Sunday, January 31, 2010

Love Works

This thought came to me as I listened to a sermon this morning based on 1John 4:7-16. I found myself thinking about the love that the Father has showered on us and the implications for how we live our lives: loving one another and loving those apart from Christ.

Now I've never had a problem loving my spiritual brothers and sisters. But when it comes to loving those outside my spiritual family, there is work to do. I've taught courses on evangelism and I've done my share of sharing my faith with others. However, I find myself wondering if my motives are what they should be. How well do I know and care about my neighbors, work associates, casual acqaintances?

It occurs to me that love for others is the key. And this love has its source in the very nature of God and is produced in every true follower of His. John indicates that this love for others is evidence of the presence of Christ in our lives. When we allow the Spirit of Christ to love through us, a world apart from Christ can see this love. Yes, this love works when love acts.

So how does love act?

First, love looks. What I mean is this: Like Jesus, who said he came to seek and to save, we who are followers of Christ need to look around to see a world in need - in need of love and in need of a Savior. Having gotten to know some of my neighbors, I realize that I have to look no further than the street where I live to find persons in need of a relationship with a Savior who loves them enough to have died for them.

Second, love listens. People, all people, need to have someone who will listen to them. Listening involves showing a genuine interest in someone and an unconditional acceptance of them, whatever their story. Listening intently and actively communicates that we genuinely care.

Finally, love loses. Let me explain. Jesus said that the greatest form of love is to lay down our lives for others. If we are willing to lose ourselves and our interests and needs for the sake of sharing the love of Jesus with others, we are truly showing the love of Jesus in both word and deed.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Patient Faith

I just visited my friend, Isabel, who has been suffering from a terminal respiratory illness for over eight years. In fact, when she first became ill all those years ago she met with me over coffee and spelled out her wishes for her funeral service and made me promise to honor her wishes.

As her condition worsened and she grew increasingly weak, she began to wonder why it was taking so long for the Lord to come for her. She's been ready for some time - her bags packed, as it were.

I visited her in her home a couple of weeks ago, where she has been for months under the care of her beloved, Bill, her husband of over 48 years as well as her daughter, Amy, and the wonderful people of hospice. As I sat by her bedside Isabel told me that she was ready to go, and didn't understand why the Lord hadn't already come to take her on to heaven.

It gave me a chance to talk about the Lord's sovereign will and his timing. I shared with Isabel that perhaps God still had something he wanted to do through her life. I reassured her that his timing is always perfect and he always works for our good and the good of others. I assured her that one day before long she would close her eyes on this life and open them in the presence of her beloved Lord, Jesus.

Today, as I held her hand and prayed there in her room in the Elizabeth House, our local hospice facility, I said, "Lord, even as John said in the Revelation, we ask that you come quickly," to which Isabel said, "Amen."

What a testimony of faith and patience her life has been, and what joy she has given to all who have come to be blessed by her friendship. And what joy awaits Isabel when she hears Jesus say to her, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Come with me and see what I've prepared for you."


"The determinations of Providence are always wise, often inscrutable; &...meant for gracious purposes." George Washington

I received this as a tweet from @WashingtonInn. What it says to me is that God is in control and that he is a loving, gracious God who truly cares about us and who is wise enough to know what we need. We may not understand, but if we trust God, we don't have to understand everything. We simply need to have faith in him and his beneficence. As the gospel song says, "God is good all the time."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Human suffering and Haiti

It's hard to wrap one's mind around the suffering in Haiti. Some would skeptically say, "Where was God?" Others might ask, "Why, God?"

The question of faith is "What, God? What can I do as an instrument in your hands to ease the suffering of others and be a vessel of your love for all mankind?"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

God's will and cows

I was talking w/my friend, Henry, this past Sunday about this topic. Henry has been following the discussion I began on facebook about knowing God's will.

Henry said that he heard a sermon that likened us to cows and God's will to a cow pasture. According to this thought, a cow is free to roam where it will within the confines of the pasture and graze where it wants. He went on to say that this is like God's will for us. The fences/boundaries of the cow pasture are like God's moral will, his clearly spelled out directions for how he wants us to live. And, if we stay within those confines, i.e. live according to God's moral standards, then we can "graze" where we think is best, or make decisions based on our own wisdom and understanding.

This makes sense to me. You?