What is Love?

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”  Jesus answered, The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:28-31 (ESV)

Love Is:
4a:  unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as
          (1):  the fatherly concern of God for humankind
          (2):  brotherly concern for others
     4b:  a person’s adoration of God

Definition of from Merriam Webster

So what does it mean to love God? Does it mean being at the church every time the doors are open? Does it mean accosting everyone you come across with the Four Spiritual Laws? Does it mean dressing weird? Does it mean putting tons of bumper stickers on the back of your car? Of course not.

  • To love God is to first of all believe that He exists.
  • To love God is to admire His character.
  • To love God is to love what He loves and hate what He hates.
  • To love God is to follow His decrees and commands.
  • To love God is to pattern your life after Him.

And what does it mean to love your neighbor? Does it mean agree with or condone everything he does? Does it mean to roll over and do everything he wants you to? Does it mean offer him platitudes when he is poor, or in trouble, or depressed? Of course not.

  • To love your neighbor is to treat him like you want to be treated.
  • To love your neighbor is to seek his best interests.
  • To love your neighbor is to not seek revenge.
  • To love your neighbor is to open your heart, home, and wallet to his needs.
  • To love your neighbor is to be happy for him when he wins, and mourn with him when he loses.

 

Or as a much greater writer put it:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (ESV)

Spiritual Growth

Life on the road as a trucker is hard. It’s hard on your health. It’s hard on your marriage. It’s hard on your kids. It’s especially hard on your relationship with God. Only by careful, alert management of our time and resources, can we keep our health, marriage, and family.

Our spiritual health must also be guarded and protected. There’s an old adage, ‘you are what you eat’. I would add to that. You are what you hear. You are what you see. You are what you do.

As a driver, I have many hours every day that I must choose what I will fill my mind with. Will I listen to music? Talk radio? News? Nothing? I have found a better way, a way that builds my mind and heart in God and not in the way of the world, a way to know God better in the solitude of a truck:

  • Worship & Pray
  • Listen & Learn

I know, that sounds basic, even trite. But until I made a plan and started doing it, I was stuck in the rut of complacency and lazy habits.(I still fall back into those too often!)

Worship & Pray

I have learned that when I take time each day, even several times a day, to focus on God, to acknowledge His worth-ness, to thank Him for all He’s done, and to praise His goodness, that my life goes better. Yes, the difficulties of life still happen, but somehow they don’t bother me as much. By scheduling a set time each day ( I set alarms on my phone to remind me) I remind myself in the busyness of life to shift my focus back to Him.

I have several tools that I use to help me respond to Him. Drawing from some of the oldest practices of the church, I use the daily worship routine or Orders. Northumbria Monastery has a daily feed that I follow as well as a feed from the Episcopal church.

I’ve had several people question my use of these, asking if they aren’t just rote prayers and therefore lacking in any real substance. Any worship or prayer has the tendency to become rote and devoid of meaning; even reading scripture can become meaningless. The answer is to focus on the words as I am speaking therm, making sure I am speaking therm to God. When I drift, I start over.

Listen & Learn

The biggest part of my day is spent listening and learning and thinking. I spend about an equal amount of time listening to scripture, Christian and classic fiction, Christian non fiction, along with some preaching thrown in.

One of the greatest joys this past year has been to rediscover a love for the Bible. As I have listened to it as a whole, not just reading it in bits and pieces, I have found a cohesiveness that I have never seen before.

Listening to books is different than reading in that it seems easier to picture what the author is saying. It’s like listening to a friend.

If you are stuck in a rut of spiritual complacency I highly recommend that you take a look at some of these tools that I use and implement your own spiritual growth plan.

Daily worship (Orders) apps. Orders are one way to regularly focus on God in personal worship.

Helps you remember those you are praying for.

Lots of good Christian music.

The bible in many versions and hundreds of daily devotions.

Daily Bible readings and portal to many radio teaching ministries.

Many different Bible versions and hundreds of study helps available for purchase. Best study app for the droid.

General purpose flashcard app. Useful for learning and rehearsing memory verses.

Good Christian audiobooks for purchase and download as mp3 files. Save them on a thumb drive and play them through an FM transmitter to your radio. Wait for their twice yearly sale and get the bigger books including Bibles really cheap.

I group 4-6 hour chunks of scripture into folders, then put therm on the thumb drive interspersed with fiction and non fiction books…bible, fiction, bible, non fiction, etc.

Suggested Books
English Standard Version (ESV) Bible
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
Classic Christianity, Bob George

Suggested Radio Teachers
Grace To You – John MacArthur
Truth For Life – Alistair Begg
Searchlight – Jon Courson

In His Presence

Worship is not for you, dear Christian, it is for God.

Insofar as I make worship about me, my desires, wants, and feelings, I will fail in my attempts.

The paradox of worship is that as I leave myself behind as I approach Him, I find Him welcoming me into His presence. When I express my love for Him, I find that love returned, multiplied, pressed down, and running over.

Conversely, when I go into worship to get an emotional high or spiritual fix, I find heaven silent and cold. I can never achieve a closeness with God by demanding it.

May we all learn to come to God in humility, remembering we stand in the Presence of the Most High.

Stepping on Toes

Recently I stopped by a chapel at a truck stop hoping to introduce myself and maybe learn a thing or two from the chaplain there. We did have a nice chat and I stayed for the evening bible study. One thing he and I discussed before the study was the importance of focusing on the important matters of the faith and not getting bogged down in discussions of secondary issues.

In essence we restated the old adage;

In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas

in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in everything, charity (or love).

The problem came during the meeting, when a common bible topic was raised, to which there are several valid interpretations. He told the group “what it meant”, and when I mentioned one of the alternatives, I was shut down quickly. While he was not rude, his posture and tone made it clear that “this is the only way to read that passage”. That bothered me. Ok… I was peeved. By God’s grace, I wisely shut my mouth and the meeting went on. But that got me thinking….

  • How do we understand what Truth is?
  • Are some Truths more important than others?
  • How should I respond when there are conflicts in our understanding of Truth?

What is Truth?

First and foremost, far and above all else, the Bible is Truth. God supernaturally superintended the writing of the scriptures. Because of that, what the original authors wrote was exactly what God wanted written. Our problem understanding is because we live in a different culture and we speak a different language that the writers did.

So we learn all we can about the author and his audience (the historical and cultural context) and we rely on scholars to translate the text into our language. We also make every effort to keep passages in textual context. For example, in psalm 14:1 David says “there is no God”. That is contradictory to the rest of scripture. But in context it reads “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God”. That is in line with the rest of scripture.

So what do we do when even in context a passage doesn’t make sense? Or when several passages seem to be contradictory? We turn to two friends, reason and tradition.

Reason, our mind, intellect, and logic, controlled and directed by the Spirit of God, is the first path to an understanding of a passage. We can compare passages with each other. We can use logic, ie if A its true and B is likeA then B must be true also.

Tradition can be viewed as a record of the interpretation of scripture through the church’s history. Another way to view it is as a compilation of godly men’s reasoned attempt to understand scripture.

Unfortunately, Much of our beliefs about the bible come not from personally wrestling with it, but rather from hearing someone else (usually our pastor) tell us what he thinks it means. Problems occur when we accept our own reason and our favorite traditions’ version of a complicated or debated doctrine as the ONLY acceptable understanding.

Are some truths more important than others?

Of course! I once heard the are four kinds of truth: the 4D’s

  • Truth you would Die for
  • Truth you would Divide over
  • Truth you would Disagree about
  • Truth you would Discuss over coffee

The problems arise when we put a truth in the wrong category. Say we elevate a “discuss over coffee” to a “divide over”, for example, was Paul right or left handed? Or worse, we demote a “die for” to a “disagree about”.

And that is what happened the other night. We were talking about a topic I thought was a “discuss over coffee” or maybe a “disagree about” and he thought it was a “die for”. That’s when toes got stepped on. I was hurt that my view was squashed and he thought I was bordering on heretical.

What should I do when disagreements arise?

  • PRAY! For and with the other person.
  • BE KIND! Remember, he is your brother.
  • Seek to understand the other’s view
  • Review my own points to see if I have misstated anything or maybe misunderstood scripture.
  • Look for points in common.
  • Disengage BEFORE harm is done.
  • PRAY!

ps. I have intentionally used examples that I thought were non issues. I sincerely apologize if anyone was offended.

pps. For me, the authority and inspiration of scripture is a “die for” doctrine. All authority and truth comes from Jesus, passed to the apostles, who then wrote it down. If He was and is God as the apostles claimed He said, surely He is powerful enough to have overseen the writings. As all but one book of the Old Testament is referenced or cited in the New as authoritative the church has historically accepted all 66 books as divinely inspired. All of true doctrine flows from a right understanding of scripture. If, as some claim, it is just a man-made book, then it has no authority and no claim to be truth or even true. In that case, we could not trust any of it including Jesus’ own story.

Anti-Pigpens

Remember Pigpen from the Peanuts comic strip? He was always dirty and never seemed to be aware of it. Everywhere he went he left a trail of dirt and dust.

Many people (myself included, at times) are the same way in our lives. Wherever we go, behind us we leave a trail of pain, hurt feelings, anger, mistrust, and we aren’t even aware we are the cause. We may even think we are doing good! If we become aware of the devastation we are causing, we say things like, “I just said what they needed to hear” or “people just need to take me as I am”. We excuse our bad behavior as personality traits, or worse, as “speaking the truth (in love?)”.

The good news of Jesus is that part of what He came to accomplish, part of His re-creation of the world, is to remake each of us back to what we were designed to be. Thankfully, He doesn’t do this through some self help book or 12 step program (although those are useful tools). Instead, He puts His Spirit, and His guidance, and His power within us. He actually remakes our deepest self. That’s how we can answer His call to “be holy as I am holy” with “yes, Lord, work in me”, instead of “I’m doing the best I can”.

Now with Jesus living in and through us, we can leave a trail of love, joy, and peace, by practicing patience, kindness, and goodness, in an attitude of faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control.

Only then with Jesus in us can we become anti-pigpens, leaving a wake of clean in place of dirty, wholesome instead of profane, happy rather than angry.

Go be Anti-Pigpens!

You’re Worthless… and Other Lies

You’re worthless!…

When are you going to grow up?…

Why can’t you be like your brother??…

You’re such a failure…

The world would be a better place without you…

 

These words hurt. A lot. But they are not the words of a cruel father to his son. They are not the words of a wife to her husband. They are not even the words of an enemy.

They are the words that flow through my mind on an all too often basis.

BUT, they are LIES!

You see, I’m broken. We all are in some ways. My particular brokenness (at least the one I’m disclosing here) is hard to describe to those who don’t deal with it in their life. But it’s very familiar to many of you. All my life I have overextended myself to do great things and then turned right around and sabotaged my efforts. I have heard those words echo in my ears countless times. Why?? What is wrong with me?? Am I insane? Why am I so happy one month and then so low the next?

About a year ago, while searching for an answer to this, I had a shocking revelation. I found a description of a disorder that seemed to fit. I even found a few places that had a self questionnaire…and I fit each marker….

Bipolar Disorder (also called Manic Depressive).

I go through cycles of being very up (manic) followed by times of being very down (depressive). The way I describe it is; when I’m in my upswing, I’m the king of the world and can do no wrong, and when I’m in my downswing, I’m the scum of the earth and can do nothing right. The problem comes when in my upswing I commit to more than I am truly capable of and then in my downswing I abandon all my projects and leave others hanging. That is when the lies come yelling in my brain….

What then is the answer for me? Go to a doctor and get prescribed a bunch of drugs? Just deal with it (that hasn’t worked by the way)? Just chuck it all and go be a hermit (sort of).

I decided I would go to God for the answer. And He gave me one! I can sum it up with the phrase ‘this too shall pass’. He taught me that most of the worst decisions I have made in my life were when I was at the extreme top or bottom of my cycle. So the answer to bad decisions is to not make them in a rush or without good counsel. He taught me to wait.

He taught me to question the thoughts in my head to see if they are true or not.

(I do understand that I have a fairly mild form of BPD, and that there are many people who need medications and specialized treatment… If you, or someone you love needs help, please find it as soon as possible.)

He taught me to see through the lies and to hear His response:

Me: You’re worthless!…

Jesus: Really? I died for a worthless man? No, I came to show you how truly marvelous you are to me!

Me: When are you going to grow up?…

Father: I’ll always think of you as my son. Just rest in me. Besides, I like kids!

Me: Why can’t you be like your brother??…

Jesus: Why would you want to? There is only one like you, and I love you!

Me: You’re such a failure…

Spirit: True, you failed in this instance and have made mistakes in others, but that is how I am teaching you to be more like Jesus. And when you see the tapestry of your life from this side… WOW!

Me: The world would be a better place without you…

Jesus: True, the ‘world’ would likely not notice if you were gone, But Lynn would… and Dustin… and Brendon… and Frank and Debbie… and Gordon and Kathy… and so many others I can’t even mention.

Special Note: Thoughts of self destruction are one of the markers of BPD. While I have never attempted or even seriously considered harming myself, thoughts similar to the last one above go through on a fairly regular basis.

For more information see here:

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.

and here:

Bipolar disorder — sometimes called manic-depressive disorder — is associated with mood swings that range from the lows of depression to the highs of mania. When you become depressed, you may feel sad or hopeless and lose interest or pleasure in most activities. When your mood shifts in the other direction, you may feel euphoric and full of energy. Mood shifts may occur only a few times a year, or as often as several times a day. In some cases, bipolar disorder causes symptoms of depression and mania at the same time.

Although bipolar disorder is a disruptive, long-term condition, you can keep your moods in check by following a treatment plan.

Unto the Least of These

I was shopping today at a big name general merchandise store, just waiting my turn in line to checkout. There was a lady with her two daughters checking out at the register. When she saw the total, she grimaced a little and then asked the cashier to start pulling items off… healthy snacks for lunches… bread…. a couple more items…. From the look on her face and the reaction of her girls, I surmised this wasn’t the first time this had happened. Then a man in line asked the clerk to put the items back on the bill and he would cover the difference. Such a simple act. From his appearance, it wasn’t much for him (about $12). Maybe he’d have to miss a takeout meal this week and eat a sandwich instead. The woman was grateful, of course, and the kids were happy. Life went on.

Later on, as I reflected on this simple event, I started to wonder, what if the woman and her girls hadn’t been nicely dressed and pretty? Would the man still have helped? What if they’d spoken a different language? What if their ancestors had come from a different continent than his? What if they’d been tattooed and pierced? What if she had, in her embarrassment, lashed out in anger at the clerk?

My thoughts then drifted to how often I go into the world among people and never see them as people. I get out of my truck and go shopping as if on a mission. The people around me don’t come to my attention unless it’s as a distraction or interruption of my mission.

Jesus said:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:34-40 (NIV)

Notice He did not say ‘if it’s convenient’, nor did he say ‘make sure to pay your taxes so there are programs for the poor’. I also don’t think He meant for our helping to necessarily be something special we go out of our way to do. He meant for our attitude to be one of always looking for ways to help those around us. I’m sure that the list He gave is incomplete and also that those who are sick and in prison are not always in an institution. What about the prison of hate or anger or pain? What about the sickness of loneliness or strife?

May God help us all to get out of our shell of self-centeredness and notice those around us, and give us the love and grace for them that He has given to us.