We Have Not Loved Well

We are to love well. Jesus said love would be the mark of His followers—love for each other and even love for their enemies.

But we have not loved well.

For 2,000 years, believers have bickered and fought with each other. Splitting hairs and splitting churches over minor disagreements and going to war over major ones.

And we’ve behaved even worse with those outside the faith. We’ve judged unbelievers when they behave like unbelievers. We criticize those who are different from us. Different social backgrounds from ours. Different ethnic heritages. And especially, different sins.

We’ve concluded that if someone’s sins are different from ours, their sin is worse. We create hierarchies of sin, with ours on the bottom rung of severity and theirs at the top.

Instead of taking a stand against injustice, we’ve sat on the sidelines, allowing the world to fight for the rights of the downtrodden.

And then along came a godly man who spoke truth and stood for righteousness. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who called people to non-violent protests of unrighteous laws. Who called believers out in one of the saddest commentaries on the body of Christ.

In 1963, Dr. King said, “At 11:00 on Sunday morning…we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation.” While we may have made strides in this area, more than 50 years later many Christians still worship God with people who look and act like themselves—racially, socially, economically, and politically.

This year, our nation celebrates the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. on January 21. In honor of MLK day, let’s consider some of his oft-repeated quotes. Quotes that spur Christians to live out their faith and testimony both inside and outside the body of Christ.

Quotes such as:

  • “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
  • “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
  • “The time is always right to do what is right.”
  • “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
  • “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
  • “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”

Whether or not the body of Christ has loved well in the past, there’s always room for improvement. God’s Word has quite a bit to say on this subject, including these verses:

  • “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 ESV).
  • “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV).
  • “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3 ESV).
  • “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14).
  • “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (I John 4:20 ESV).

Someday in eternity, we will all stand before the throne of God, praising Him for who He is and thanking Him for who we are: redeemed people from every tribe, language, and nation. Until that day, we still have many friends to make…and to love well.


 
One Word for 2019
Trust

Do you make new year’s resolutions? I used to. But I was as successful as 80% of Americans who, according to U.S. News, make and break their new year’s resolutions by mid-February.

So several years ago I gave up resolutions. Instead, I began the practice of adopting one word for the year. One word to help maintain a right focus. To filter my experiences. A word to help me grow emotionally and spiritually. In past years my words included release, joy, hope, and gratitude.

It seems my one word becomes more challenging each year. Last year began with gratitude—a word that tested me in ways I could not have imagined. Because of great loss, part of me wishes those events never happened. But I also witnessed—and learned—a sense of gratitude that plumbed the depths of my spirit and carried me to new heights as I watched God glorify His name.

This year, my word is the most difficult one yet.

Trust.

Even typing the word is a bit scary.

I’ve always thought I was pretty good at trusting God. Good at encouraging and teaching others to trust Him, too. And no matter how complicated life became, I knew God was in control.

But now? Now is (cliché alert!):

  • when I put my money where my mouth is.
  • where the rubber meets the road.
  • when push comes to shove.

You get the idea.

This is the year where my ability to trust God will be tested more than ever.

The year in which everything has changed and nothing’s the same.

When most decisions I make will lead me into uncharted territory.

Where I must trust God for not just the things I need, but to be my husband and father. My encourager and comforter. My All-sufficient One.

And the year when listening to the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit will be more important than ever.

I’ve trusted God for eternal life. Now 2019 will reveal the depth of my trust in Him for everything else.

Do you choose one word for the year?


 
How Current is Your Thankfulness?

current thankfulness

Thankfulness is good for the soul. And it’s especially fashionable to be thankful during the month of November.

But how far back do you have to go to find something to thank God for?

Do you find yourself casting back on old memories? Searching experiences from your childhood? From years ago? Or months or even weeks ago?

I love the practice some families have of filling a thanksgiving jar throughout the year. Family members add slips to the jar and then take turns reading the slips on Thanksgiving Day. It’s a wonderful way to rehearse God’s faithfulness and nurture thankfulness in both children and adults.

Although family members read slips written up to a year earlier, each recollection was current when it was written.

But what if we go days, weeks, or even months without recognizing something to be thankful for? What does this say about us?

It proclaims that we can’t see beyond our immediate physical circumstances. Negative events limit and shape our perspective. For example, a flat tire can be a disaster…or it can be the impetus for thankfulness I wasn’t injured, I had a spare tire in the trunk, or even thankfulness I have a car at all!

Additionally, in the absence of a current spirit of gratitude, I will become a bitter, resentful person who cultivates an overarching sense of entitlement. I’ll focus on my rights, my benefits, my priorities. I’ll fall into the trap of thinking anything good that happens to me is dependent solely on my own efforts. And if my rights, benefits, and priorities are shortchanged in any way, I’ll make sure the world hears about it.

Finally, the absence of a current spirit of thankfulness proclaims I am unaware of God’s active presence in my life moment by moment and day by day. Nurturing an awareness of God’s presence helps me be alert to the ways He is working in each day, providing me multiple reasons to be grateful.

If I have to think back weeks or months for something to thank God for, then something is terribly wrong. I want to be diligent to practice His presence now for a heightened awareness of His hand at work every day!

As the pages of our calendars and planners turn, the thankful themes of November will give way to the excitement and animation of December Christmas celebrations. Will you and I purpose to bring a current spirit of thanksgiving with us into the new month, the new year, and each new day of our life?

Do you have to cast back on old memories for reminders of how God has worked in your life?

How will you develop a current spirit of thanksgiving that will last far beyond the month of November?


 
Punctuality and the Tyranny of the Clock

punctuality and clocks

I have a love-hate relationship with clocks.

When I was a child, my parents always set our clocks five minutes fast, supposedly to help prevent us from being late to appointments.

It never worked. We were always late…to everything.

Despite the ineffectiveness of the practice, I carried it over into my marriage. For forty years, all our clocks were five minutes faster than the actual time.

It didn’t work for us, either. We were usually late to most appointments, much to my husband’s chagrin…which should tell you whose fault it was. Punctuality was my nemesis.

Daylight Savings Time (DST) ended this past Sunday. A day on which we were all required to turn our clocks back one hour.

punctuality and clockSince I’ve begun a new season of life and I was changing all my clocks anyway, I decided it was time for a fresh start. So I set all my timepieces to the accurate time…and in the process, broke a sixty-year-old habit.

Then I posted about it on social media.

The response floored me. It seems I’m not the only one to set clocks faster to help me be on time.

And I’m not the only one for whom the practice has failed.

So what’s causing all these punctuality failures?

Is it because we’ve been conditioned to fill—or overfill—every minute with activity? For many of us, down time is a rare and foreign experience. We feel guilty if we’re not constantly on the go. If I have an open hour, my first question is, “What am I forgetting to do?”

Or perhaps we’ve become so self-centered that we think the world revolves around us and our convenience? One friend commented on my social media post, recalling a poem that changed her perspective…and her habits:

To be early is to be on time,
To be on time is to be late,
To be late is to be selfish.

Her little poem is not only painfully convicting, it’s also biblical. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (ESV). When I’m late, I’m guilty of putting my own interests above others.

Maybe our tardiness is because, as another friend noted, “Optimists are usually the late ones. We anticipate everything going perfectly door to door.” Guilty as charged. Of course, we all know it’s a rare day when everything goes perfectly!

One cousin noted being tardy is in our family’s genes. While history supports her conclusion, I’m determined to change our family’s reputation.

It’s only been five days, but so far, so good!

What tips do you have for being punctual?


 
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