The Humility and Sacrifice Love Requires

Hello, my friends, I hope this finds you well in these crazy times in which we are living. I am sure you are well aware that there so many things to stoke anxiety and fear within us. Like a chain reaction, fear fuels anger, anger ignites hatred, and hatred results in a lot of disunity, destruction, and unhappiness. All one has to do is turn on any news program or social media to find a myriad of reasons to be afraid, angry, and even hateful. In fact, there are certain individuals, groups, and organizations whose ambition is to propagate these in various forms.

Recently I began reading the Gospel of Matthew again. I have been stuck re-reading and reflecting on the teachings found in the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7 and Luke 6). These teachings are not about what one is to strive to become, but what one will increasingly become as he or she surrenders to Christ and His teachings. Yet I admit, I posted on Facebook, “I’ve grown a lot, but the Beatitudes remind me I still have a lot of growing to do.” See, the Beatitudes are the seeds that must begin sprouting before the rest of the Lord’s teachings can become fruitful in one’s life. Have you read the Beatitudes lately? Blessed are:

  • the poor in spirit (spiritually destitute and acknowledge such)
  • those who mourn (for their own sinful wretchedness)
  • the meek (humility + gentleness + self-restraint [e.g., not reacting in anger, etc.])
  • those who hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness
  • the merciful 
  • the pure in heart
  • the peacemakers 
  • those persecuted for Christ’s sake

Meekness, God’s righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, peacemaking, and persecution without retaliation are made possible through humility and the sacrifice of one’s own agendas and sense of entitlements; and these become possible through genuine love. Many of us like to think of ourselves as these incredibly loving individuals, but how many of us handle it well when our spouses, family members, or friends humiliate or upset us, let alone strangers or foes? How well do many of us handle other drivers? Yet, check out what Jesus teaches:

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you…. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. ~ Luke 6:27-28, 35

Did you catch these? Love your enemies; do good to them; bless them; pray for them—all without expectation. Our adversaries might not ever change, but we are called to still do good, extending goodness. Now, this does not mean to ignore justice. For example, if a man murderers or violates another, love does not turn a blind eye for the sake of “forgiveness.” This is not love. But love does not delight in cruelty, torture, and for its foes to die a thousand deaths and suffer the flames of hell. These are the traits of hatred. Love, on the other hand, desires redemption, restoration, and reconciliation.

Our society talks a lot about love and justice, but these go hand in hand. Yet, are you seeing the difficulties? Love is both patient and kind, and it delights in the truth; it is neither envious nor resentful; it does not demand its own way (see 1 Cor. 13:4-8). Do you and I see these being lived out in society? 

Love must begin with humility. When going back to the Beatitudes, the poor in spirit recognizes he is no better than anyone else, and he knows he, too, is in need of mercy. The one who mourns grieves over his own sins rather than simply hark on others about theirs. The meek refrain from retaliation, even though their blood might be boiling. Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness desire what is right, and they know that man’s anger does not produce the righteousness of God (see James 1:20). Love extends mercy rather than seek to distribute retribution. The pure in heart does not view others as objects or pawns, nor does he pursue his own agendas at others’ expense. The peacemaker is willing to extend a hand instead of a fist, to let bygones be bygones and try to find a way to live in peace without compromising principles.

A practical description of love is shared by the apostle Paul:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. ~ Romans 12:9-21

“I’m not going to show them honor!”  “I’m not going to pray for them!” “I’m not going to live in harmony with them!” “Eye for an eye, baby!” If this is our attitude, then why bother talking about love or justice?

A passage that is often taken out of context is when Jesus says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Jesus is not saying to never make judgments, but rather cautions us as to how we judge. Jesus tells us to get the board out of our own eye before we try to get the chip out of another’s eye. Is this not one of our major problems today? We want to demand people to get the leaves out of their pools while ignoring the sewage and toxicity in our own? Only as we begin dealing with our own will we gain compassion and proper perspective in helping others. Indeed, we must make judgements, wrongs and evils will always be wrong and evil. But we must begin with dealing with the wrongs and evils creeping in our own hearts, and only them can we properly judge others with mercy. Jesus says, “and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:2).

You and I can talk about love all we want, as well as our devotion to Christ, but only to the extent we are willing to humble ourselves and surrender our rights and agendas do we really mean business. Contrary to popular belief, love is not for sissies. Genuine love is difficult, painful, and costly. Love is easy to talk about, but not easily demonstrated and lived out.

Is Character Dependent on Vaccination?

How is it that in a society that often speaks against bullying and “hate speech” has grown quite comfortable with mean-spiritedness? Name calling, slandering, demonizing, and ostracizing have become commonplace and seemingly justifiable. This is no less true when it comes to the current vaccinations. 

I have friends who have been vaccinated, some who have not yet done so, and those who staunchly refuse to be —each having their own reasons. Yet, each are vilified for their decisions. But I ask, is a person’s character truly determined on the basis of whether they have been vaccinated or not?

I know of persons who have been vaccinated. As a result, they’ve been ostracized by some for their decision, labeled as “sheeple,” etc. On the flip side, those who refuse are criticized as being conspiracy theorists, uncaring, selfish, etc. However, just because a person is vaccinated, does this make him a mindless follower? Or just because a person refuses to get vaccinated, does this make him one who is void of compassion? Is vaccination the determining factor if one is a kind person who will lift you up if you fall? No? Then why are people so quick to criticize?

I have had medical personnel from Mayo Clinic tell me the seriousness of COVID. This being the case, if persons are vaccinated for the sake of peace of mind, are they merely followers? On the other hand, there are many legitimate questions surrounding COVID. Are persons bad for not trusting our government (it has not exactly shown itself to be trustworthy)?

Vaccination is a personal and private matter. Furthermore, persons should not be pestered or ostracized for their decision on the matter—especially when it comes to their character or intelligence being called into question. One can be a person of integrity or a bona fide jerk whether he is vaccinated or not. May we be respectful of person’s decisions in such matters.

When Your Blogging Changes, That’s Okay!

If you are a blogger, the chances are high that you love to write. Yet, just as you grow and develop as a writer, which requires change, so it is with blogging. Your passion and goal(s) might not change, but your style and approach might become more refined, focused, or personal.

I write almost out of necessity, as writing is a part of who I am. I write for myself as much as for anyone else. Writing not only helps me vent but also put structure to my thoughts, allowing them to become more concrete rather than abstract. In other words, writing helps me to learn. Writing helps me to learn about myself and the world around me, even as I write about these.

When I first began blogging I wanted to touch on subjects and Scripture passages I feel are often ignored in churches. Later, I went through a period of severe depression, so I wanted to offer words of hope. Since then, my blogging has still changed, although the previous elements are still a part of my writing.

I have also learned from some bloggers I follow. Some are extraordinarily gifted in writing in such a warm, personal style. This is something I hope to become better at doing. I don’t want to simply blabber out facts or opinions, but to communicate in a way the personhood of the reader is touched. Even in a way that if someone has different views than me, they will still feel valued instead of defenses being raised.

The goal of a Christian writer should always be love, while being faithful to truth. This is not always easy, as written words do not convey tones, warmth, or facial expressions. Furthermore, we are living in a time when there is a lot of fear, distrust, division, and uncertainty. These tend to muddy the waters and bring a lot of anger to the surface. Love must take all this into consideration and not let these become stumbling blocks to extending love and respect to persons who are craving these. This is where I am finding myself today, how do I communicate to others through my writings in a way that is personal, while extending hope and encouragement to a society that is really needing these?

Friend, perhaps your blogging has changed or is changing. If so, that’s okay. You might feel silly because of it sometimes, but I doubt others are thinking that. Allow the change, but remember the goal(s) you have in mind. For some, it’s sharing help and expertise in particular areas. For others, the reasons might be different. Regardless, change is not a bad thing. Oftentimes it is a sign of growth, development, and understanding. It might be uncomfortable, but sometimes it’s necessary.

I hope these words may be of encouragement to you, my friend. Blessings to you!

We Are Not Enemies

Pause. Breathe. Listen.

The past year or two have been tough for nearly everyone. There is a lot of frustration, fear, distrust, and uncertainty with legitimate reasons persons feel these. As a result, there is a lot of anger and criticism, but a lack of love, compassion, and understanding. As I’ve come to realize recently, I am not guiltless of these. I’ve posted my share of venting of anger and criticism. Yet, each day I meet or pass people who wear masks and those who don’t; some have been vaccinated while some have not yet done so or refuse to. Many are black, white, brown, etc. Many ha e differing views than me. None of us are enemies in the real sense of the word. Most have no ill-will toward one another. In fact, most have families they love and desire to protect and provide for. Most are just wanting to survive this craziness that surrounds us. 

If you’re reading this, know that you are not alone. Each of us, to some measure, are feeling frustrated, scared, suspicious, and uncertain. We are not enemies, but we need to pause, breathe, and listen to one another. Our feelings have not arisen for no reason. But instead of listening to the talking heads on tv or the blabbering voices on the radio, May we see each other as we are—persons living in chaotic times. May we find that grace can help us to have one another’s backs, eyes to see past the exterior, shoulders for each other to lean and cry on, hands to help each other up, ears to listen to the concerns, arms to hug and hold onto one another, to help each other as we can, and words to instill courage, hope, and comfort to one another.

We are not enemies. We are but persons living in difficult times. May we love one another. Together we can get through this, by His grace.

Be of good courage.

Love deeply (even those who have different views).

Help others, knowing they’re wrestling through all this mess too.

And remember that we are not enemies. Blessings to you, my friends.

“Don’t give me doctrine, just give me Jesus!” I have heard persons say. Such persons think this sounds spiritual, but what they don’t understand is Jesus taught doctrines. Doctrine simply means teaching. There is sound doctrine which is in accordance with the truth, and there is false doctrine which does not. Beware of those who say they “reject doctrines,” because chances are you are dealing with a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. ~ Titus 2:1

There are preachers who say “We need to make the church relevant,” so they have buildings built with cool lighting and sound systems and teach messages that are both shallow, hip, and pleasant. But this is not relevance. This is deception and arrogance. There is nothing more relevant than reconciling people to God and loving others in a biblical manner. To tell people they can live essentially as they want or hear creative stories over shots of whiskey* is completely irrelevant. One might as well have a Bible study led by a Hollywood celebrity.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. ~ Luke 19:10

* I wish I could this is exaggeration but it is not.

There are many false prophets and teachers today, claiming to be Christians, yet casting doubt on the Scriptures—the very Scriptures of which Jesus declares to be absolutely trustworthy and enduring. These false teachers say the Bible is God’s Word mingled with human error. The apostle Peter tells us that the writers of Scripture were “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). Brother, Sister, the God who spoke the universe into existence and sustains it by His power is more than capable of preserving His Word. Don’t buy into the deception of the liars of the day.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. ~ Matthew 24:35

The Word of God is like a razor sharp scalpel in the hands of the Great Physician, of which He uses to cut the cancers of sin, shame, and addictions from our souls. Yes, it hurts, at times. It can be very uncomfortable, yet afterwards He applies the soothing ointment of grace and we find healing.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~ Hebrews 4:12

“Judge not lest ye be judged,” the bumper sticker reads (quoting Matthew 7:1 from the KJV Bible). It is ironic that people use a quote from the Bible to try to justify behaviors and practices that the same Bible condemns. “Do not judge,” they say, while judging those who study and try to live by the book they are quoting. “Do not judge,” they say, but judgment must be made when making a distinction between right from wrong, the righteousness from the unrighteous, and the Holy from the profane. The very Jesus who tells us to not judge tells us just a few verses later to not give to dogs what is holy or cast our pearls before pigs.

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. ~ Matthew 7:1-2

Money, sex, power, empty praise, and junk awards—are these really worth the striving for? Is sacrificing one’s being simply to attain these for a measly few years truly worth it? Through Christ, God invites all to know Him and life. Yet, many are so mesmerized by the glitter of fool’s gold they reject the true treasures offered. 

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? ~ John 8:36