Category Archives: Loved

The thing that’s lower than your ‘low’

Have you ever done the limbo and tried to see how low you can go? During junior high roller skating outings my friends and I used to limbo on roller skates, testing our coordination and risking injury as we contorted our way below the ever-lowering limbo bar.

How about in life? Have painful life circumstances ever drug you lower and lower until you wondered, “How low am I going to have to go?” Have you ever gotten so low that you thought, “Surely this is it—this is rock bottom. There is no way that anything could be underneath this low. This is as low as I can possibly go.”

There is actually something lower than your low. There is something deeper than your rock bottom. And you will love it. Psalm 95:4 says, “In God’s hand are the depths of the earth.”

Think about that. Your deepest depths actually have something underneath them—God. His hand is upholding you even when you feel that you’ve gone as low as you can possibly go, and His hand will eventually lift you up.

That’s the next part of the verse. “In God’s hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to Him.” When we are languishing in the depths it feels like we will never see a mountain peak again, but we will. If we could fast-forward through our life we would eventually see that there was something lower than our low, and we would also see that the hand that sustained us in the lows also lifted us back up to the mountain peaks again.

If you are in the depths hold steady; there is something lower than your low. And if you are on the heights remember that the same God you are experiencing there will still be present even if storm clouds reappear and threaten to hide Him from your view. The Scripture is true: He will never leave you or forsake you.

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Love, not answers

I am a “fixer” are you? My nature in nearly every situation is to try to help people “fix” whatever problem they’re facing. Perhaps it’s because I’m a dad or a pastor, or it might be from all of my years coaching various sports teams. Regardless of its origin, it is part of my nature to try to remedy broken situations.

That’s why it kills me when I can’t.

The most difficult situations for me are the ones that I can’t fix with wise words or encouragement. And that’s terribly problematic given my life vocation because in pastoral ministry I am constantly faced with both natural and spiritual problems that I’m not able to fix. I can hardly ever fix a spiritual problem on the spot. Sure, I can point people toward the ultimate answer, Jesus Christ, but that doesn’t always fix a problem in the moment. And quite frankly, people probably need my counsel far less than I think they do.

Fortunately, God is teaching me something in this season of my life that is freeing me from the pressure of being a self-perceived fixer. He is teaching me that sometimes love, not answers, is the best offering I can give. Yes, people need counsel. Yes, they need wise instruction, but sometimes they just need to step into a moment or an atmosphere of love.

Lately, when I leave a meeting or an interaction wishing that my prayer or counsel had changed everything in a moment, I am sensing the Spirit whisper to me, “Love-fueled listening and affirmation is never wasted.” It’s never a waste of time or effort to love and support a person. Even if we can’t immediately fix their problem or move them more quickly through their process, we can sustain them along the way. We can be a voice of faith, hope, and love that whispers in their ear, “You’re going to make it! You’re not alone in your struggle. I’m not the fixer but I know who is and someday you will see His remedying power again.”

If you have the answer for someone, great let them have it! But if you don’t, you still have what they need. Love.

Will you be my Valentine?

will_you_be_my_valentineDo you remember asking the question, often with an accompanying small, awkwardly sized card and a box of tasteless, sugar hearts?

“Will you be my Valentine?” It’s a pretty vulnerable question to ask when you are in grade school and your heart is on your sleeve (I still remember the 4th grade when Dalene Whitney told me yes then no then yes again all in the same day).

It’s even more vulnerable years later when you ask a variation of the question: “Am I still your Valentine?”

Today is the 22nd year that Jessica has been my Valentine, and I’m desperately hoping that I’ve been a good Valentine for her. I hope that her years of having me as her Valentine have reinforced in her the reality of God’s overwhelming love. When she stops to count her blessings I hope she has overwhelming evidence that God—through me—has been good to her.

And this isn’t just a post about Jessica and me! It’s a question for all of us to ponder as we think about our many sweethearts today. Have we made them better? Have we been agents of healing? Have we lived and loved so well that our children, students, friends, family members, and loved ones have evidence of a good and gracious God? God is good and gracious and loving and kind; the question is: have our lives highlighted that reality?

One of the most remarkable things about the Gospel story is that God allows us humans to represent Him to our world. Sometimes we do it well, sometimes we fall down on the job. If you’ve fallen down on the job it doesn’t mean the story is over. Valentine’s Day is a perfect day for refreshing resolutions and charting the courses in life that we truly want to follow.

Poised

poisedAre you a poised individual? Would anyone use the word poise to describe your mien and air, your manner and your bearing?

Poise is a word that refers to elegance and grace in a person’s carriage. It is the state of composure that allows one to remain centered and upright in any given situation. Older uses of the word described balance and equilibrium in a person’s core.

The opposite of poise is discombobulation, the state of being confused or disconcerted by external forces, and when we get discombobulated we make up for it by posing. Since we don’t have a natural composure flowing from within us, we wear external masks and strike external poses to compensate. Which one best describes you? In a given day are you more poised and composed or posed and discombobulated?

Our level of poise and composure is directly tied to our confidence—the more confident we are the more poised we become. Conversely, as our confidence ebbs our fear, confusion, and distress increases.

So how do we shed our posing and grow in confidence that leads to ever-increasing poise and composure? Two thoughts. First, stay close to Jesus Christ, who always modeled poise and equilibrium. He moved through the storms of Roman oppression and religious persecution like an eye of a hurricane, ever-poised and composed. Second, remember that confidence flows from the presence of God. The more we cultivate the presence of God in our lives the more our confidence grows and poise becomes our posture.

I know it can take time to overcome our fears and grow in poise and confidence, but it changes everything when we attain it. Let’s set poise as a goal, and learn to bring the peace, hope, and composure of Christ wherever we go every day of our lives.

Triple-kept by triune love

smile-at-the-rainShade, shelter, stronghold…buckler, shield, and bulwark. Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are triple protected by triune love.

I think you will love the following sentences from a Celtic devotional that I have recently been pondering:

God the Father is the shield beneath which we hide our fragile souls. He comes both generous and large to cover us when troubles rain down upon us.

God the Son made of His own cross a place for our hard times and the wood He chose now serves our wounds.

God the Spirit lives within us like structured steel with welded braces so the pressures from without can never crush us.

We are triple-kept by triune love, shielded by the three in one.”[1]

Know you are loved today!

 

[1] Calvin Miller, Celtic Devotions (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 27.

 

The subtle brilliance of humanistic thinking

starsChristianity presents the highest, noblest view of the dignity of man (male/female) of any other worldview or belief system. According to our Scriptures, we humans are not merely the products of unguided evolution. We aren’t simply “dancing to our DNA” as Richard Dawkins claims.

We are not simply the latest, upgraded installment of the evolutionary chain, animals 2.0.

We are carriers of a divine spark. We are made in the image of God, loved by Deity, and we carry an intrinsic value and worth that is unique among all of creation. That’s our starting point. And yet as brilliantly and wondrously as we were made, we aren’t God. We submit to God. We worship God, but we ourselves are not divine.

In contrast to this Christian perspective is evolutionary humanism that starts from a very different place. In evolutionary humanistic thinking, humans are not intrinsically special or unique. We aren’t loved by Deity and destined for a significant life or eternity. We are biological impulses. We’re just the latest version of evolution, today’s manifestation of natural selection.

How interesting it is then to see that although humanism begins with man as no more significant than animals, it ends with man essentially enthroned as God. This is inconsistent reasoning. Humanistic philosophy both reduces the sanctity of human life while simultaneously elevating man’s prowess and genius as the greatest force in existence.

How does that happen? How do we begin as nothing more than animals, but then end as essential deities? It’s a brilliantly subtle belief that divests us of accountability and responsibility, while promoting our independence and pride.

I like King David’s exclamations from Psalm 8 verses 1 and 4: “Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Then “What is man that you are mindful of him?” God is mindful of us—that makes us special. But it is His name—not ours—that is majestic in all the earth.

Loved When Unlovable

love the unlovable

Do you know that you were loved in your most unlovable moments? Do you know that God loved you even when you couldn’t love yourself? Has the weight of that truth ever worked its way into your soul?

You were loved in the exact time when you were the most difficult to love.

God loved you when you hated Him (or when you were coolly indifferent to Him).

He loved you when you pulled a Jonah and sailed in the opposite direction.

He loved you before you surrendered your life to Him and began morphing into who you are today.

He loved you in your confusion, your brokenness, and your shame.

He loved you when you cheered for the wrong sports team (sorry Clippers fans).

God loved you when you were far from Him. That’s what Romans 5:8 is all about. It says, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

If those words are true, how have they affected our closest relationships? Do we love our loved ones in their less-than-lovely moments? Or do we only love them until those moments?

Certainly, it’s easier to love our loved ones when they’re modeling all of the things that we love best about them, but what about when the other stuff peeks through? What about those times when their lesser nature flares up? Do we love them still?

We don’t have to love their lesser nature, and we certainly don’t have to endorse what they do with it, but I hope we have enough of God’s love in us to continue loving even when it’s difficult to love.

Indeed, those are probably the only moments when love can truly be called love.