Here’s what we did:
Fade with our Voices
Your Love is Better than Life (new song!)
Message: I preached on fully knowing the love of Christ
The Power of Your Name
Your Great Name (Communion)
Your Love is Better than Life
In Jesus’ example and teaching, 3 words mark the tone of our conversation with God: persistence, confidence, and reverence.
- Persistence: This is not about nagging God. Persistence is an indicator of your desire and your dependence on God. Pray until God changes the situation or God changes you. Often, both happen at once.
- Confidence (in prayer): “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7. Pray with expectation that something will happen–or why bother to pray at all?
- Reverence: We should certainly be in awe knowing that we’re talking with the Creator of the universe and the Lover of our soul. But true awe is not found in considering God as distant and untouchable.
We cave in to dishonesty because we’d rather not give the conversation or relationship the time and energy it would take to be honest.
Because Jesus wasn’t constrained by others’ opinions of him and because his love wasn’t stained by selfishness, Jesus is refreshingly, strikingly, wonderfully honest. His words at times seemed harsh. He certainly didn’t appear overly concerned about protecting others’ feelings.
Kindness is easier than honesty. Honesty is a lot more work. But if we want our relationships to grow, honesty is nonnegotiable. When we are honest, we will always be “speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).”
I’ve been known to dabble into politics now and then even though I carefully keep it out of the pulpit unless there is a clear-cut moral issue addressed by the Bible. But I really don’t get caught up into it as much as I used to. Looking back now, there was a time it was probably an idol. I have to be careful it doesn’t become one again. Here are some signs to look for to know whether or not poltics has become an idol in your life.
- FEAR! If our views are threatened by those in power, our response will be complete panic. I remember doing that when Clinton got elected. Anytime we believe that if OUR politicies and people are not in power that everything will fall apart we’re demonstrating fear.
- DEMONIZATION! Our opponents are not considered to be simply mistaken but to be evil. When we go down that road, we’re idolizing our brand of politics and it’s ultimately dangerous.
Can you add any other symptoms of idolizing politics?
If I could choose one place to be perfect, it would be in my parenting. Every word, every action has an impact on my children–often in ways I don’t see or understand.
That doesn’t mean they would be perfect, but when they’re 40 and in therapy they could never say, “I’m this way because my dad….”
What about you? Where would you choose to be perfect?
Bernard of Clairvaux, a man who led a renewal movement in the 12th century European church, has an incredible insight about the “levels of love” as we relate to God and understand ourselves.
God is love, and because we were created to resemble Him, we, too, have an impulse to love. But that impulse first leaks out in a badly perverted form.
Level #1: I love myself for my sake. In other words, we’re selfish. That’s true of every child born into the world.
And then we hear about a God who is good enough to do what no one else would, to look after us. Good. It’s about time.
Level #2: I love God for my sake. That’s how most people who believe there is a God regard Him. Each thinks, He is Someone who exists to make me happy, to make my life better. Now I can go to church and worship God without any real sense of sinfulness or any significant dislodging of my selfishness. I can go to church with the same expectation that carries me into a restaurant: feed me well. I want what you serve me to taste good and be good for me. I’ll leave a big tip if you deliver.
Eventually it becomes appallingly clear that I can be a little hellion who loves no one but myself. And a new word enters our vocabulary–wrong. I’m wrong. And when I realize that I’m wrong, another new word occurs to me that I need: Forgiveness. Maybe then we hear about Jesus and what He did for us on the cross. Before, goodness meant my receiving whatever I wanted. Now that same word is measured by Someone sacrificing His well-being in an act of utter selflessness for the well-being of someone who is utterly selfish.
Love level #3: I love God for God’s sake. When I realize who He is and who I am, when I see that He loves me when I use Him, and died to forgive me for being so self-centered, I become a Christian, a forgiven sinner who loves God for who He is, a lover like no other.
Bernard’s insight into the Christ life reaches still higher. Gratitude begins to stir. A longing rises up. I want to do something for someone else, for God. I look at what I have, at who I am. Perhaps I have musical talent. Perhaps I’m relational difficulties. The longing takes shape and I realize that everything I have (those gifts AND those trying circumstances) is an opportunity to release my gratitude to God.
Love level #4: I love myself for God’s sake. Now everything in me (weaknesses and strengths) and in my life (trials and pleasures) becomes an eagerly received opportunity to bring Him pleasure by trusting His goodness, counting on His promises, and living to delight Him).
Suffering is transformed from pain requiring relief into a costly opportunity to delight the God I love. Blessings, all the good things I enjoy, no longer remain sources of pleasure to enhance and exploit, but now stretch before me as avenues for displaying my love for God, both by accepting them with gratitude and by sharing them with joy.
So what level are you on?