Friday, July 28, 2017

Love and a future hope... something beyond feelings

The strongest relationships are those that transcend feelings and are based on the value we place on the other. This often involves feelings for the other but not necessarily. We may not be getting anything from a particular relationship at any given moment that would stir feelings in us (though pleasant memories of positive treatment or experiences with them from the past can evoke positive emotions). It may in fact cost us a great deal of time and resources to remain in a relationship, with no indication of immediate benefit or reward. We do it simply because we value them that much. 

A common example would be caring for a parent with Alzheimer's (or some other debilitating condition), who sacrificed for us growing up so we could have the best life possible. We act in love towards them even though it is completely one sided, with no appreciation from them *at the time. We do it simply because we appreciate them for all they did for us.
*Not unlike our love for our kids is often one sided, with little appreciation by them at the time for what we do for them.
When someone has proven by past deeds they value us; past deeds so great we were impacted for the rest of our lives, so much so we would never question their love or their value of us even though we see no evidence of their love at the time, then we are willing to do things for them with no immediate advantage or benefit to us. In fact we are even willing to suffer loss. We see the benefit and it's great enough we feel we could never adequately "return the favor."

Now what if this is a person we have not actually met but have only experienced the benefit of their actions on our behalf from afar. Not unlike getting a large some of money from someone who found out we incurred a debt beyond our ability to pay it (incurred by our own poor choices).  A debt so great in fact, the rest of our lives would be ruined if we didn't get help. When this person from afar found out they took care of our debt. 

Now what if we are told by this same person we are caring for (through letters), that they have more yet to come in store for us that is great beyond anything we could image, even greater than their past kind deed on our behalf. Would we choose to believe this promise of future reward based on their past act/proof alone, no matter how little the evidence we see of their love/value for us at the moment?

What could drive us to believe this promise of future reward when we are not seeing or experiencing any evidence of their love in the moment? Only if what they did for us previously was of such immense value, it is enough to prove their love for us and value of us even if they never did anything else. In fact it was so great, we are convinced (we believe) when promised, that most of what they will do is yet to come. We believe this promise because of what they already did in the past. 

Acting for God's glory (i.e. out of a desire to display his great value) is not acting because we necessarily feel like it or because we see any immediate or significant benefit from it. It can be acting in gratitude for past actions that have infinitely benefitted us. 

It can also be out of anticipation (hope) of experiencing the joy of being with this person who did these past great things knowing they eagerly await being with us. In fact that's why they did them, so we could one day be together. The joy of our anticipation is great because we value them and look forward to being with this person who did so much for us (even though we have never meet them). A future joy we are told, that is enhanced/ deepened by our faithfulness (obedience) to them in this present moment. 

We love God not only for past actions on our behalf but the promise of future reward. A reward that is enhanced by faithfulness to them based on our trust in that love they showed us in the past. The reward of being with this one that values us so infinitely they willingly experienced great loss and harm to themselves so they could be with us in the future and reunite us with their Father, who is the source of their love for us.

This is an anticipated benefit, not a present one. A gain assured to us by the promise of the giver and proven to us by their past acts of giving, not necessarily evidenced by the present experience of present gain/benefit. 

Who has loved us in this way, presently loves us and promises we are yet to see the full expression of that love in the future? Only one person, Jesus. 

When we have nothing else; no other proof of love other than these past actions and future promises, is this is enough? It is if and when we understand how greatly he values (love) us and how much he gave to prove it. Do you believe?

What about others who do not and can not love us in return? How do we treat them? 

We treat them with the same exact love Christ has shown us because he calls us to for his sake and promises us he will honor us for our sacrificial love because we seek to honor him by loving as he loves. His love is sufficient to move us to love others even when their love in return (or lack of it) is not. 

So we love Christ for what he has done and what he will do (i.e. promises to do in eternity). These alone are adequate to move us to faithfulness to him even if and when we see no immediate or present advantage in doing so.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Pleasing God

The master who said to his servants "...well done, good and faithful servant..." raises the question of when can we and do we please God and how. 

In one sense there is nothing we can do to make ourselves good (lovely/faithful) enough to be accepted by God. We simply are too broken (untrusting and suspicious of God) to ever live a life of complete, uninterrupted love and devotion to him unaided (i.e. on our own) that is equal to (does adequate justice to) who he is (all glorious and worthy of total honor) and what is properly due him (and which he also desires).

We can however, by the power and influence of God, out of his infinite love for us, made accessible by and through his unlimited grace, shed forth in our hearts by his Spirit, live for God's glory. In this way it is possible. But this is in response to God's love, not the result of self generated effort i.e. willpower.

Are our wills involved? Absolutely! We have a choice and play a vital role in how we honor and please God. But it's a choice of believing (and receiving) or not believing the completeness and fullness of God's perfect love for us.

This is not a choice to will ourselves to "do or be better"  "God, I am really sorry I blew it again. I am determined to do better next time. Just watch and see."

It is choice of how much (to what extent) do we believe and receive his love for us. How much do we understand, recognize and accept that "*it is finished" and there is nothing we will or ever can do to make it more so. It is a choice to receive and accept (bask in and even **enjoy) his love when we blow it. 

*"it" being the payment for and removal of all condemnation for our rebellious distrust; the essence of all sinful behavior.

And not only so, but the righteousness of Christ is also fully credited to us. If we are in Christ, the ***credit for His perfectly lived life of faithfulness is totally assigned to us. When God looks at the record of required and perfect faithfulness he see's the deeds of Christ listed as if they were ours. We are now looked upon by God as perfectly righteous/faithful/ moral.

As a result, God's love is now fully fixed (locked in) on us. He and it can never be removed (separated from us) or us from him (it).

Nor can his love be changed or added to, because of what Christ has already done for us. It is not based on what we do (or will do) for him i.e. it is not because we are deserving, but because Christ is. He earned this for us. 

Knowing this is vital to our being empowered to live for him, because we can only truly love because he first loved us, never the other way around. Our love for (and faithfulness to) him is dependent on his love for us first and our believing and receiving (knowing) this total love. 

We are designed to be respondents to God's love, not initiators of love. God is his own cause (source) of love, we are not. How? Why? Because his love is rooted in the eternal and infinite relationship of love between the Father, Son and Spirit. In short, we need him, he doesn't need us. 

It is vital we grasp the extent and fullness of God's love in order to be moved to love and desire (have affections for) him in return, over all other desires. The greater and fuller our understanding of this infinite love, the greater and fuller our response and the more honor and glory we bring to him.

And when we do respond (act) in this way, he is well pleased. And he is pleased not only because it brings him great honor (it put's him on greater display so others will be drawn to him) but also because it brings us great joy i.e. he is happy for us because he longs for our best i.e. he loves us. 

Matt 25:14-30

21 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’

  • For a further discussion on the difference between willpower and affections click here
  • For a discussion on the difference between God's objective and subjective love and presence click here
  • For a discussion on experiencing and participating in God's love click here.
  • For a discussion on his love being based solely on grace click here


** We enjoy the love itself. Of course we don't enjoy grieving the one who so faithfully loves us (Jesus). However when we understand nothing stops his love, not even our unfaithfulness, it moves us in greater love and a stronger desire to not grieve him (he is grieved for our sake, not his own). 

Our unfaithfulness only quenches a fuller experience of this unending love, not the love itself. 

***isn't it ironic of how offended we get when others receive credit for what we did

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Self-worth or God's worth?

To *value ourselves is better than not valuing ourselves.

We cannot function to the maximum of our potential if we do not see ourselves as having value and bringing value to others.

However to be valued by God is not only better, but what we are truly designed for and therefore what is best and actually works.

When we understand and recognize God's value of us, we are able to function as designed, regardless of if or when others value us i.e. unlike the approval of finite creatures, God's value of us is infinite and certain (because it is not based on our performance but on Christ's). The value others have of us and our value of ourselves is not; it is fickle and inconsistent at best and therefore inadequate. Long term it is insufficient i.e. it simply doesn't work.

It is fickle and inconsistent because humanity is fickle and inconsistent; both ourselves and others.

An infinite need cannot be satisfied by a finite source (us).

We were designed to experience infinite value and be the means of bringing God's infinite value to others.

We can only be solid, stable and consistent when (and to the extent) we are anchored in him (his value of us) who is solid stable and consistent.

When we are solid stable and consistent it is only because we are anchored in him who is solid stable and consistent.

The irony is we don't experience our greatest sense of value by focusing on it, ("...self, repeat after me, I am valuable, loved important" etc.) but when we focus on the most valuable i.e. God (only he is infinitely worthy, lovely and most important etc.)

Why is this? Because, as his image bearers, we were designed to engage and participate in the worth/glory/love of God. We experience our greatest value/meaning/glory/love only when we participate in the most valuable/meaningful/glorious/loving...God. Anything less does not match up with who we are and were designed to be i.e. it simply does not work.

"The glory of God is man fully alive."- Irenaeus i.e. our experiencing God in his glory is when we are most alive. 

"Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it." Jesus in Luk 17:33

"For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake (i.e. to honor me) will find it." Jesus in Mat 16:24-26   

We will only truly find our lives when we lose our him i.e. when we stop seeking to find life without God is when we find real, lasting and true him. 

*I am using value as synonymous with infinitely loved, worthy, important, significant etc.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

the appeal of humility

Why is it that when we see humility in others we find it so appealing? 

No one likes someone who is arrogant and thinks they are "all that." Everyone likes someone who is humble. 

The reason? 

Because humble people treat others (us) with dignity and arrogant people do not. 

A truly (*genuinely) humble person is other (you and I) oriented not self oriented. 

We like it when others treat us as significant/important and do not when they think they are the only one in the room who is.  Nothing is more boring then someone always talking about themselves.

In truth we are all significant in the eyes of God. For someone to act as if they alone are significant is not only unappealing (or even repulsive), it's simply not true. 

The bottom line is when someone is all about self, they have no time for others (including you), unless it is to use others to advance themselves in some way. We find these kind of people boring at best and often obnoxious. 

On the other hand we are draw to truly humble people. We like them. We like it (even admire it) when someone recognizes they are who they are because of others and are focused on recognizing and/or helping others. True humility is always **other oriented and always refreshing. 

As Tim Keller likes to say, "humility isn't thinking less of yourself, it's thinking of yourself less"


*...there is also a false humility which no one likes. False humility is not humility at all but actually self pity which is also about self, but masked as humility. 

**Given this understanding tells us something very significant about God, doesn't it? Ironic when you consider most interpret God's call to recognize his glory as only being self focused, when in fact God knows the best thing for us, is our recognizing his glory

Monday, July 3, 2017

Do you have real life?

To make life all about us assumes there's nothing greater or more important than us. 

But what if there is? What if true life itself is a gift that comes outside of us and all the things we see and experience around us? What if our longing for life is due to the absence of connection to its true source? Wouldn't we be wise to explore this and shortchanging ourselves to ignore this possible source?

Some may object and say they have life already. A great one in fact! But how do we know? What if your life could be hundreds, maybe thousands of times richer and fuller...not necessarily circumstantially but in depth of meaning and purpose (most don't even know why they exist i.e. what their purpose is). 

Think of those moments (assuming you have had some) when you had the greatest joy, peace and happiness. What if your life could be like that all the time, without interruption, regardless of your circumstances and to a much greater degree...beyond your comprehension. 

Now what if you could experience this not just for fleeting moments but constantly and with ever increasing intensity forever, beyond this present existence. Wouldn't that be better than the life you now have with little or no future hope and worth exploring and pursuing?

All the things we find lovely, attractive, beautiful, enjoyable and breathtaking now is not a illusion or delusion. We experience and are drawn to beauty for a reason. We experience this because we were designed to engage in and enjoy ultimate beauty; the source of beauty itself. 

And we will do so even far more in the next life. It is there we will experience all things in all their complete, original, uncorrupted, unfettered fullness and glory with our unfettered ability to do so.

Creation will be clearly seen as it truly is. Not as the source of life in itself but as the overflowing gift(s) of the infinitely beautiful, creative, glorious, and loving God; the source/creator of all things, resulting in our hearts overflowing and singing his praises, not to creation but to him for all things he has made and given for our joy.

Now what if this life was offered to you as a gift and not something you would need to gain through your own efforts or could, even if you wanted to or tried. Wouldn't you want to know about it?

This is what is offered to you in Christ.

"...but whoever drinks of the water that I (Jesus) will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." - Jesus Joh 4:14

"But, as it is written, 'What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him' ”— 1 Cor 2:9

Do you love him i.e. value him above all other persons or things? If you do not, you have not experienced his love for you yet. To experience his love truly is to love him truly. We can do nothing less once we have.

Do you wish to participate? He invites you to come. 

"The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price (you can't earn or buy it)." - The closing invitation of John the apostle regarding the revelation of Jesus Christ. Rev 22:17