Monday, February 22, 2010

Foundation #5 - Love God, love people

These commandments were elevated to the most important commandments by Jesus when he was on the earth (Matt. 22:36-37). #1 - Love God; #2 - Love people.

There is something conspicuous by its absence here - me. I don't have to love myself; I already do. I feed myself, clothe myself, think about how I am going to get things for myself; I don't have to be commanded to love myself - it is my default setting. Loving God and loving others - well, that is not as easy given my bias toward me.

The expanded version of commandment #1 (found in Duet. 6 also) adds - love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. That is pretty encompassing; not leaving a lot of room for loving of other things.

My first thought should be "am I loving God by doing this?". My second should be "am I loving others by doing this?". If I have to answer "no" to either of those questions, then I probably should not be doing what I am doing. These two commandments are a yardstick to measure my thoughts, words and actions by.

(PS - Note that loving people includes those who are part of the family of God and those who are "not yet believers". We call the second kind of love "evangelism".)

Principles so far:
#1 You reap what you sow
#2 God is good all the time
#3 Fruit of the Spirit is the yardstick
#4 Forgiveness is a key to unlocking spiritual growth

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Going away from foundations for this one..... Went to a funeral today. The father of my best friend growing up passed away of brain cancer. As I sat in the memorial service, it struck me that this man lived an incredible life.

He did not do anything fantastic, he was not famous, he was not a powerful man. He was a faithful man, he was a man that cared for people, he was a truthful man, he was a man of integrity, he was a hard working man, he was a helpful man. In the midst of a "I am going to abandoned my mate when things get hard", a "I am going to take care of myself", a "I have to be significant in the eyes of men" world, this man stood out as a faith filled, God fearing man who lived out his faith in practical ways. He was not Billy Graham, he was not a seminary grad, he did not work at a church - he was man of practical faith; one who lived out his beliefs on a day to day basis with everyone he came in contact with. I could go on, but I am hoping you are catching my drift......

When he met God face to face, I am sure he heard the words that drive me at the core of my being: "well done". Well done, Bob. Well done. Thanks for a life that illustrated what a life of faith looks like.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Foundation #4 - Forgiveness of others is one key to unlocking my relationship with God.

Jesus said quite a few confusing things while he was on the earth. One of the most poignant statements was given in the sermon on the mount - if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you don't forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive you. (Matt 6:14-15)

An interesting conditional statement regarding our forgiveness - we are only forgiven when we forgive others. Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray. These were committed men who were following him. He was giving a manifesto of kingdom behavior; what it looks like if you are a follower of him.

I do not believe that he was saying that if you don't forgive someone a sin then you are going to be damned. It feels like what he was communicating is what John was communicating to Christians in I John 1:9 - if we confess, he forgives and cleanses. When we sinned, we didn't stop being a child of his, we just intentionally stepped out of relationship with him. (Think of it in these terms - when I sinned against my dad, I didn't stop being his son, but my relationship with him was adversely affected. It took repentance to restore what I broke when I sinned.)

So.......if I don't forgive others, God will not forgive me. If I refuse to forgive someone who has wronged me, I set up a barrier in the growth of my relationship with God. Basically, I will not grow if I do not forgive others. The Psalm writer said it this way - if I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me. (Psalm 66:18)

If you want to stunt or stop your spiritual development, don't forgive others when they sin around you. However, if you want to unlock your growth and move toward intimacy with God, forgive others when they sin against you (even before they know they need forgiveness). Don't harbor a bitter heart; harbor a heart of grace. Forgive!

Principles so far:
#1 You reap what you sow
#2 God is good all the time
#3 Fruit of the Spirit is the yardstick

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Foundation #3 Fruit of the Spirit is the yardstick.

In Galatians 5, Paul gives a couple of lists. The first list is the evidences that one is acting according to the sinful nature. The second is a list of the actions, attitudes and characteristics that are evidences of the Spirit of God's presence in our life.

I use these two lists to see if I am acting according my fleshly desires or if I am following God.

The first list has a bunch of negative characteristics and behaviors. Am I envious of some one? Am I angry about something that someone did to me? Am I worried about my position? Do I have feelings of hate for someone? etc... If I have to answer "yes" to any of these questions, I know that I am operating in my flesh; I am ME centered.

The second list is titled "the fruit of the Spirit". Am I at peace? Am I being gentle with those around me? Do I live with my emotions and other behaviors under control? etc... If the answer to any of these is "yes", then I know that I am operating according to the Spirit of God and acting like Jesus. (One interesting side note: this list describes the life that everyone wants - being at peace, being loving and kind, faithful, self controlled, etc. God designed us so that we would be fulfilled if we allow the Spirit to lead us.)

As I reflect on my behaviors, emotions and thoughts, I use these two lists to help me understand the root of my expressions: ME or the Spirit. These lists help me to understand when I am being obedient or disobedient and when I am reflecting me or Jesus to the world.

Check out Galatians 5:16-25!