Love Serves

love-serves-1I have blogged quite a bit about the tendency of our culture to be pragmatic. That is, people determine the rightness or wrongness of something based on how it feels to them. If it feels good,  or if they get something positive out of it, then it must be good; but if it feels bad, or if they don’t  get anything out of it, then it must be something they need to abandon.

True love is never pragmatic. Although culture tells us it is:

  • “You’ll know he’s the one by how he makes you feel.”
  • “We’ve fallen out of love.”
  • “There’s just no spark there any more.”
  • “He’s let me down one too many times.”
  • “You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling, oh that lovin’ feeling….”

“We dress ‘love’ in the fantasy of evening gowns and tuxedos, with silver and candelabras. But most of the time…love comes dressed in overalls—it is practical, down-to-earth, everyday hard work. It is really thinking of the other person and doing what the other person needs and being what the other person needs when he or she needs you to be there.” —Dr. Richard Dobbins

love-serves-2In writing to the church at Ephesus, Paul told them he became their servant—literally this means their waiter. But not so he could get something out of it. Instead it was a love completely focused on them…

  • the prisoner of Jesus Christ for the sake of you (Ephesians 3:1)
  • God’s grace was given to me for you (v. 2)
  • this grace was given to me to preach to [you] (v. 8)
  • my sufferings for you, which are your glory (v. 13)

Speaking to the Ephesian leaders as he was traveling to Jerusalem, he said…I served the Lord with great humility and with tears (Acts 20:19)

  • I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears (v. 31)
  • I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing (v. 33)
  • In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak (v. 35)

Dear Christian, is this the kind of love you demonstrate? Do you share God’s grace with the hurting? Do you walk alongside those who are limping or about to give up? Do you stand through the storms with those on the battlefield?

It’s not what I get out of it. 
Love focuses on the other person. 
Love is devoted by a solemn promise. 
Love doesn’t view “suffering” as something bad, but for the other person’s glory. 
Love doesn’t seek recognition or rewards. 
Love simply does what is important for the other person.

Countercultural Marriage

my-thoughts-or-gods-thoughtsThe Apostle Peter uses an appropriate term for Christians living on Earth: “Aliens and strangers.” This means that those who call Jesus their Lord are to live a counter-cultural lifestyle. Not a lifestyle that changes with the popular culture, but one that stays true to God’s Word.

There probably has never been a more controversial subject in any day or culture than marriage and the relationship between the sexes. Why are these terms “controversial”? I suspect it is because we are naturally bent toward being pragmatic people.

In pragmatism, the outcome determines meaning. If I find something easy to do, convenient for me, and I seem to get applause from those around me, then what I did must be right. However, if it’s challenging to stick with something, and seemingly only a few people approve of how I do it, then it must be wrong. That is letting culture determine morality, instead of letting God determine it.

As Peter begins to address the topic of marriage, and the interaction between spouses, he uses two similar phrases—“Wives, in the same way … Husbands, in the same way (vv. 1, 7).”

In the same way as what? Actually, if you look at the five verses that come before this you will see that it’s not what but Whom. Those verses are talking about our example in Jesus. Peter points out that Jesus showed:

  • submission to God’s purpose—His prayer was, “Not My will, but Yours be done.
  • longsuffering—He did not retaliate nor threaten His persecutors, but for the joy set before Him, He endured the shame of the Cross.
  • servant-leadership—At the last meal He had with His followers before being crucified, He washed their feet, and told them He had given them an example of how they were to serve others.
  • respectful behavior—Jesus willingly suffered the penalty for the world’s sin. He fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which said He remained silent before His accusers.
  • mercy—This always means not getting the penalty we deserve. Jesus came to save us when we were the least worthy of His love.
  • forgiveness—As the spikes were being driven through His wrists, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.

Pragmatism looks at God’s design and says, “Yes, I understand that, but….” Pragmatism tries to find an “out” or a “loophole” that let’s someone change a definition or skip out on doing something God’s way.

If anyone ever had the authority to say, “Yes, Father, I know what You want Me to do, but look how they’re treating Me” it was Jesus.

A wife with a difficult husband may want to say, “Yes, I know I’m supposed to submit to my husband, but….” A husband with a nagging wife may say, “Yes, I know I’m supposed to treat my wife with consideration and respect, but….”

But Peter says, “Wives and husbands, exhibit the same submission, longsuffering, servant-leadership, respectful behavior, mercy and forgiveness toward your spouse as Jesus exhibited toward you!” 

So the question we need to ask is: Am I thinking about marriage—a husband’s role, a wife’s role—in counter-cultural biblical terms or in popular cultural terms?

If I find I am thinking culture’s thoughts, am I willing to try God’s way?

Join me next Sunday as we look at this passage again, and see how a wife and husband can love and serve each other in a God-honoring, counter-cultural way.

Fierce Momma Bears

Fierce momsThe battle cry of this pragmatic generation boils down to this: “Don’t judge me! Let me live my life my way!” To the pragmatist there is no objective right or wrong, but right or wrong is determined by whatever seems right/wrong to each individual.

But what if your decision adversely impacts my world? Or what if my decision adversely impacts your world?

There is a time to speak up. There is a time to say, “There is an objective right and wrong, and your decision is wrong.” I think that time to speak up is when lives and livelihoods are involved. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Social Security Administration, the Guttmacher Institute, and the National Center for Health Statistics all agree on this—there is a way for us to add revenue to our economy and our future without raising taxes a single penny. There is a way for us to add:

  • $400 billion of revenue to our economy
  • $11 billion to Medicare
  • $47 billion to Social Security

Oops, I take that back. This is actually revenue for the economy and a boost for the Medicare and Social Security programs that we would be seeing now if nearly 57 million babies hadn’t been aborted in the United States since 1973. The additional workers which have been lost before they were even born would have easily added this to our economy.

The Bible challenges us to: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed” (Proverbs 31:8).

I believe the time to say, “Enough!” has come. I also believe this call to action needs to come from our moms. Several places in the Scripture the fierceness of warriors is actually compared to the fierceness of moms. Like when talking about King David and his warriors—You know your father and his men; they are fighters, and as fierce as a wild bear robbed of HER cubs (2 Samuel 17:8).

Did you catch that? David’s fierceness wasn’t described in masculine terms, but in terms of a Momma Bear that lost her cubs! 

Moms, we need you. It’s time for you to say, “Enough destruction of innocent life.” It’s time for you to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. It’s time for you to ensure justice for those pre-born babies being crushed. It’s time for your momma bear instincts to cause you to growl, which will finally motivate other warriors to step into the battle.

C’mon, Momma Bears, we need you to growl fiercely! 

Steppin’ Up

Hard workHere’s a really simple true-false quiz for you. Anyone who has ever been in church should be able to handle this one simple question. Are you ready? Your one question is—True or False: The Bible contains the Word of God?

The answer is FALSE! The Bible doesn’t contain the Word of God, the Bible IS the Word of God.

  • It is inerrant = without error.
  • It is infallible = without mistake.
  • It is universally applicable regardless of age or culture.

The worldview which dominates today is usually one of pragmatism. That means people do what feels right to them in the moment, and then they determine the rightness or wrongness of their decision based on the outcome. In other words, if they like how things turned out they must have done something right, and if they don’t like the results then they must have done something wrong.

Christians, however, need to see the short-sightedness of this. The Apostle Peter shows the contrast between how accurate God’s Word is and how false teachers want to “exploit you with stories they have made up” (see 2 Peter 1:20-2:3), and how destruction is the end result for those with a pragmatic worldview.

It is by no means an easy thing for Christians to discipline themselves to have a consistent biblical worldview. It’s easy to simply reject something because it doesn’t appear to be “churchy” or receive something because it’s been done in the church for years. The hard work comes in this:

This week I’d like to give you the same challenge I gave my congregation: How can you STEP UP your involvement in the Word this week?

  • Do you need to read the Bible more?
  • Do you need to read the Bible better?
  • Do you need to meditate more on what you’ve read in the Bible?
  • Do you need to re-look at some things you’ve automatically rejected or received?
  • Do you need the Holy Spirit to overhaul your worldview?

Feel free to share in the comments below how you will be trying to STEP UP your involvement in the God’s Word this week…

Barna’s Megathemes For 2010

I really appreciate the research that The Barna Group undertakes. I always find such timely insight into the mindset of people’s attitudes on matters of church and religion.

Their annual year-end report reveals the “megathemes” that they have observed emerging throughout the year. I encourage you to read the full article for yourself by clicking here, but the six megathemes for 2010 are:

  • The church is becoming less theologically literate.
  • Christians would rather be with other Christians than reach out to others.
  • Pragmatism is becoming more important than spiritual principles.
  • Christians are becoming more interested in community activism.
  • Tolerance is more accepted in the church.
  • The church’s influence in their local community is almost invisible.

Wow, looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us in 2011!

At Calvary Assembly of God, we’ve been streamlining our ministries to help us address these megathemes.

  • One way we are doing this is through our Next Level Groups. Each group is laser-focused on addressing where someone is in their faith walk, and helping them take the next step. These groups are more discussion-based than teaching-based, which allows us to be more individualized and intentional in helping increase biblical literacy.
  • We have a heavy emphasis on community involvement. We are involved in the B2B (business-to-business) group, the Community Action Network, the city and township official meetings, and the Cedar Springs Ministerial Association.
  • We are also involved in so-called activism efforts on the local level: Michigan Right to Life, Alpha Family Center, and Women At Risk International.
  • We are front-and-center in the traditional Cedar Springs events: Community Action Night, the Spooktacular, the Red Flannel Festival, and Mingle With Kris Kringle.
  • And we’ve planned two series of messages in 2011 to engage and activate our congregation. One is called Salt & Light to address how we can (and should) be people of influence in our communities, schools, and work. And the other is The Q Series where my Sunday messages will be answers to questions the congregation and community at-large have submitted.

What do you think about Barna’s Megathemes?

If you are a pastor or church leader, how do you plan to engage these megathemes in 2011?

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