Love Really Does Win

shutterstock_290942954Hate.  Anger.  Turmoil.  It seems we are surrounded by it constantly these days.  We could attribute it to recent tragedies or the political season, but I think it’s more than that.  We are a rich country.  I’m not saying everyone is rich, but even the poor in our country have access to more food, shelter and services than many other places.  Here’s the thing about prosperity:  It’s easier to have more time on our hands, and when we have more time, we have the choice to think about the blessings in our lives or all of the things that are not as we would like.  We have more time to think, and yet our thoughts don’t always rest on what the Bible tells us in the book of Philippians: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise – meditate on these things.”  (Philippians 4:8) Instead, it seems our thoughts go to those things that are more selfish and divisive.

In our country, we’ve endured a long period of time in which a very strong focus was placed on noticing and appreciating our differences.  As a result, we have gone to great lengths to point them out more and more.  Maybe it is race or heritage, lifestyle or political beliefs, or a host of other things, but we’ve focused on continually highlighting what is different about each other rather than pointing out what is the same.  Diversity (in all of its buzzword glory) has been celebrated and our sameness has been ignored.  The problem is that when we see ourselves as different, it becomes much easier to judge or fear, or to be angry and lash out.  So as a result of our nation’s prosperity – the prosperity our parents and grandparents worked so hard to secure for us – we have had more time to nitpick and tear each other apart.  We have celebrated our differences so much that now our differences are most often the only thing we see.  The beautiful thing about God is that He doesn’t see what we see when we look at each other.  He doesn’t see what is on the outside (and I am not referring only to our appearance); He sees our hearts.  Unfortunately, I think what He now sees disappoints Him more than we can probably imagine.  After all, He suffered and died for every single one of us regardless of our race, heritage, preferences or even our sins!  To Him, sin is sin even though WE like to pick and choose which ones He disapproves of the most.  Of course, it’s never the ones with which we personally struggle, but that’s a blog for another time.

shutterstock_300707297I am a white, conservative, heterosexual Christian.  I also have friends and loved ones who are of all colors, religions, backgrounds and creeds.  I love them all equally.  I may have more in common with some, which leads me to spend more time with some, but I do not love them more.  As a result of my perspective on love, I have some very deep and meaningful relationships with people that others may not understand.  Some would even say I should not have these relationships based on my own “classifications.”  What a load of crap!  I would not turn my back on those relationships simply because we have different opinions or perspectives.  Even the people I encounter and find extremely difficult to even tolerate (let alone love), I am still to love them.  Loving as God has commanded means that I will love others and see them as God sees them.  And in God’s eyes, they mean so much to Him that they are worth dying for!  Do I always succeed at that?  Sadly, I do not.  Like many of you, I struggle to not get caught up into the anger that comes as a result of one side or another (on any issue) becoming belligerent, uncaring and unloving – even if I might agree with their actual position.   Everyone likes to point the finger at others and say they are the “judgers,” but everyone shares that trait in common!  Everyone is a hypocrite at one point or another.  As a result, we end up living lives that are not abundant.  We stress and fight and get tied up in knots internally over the issues that face us, while at the same time God is looking at us saying, “Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)  God wants us to rest!  He wants us to rest because resting from our labor should be refreshing.  When we get quiet, our minds should turn to Him and to a true reflection of ourselves – not the image we try to portray to others.

The  truth is that if I am honest and understand exactly who I am, then it doesn’t really matter who you are.  Let me explain.  If I’m focused on my own relationship with God and what I need to adjust in that relationship – whether it is to ask for forgiveness or to be more committed or love more purely – then I will not be focused on what you are doing in your relationship with Him or others.  If I am going to try and love the way I am commanded to love, the only way I can succeed in doing so is if I am keenly aware that without Him I can do nothing – without Him, I am nothing.   That isn’t meant to be a self-depreciating flagellation; It is a reality that I did not and do not deserve His love, mercy and grace, yet He gives it freely and continually.  I should be keenly aware of that fact – without any rationalization of who I am, the impure and sinful thoughts that I have, the words that I say, or acts that I commit.  If I am honest with myself and recognize how imperfect, and even hypocritical, I am, then I won’t see you as less than me.  That’s what love is.

shutterstock_419615524After the recent Orlando tragedy, there are a lot of “love wins” quotes once again being circulated.  I realize that phrase has been used for one particular cause, but the reality is that truest love DOES win – the love of 1 Corinthians chapter 13 DOES win!  It wins because it will cause us to be honest with ourselves and take off our masks so that we can see ourselves for who we are.  It allows us to face the truth of Matt 7:3-5 that says, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite!  First take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” 

So in light of recent tragedies, and tragedies that are certain to come over the course of time in an imperfect world, love wins.  In light of a political season that is filled with hate and anger from both sides of the aisle love wins.  In light of selfishness and meanness, love still wins.  Why?  Because loving as God love will allow us to not be first and be perfectly okay with it.  It will allow you to forgive, even if no one ever says, “I’m sorry.”  Love will allow you to treat others with compassion – even those with whom you disagree – and trust God to sort it all out.  It may not be the way we want, and it may not be in the timing we want, but my responsibility is to “do what is right, love mercy, and walk humbly before my God.” (Micah 6:8)

After all, God didn’t say it was an option.  He didn’t say, “Love the way I do if you feel like it.”  He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  (John 13:34).    And if you aren’t sure what that kind of love looks like, then I would encourage you to take the time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 13.


(For an in-depth post on the nature of pure love, click here: Love Is Not Grey)

Losing Our Cool

shutterstock_123758158This past weekend the NFC  Championship game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers was a hard fought battle ‘til the end.   Unfortunately at the end of the game, one of the Seattle players took to live television to rant and vent about an opposing player.  In my opinion this move was a classless, uncalled for act from a professional athlete who should know better and remember he is a reflection of his team and its fans.  Having played sports growing up, I understand fully what it is like to be in the heat of the battle with someone you don’t like.   I understand there was a history of animosity between the two players, but this Seattle player should have been able to contain himself and act like a mature adult who could express things in a more rational manner…especially in the face of victory.  If he was so keyed up that he couldn’t manage to control his tongue then he should have gone to his own teammates  and vented until he could gain his composure and control his tongue enough to express himself more civilly in front of millions of people.

That being said, I find it interesting how everyone is so quick to judge this player for speaking so terribly on live television because he did so without thinking through what he was saying or was angry in the heat of the moment.  People are attacking him viciously.  People are talking about how disgusting his behavior was and how they would never support his team as a result of his comments.  I must say that I understand those feelings and thoughts because as a Seahawks fan, I share many of them.

I noticed, as I read the news this morning, there didn’t seem to be much talk about the hard fought battle or excitement of the championship game.  One player with his wagging tongue overshadowed all the news about the game.  There have been more opinions and more anger between fans and friends and it actually has overshadowed what took place on the field.  What I find so interesting about this outrage toward one player is that in our daily lives we are often put in situations where we get fired up and overly emotional about something and we also become unable to bridle our tongue.   shutterstock_155516951Sure, we want to vilify a professional player who does it on live television because it is easier to cast stones from far away.  This certainly wasn’t this player’s finest moment, but we need to remember something:  every day there are people watching US.  Every day there are people we encounter, whether it is strangers, friends, coworkers, or family, and we think nothing about letting our emotions fly out at them because we have gotten keyed up over a situation.  Maybe someone we don’t like has done something to disrespect or hurt us and we get so upset or offended that we start blurting things out without giving it a second thought.  We are acting strictly from our emotions and though we may not be in front of a camera where millions can see, the people around us or closest to us CAN see.  It affects them in much the same way as this player’s rant affected everyone who saw it after the game.  I believe that rather than causing more strife over a situation with someone most of us do not know personally, we should take this opportunity to step back and look in the mirror at how we all act from time to time when we are faced with things we don’t like or with circumstances that makes us angry.  We need to reflect on times in our own lives when we are overcome with the excitement or frustration of a moment and we hurl our words to others without any thought of how they will be received or how WE will be perceived as a result.

As Christians we have an opportunity, dare I say an obligation, to keep our tongue under control.   We are representatives of a living God.  And when we, like this player, get so caught up in our circumstances and what is going on around us that we let our words fly without thought, we are just as embarrassing, just as classless, just as disgusting and just as sickening in what we say and do…not only to those around us, but more importantly to the God who created us.  I don’t appreciate the rant I saw the other night, but quite frankly it is easier to stomach that player than to stomach myself when I look at the times in my own life where I have been guilty of the same thing.  Just because we aren’t on a national or worldwide stage, doesn’t absolve us from our responsibilities or the consequences of our behaviors.

shutterstock_138967757So let us be careful.  Let us remember the emotions stirred within us as a result of this one player’s unnecessary rant…and may it serve to remind and inspire us to be careful of our own words and of our own actions and reactions in the heat of life’s battles.  The fiery circumstances in which we sometimes find ourselves do not excuse our lack of composure, or the loss of our peace or joy.  And if perchance you find yourself in a situation where you are about to lose your “cool”, then do what this player should have done.  Go to the people you trust most and vent to them.  Blow off whatever steam you need to with people who will bring you back down to earth so that you do not become a detriment or stumbling block to those around you.  Then get on your knees and ask first for forgiveness and then for strength to hold on to the peace that passes all understanding.  Because it truly is by our fruit – good or bad – that we are known.


Over-salted and Blinded by Light!

I recently happened across some words from a person involved in spiritual ministry that bothered me to the point that I could not sleep.  Quite frankly, it sickened me.  This person had gotten fed up with what some would refer to as “sheeple” (those who refuse to think or study for themselves) and felt the need to point out their stupidity.  I’m not saying the emotion behind the comments was invalid, as there were some really ignorant comments and questions made by some folks.  What I am saying is that as “Christians” (and especially leaders in worship and ministry) we need to be careful of the manner in which we interact with others in these situations.  The way in which we approach a perceived lack of understanding in someone else is so very crucial to not becoming a hindrance that is contrary to the very thing we say they believe.

shutterstock_119205439Let me ask you a couple of questions: 1) is it possible to have too much salt in something and  2) is it possible to have a light that is too bright?  The obvious answer to both of those questions is a resounding “Yes!”  Jesus tells us that we are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.”  Salt and light are both very valuable things but if there is too much of either one, it can actually be harmful.  Having too much salt in a dish will ruin it as quickly as not having any at all.  As a matter of fact, having NO salt is actually fixable.  Have too much salt requires destruction of the dish and starting over.  You can always add salt but you cannot remove it.  Then there is the issue of light.  If we are surrounded by darkness, light can be a valuable tool.  If the power goes out in our homes, we immediately start looking for flashlights, candles, lanterns or any other method through which we can illuminate the dark.  Light reveals where darkness hides.  It is wonderful and necessary but if it is too bright, it can actually cause harm.  The sun is necessary for life, but if you stare at it with the naked eye, it can cause irreversible damage and cause.   The same can occur with the arc of a welder’s torch or other various sources of light.  Light can cause blindness if it is used inappropriately.  So what’s my point?

People of faith today, especially those in leadership positions, seem to be developing a cloaked pride that eats away at the very fabric of what they profess to believe or have been called to do.  What I mean by “cloaked pride” is they are condescending, judgmental and even downright rude with others in an attempt to “correct their mistaken point of view” or “share the truth of God’s word with them.”  When these “spiritual” people are confronted on this attitude, the response is often some rationalization about Jesus being bold and “calling a spade a spade.”  Believe me, I get it…and Jesus WAS bold!  But do not confuse boldness with pride.


  Jesus was the only perfect man to ever live.  Everything He did was done from a heart of love.  That doesn’t mean He did not address “stupidity” head‑on, but it means every time He addressed anything at all, He had the absolute best interests of that person or group in mind.  His motives were completely pure and never self-serving.  Good grief, look how many times He would say things to His own disciples and they wouldn’t “get it” and He would have to keep going at it from different angles until they finally understood what He was trying to say.  He never once referred to them as “stupid” or tried to make them feel like He was better than them…not in public or in private.  He also never talked down about them to others.  Instead, He simply kept doing exactly what He was called to do and did it with patience and long-suffering because He loved them.  Unfortunately in today’s world, we have “leaders” who act like they are simply being bold in Christ and “setting the Pharisees of today straight” when THEY, in fact, have become the Pharisees of today.  Yet, they continue to cloak their behavior by saying it is “righteous indignation” or they are standing strong on the truth of God’s word!  There are better ways to stand strong on the truth of God’s word.

Jesus was not bound by His humanity and there was no risk of Him becoming arrogant or prideful, no matter how many people followed Him.  This cannot be said about anyone who is not perfect, and therefore applies to every single human being.  As humans, there is ALWAYS the risk of becoming arrogant or prideful.  The more people follow us or listen to us, the more power we begin to feel we have.  The more they flatter us, the more wonderful we start to think we are.  WE start to take credit for things instead of giving God the glory…even if we don’t say it out loud.  And when we have power, knowledge and influence, it is easy to start doing things that are in accordance with OUR will or protect OUR interests instead of remaining submissive to the will of our Father.  Let me be clear about this:  I do not believe most people start out with ulterior motives, but it is a natural progression to end up operating from a place of pride, arrogance and condemnation when we do not continually and truly humble ourselves before our God and remember that no matter what position we hold in a church or in life, we are ALL sinners saved by grace.  Every ability or shred of intelligence we have comes from our Father and without Him, we aren’t even smart enough to get out of bed in the morning!

shutterstock_104022092So back to my illustration of too much salt or too much light.  When it comes to people of faith being salt and light, the most important thing to remember is that we are the actual salt and light, not the One who MEASURES the salt and light!  We are the instruments and God is the one who is in control.  He knows the exact amount of salt to use or how bright to make the light.  It is up to us to get out of His way and let Him work!  We are not skilled enough to know how much is enough so it’s our job to be the light and allow God to choose the wattage.  It is up to us to be the salt but let the master chef choose the amount.  If we don’t, then we will end up harming the very people we say we are trying to help.  When we force our measurements of salt and light upon others, we end up with people who are “over-salted and blinded by light.”   When that happens, we do so much damage to our influence that only God can repair it.    

It is time to hold up a mirror in front of our faces and see things as they are.  Quit trying to disguise pride by calling it boldness.  Quit trying to say that your condescension and judgment is holiness…because it isn’t.  Stop making it your personal quest to correct the “wrongs” around you.  IT IS NOT OUR JOB!   It is not our job to condemn or look down on anyone!  It is our job to simply learn God’s word, be obedient to His will and then live (not talk) our beliefs in such a way that reflects the nature of the One who created us and leave the judgment up to Him.


We are to love others, and if we act as Jesus truly acted and with His perfectly pure motives, then we will be sure to check ourselves before we speak or act so that we can ensure those words or actions are in accordance with God’s will AND come from a heart of true love and compassion for those around us.  John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.”  And before we say we love anyone, we need to read 1 Corinthians chapter 13 again and find out what love really looks like.  We might just be surprised.


Love As He Loved!

shutterstock_132424436We have just come through the Easter Season where many people of faith celebrate the resurrection of their Savior and King. I realize it is not always popular to believe in the truth of God’s word, especially in a society that has made the ridicule of “Christians” the only remaining acceptable ridicule. Jokes and vitriolic statements toward Christ, or those who believe in Him and practice their faith in His teachings, is accepted by most. And if, by chance, there should there be any outrage expressed, it is immediately dismissed as overreacting or invalid. If there is any other vitriol spewed at any other race, religion or creed, it is regarded as completely unacceptable and it should be! I simply believe that the same outrage should apply when the vitriol is directed at those who follow Christ.

Every group of people in life, no matter what they are called or what their common bond may be, has people who are narrow-minded, mean-spirited, discriminatory and hypocritical. As a person of faith, I do not like to call myself a “Christian” because more often than not I fail to truly act Christ-like. More often than not, I can identify with the Apostle Paul when he said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do but what I hate, that I do… For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:14-25) I know all too well that I am just a sinner saved by grace. I need God’s grace and mercy every moment of my life and when I remember who I am and who HE is, I don’t have time to judge anyone else. It doesn’t mean I agree with everything else going on around me or the choices of the people around me but it does mean I understand that the same God who loved ME so much that He was wiling to endure the unthinkable and die the most cruel and terrible death so I didn’t have to, is the same God who loves every other person just as deeply. If that isn’t the great equalizer, I don’t know what is! I’ve heard people of faith say, “If I was the ONLY person on the earth, He would have still come and died just for me because He loves me personally.” I couldn’t agree more but He loves us all the same. His word tells us He is “no respecter of persons.” shutterstock_74446510One sin is not worse than another and He does not love one person more than another. Religion does not like to hear that truth proclaimed because religion is man-made and divides things into compartments. Religion is subjective and conditional but God is NOT! Our human nature tries to tell us that one “wrong” deed, word or thought is worse than another because if that is the case, we can make ourselves feel better by saying, “I’m not as bad as that person.” I hate to break it to you but “that person” is not the measuring stick! It’s easy for us to understand that God can love us, but we find it hard to understand that He loves the “worst” person on the earth exactly the same way! We, as people of faith, need to remember that He sacrificed everything not only for us, but for ALL. Do you know who was drawn to Christ? The sinners, the criminals, the rejected, the poor and anyone else that society (or religion) has turned away from or persecuted. Do you know why they were drawn to Him? Because He IS love! He loved them and did not treat them differently than anyone else. He didn’t condone their misdeeds, but He ate with them, talked with them and loved them through it. Religious people today have made themselves an increasingly easy target for ridicule because they have forgotten who they/we are and who God is.

shutterstock_118936651For those of us who try to live by our beliefs, it is heartbreaking and injurious when we are ridiculed for our faith. We know we are not perfect but neither is anyone else. True people of faith are more likely to forgive than to kick and scream about the wounds inflicted but please don’t mistake our silence for an absence of pain or as permission to continue to inflict injury. Not all people of faith are narrow-minded, mean-spirited, discriminatory and hypocritical. We are not stupid and we are not weak. And when we lose our way and become like the Pharisees of old, please forgive us. When we spew vitriol at others, forgive us. We, like you, are a work in progress.

So as we celebrate the One who died for us and then rose again to conquer sin and death, let us return to our “first love.” There is a God and He loves you. He died to save not only your eternal life, but your day to day life on this earth. He wants only for us to trust Him with our entire selves and to follow His leading day to day. He is someone who is with us when the world turns its back. He wraps His arms around us when we are lonely, hurt, or sad and mends our wings so we can fly again. He wants us to live an abundant life but will not allow us to have more than we can handle. It never ceases to amaze me that I have access to the absolute essence of love and power every moment of my life.

Cayucos Sunset

He paid the ultimate price with His own life so that I might have an abundant life on this earth, and an eternal peace with Him one day. I did nothing and He did everything. I stand in awe of what He has done which then drives me to my knees in gratitude for the gift of life He gave me through the sacrifice of His own. He lives! He lives! Praise God He lives!