"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Love and Envy on the Road Home

We have all felt it, that twinge of jealousy when we first see our friend's much nicer house or his cooler new ride. Something childish and primitive deep inside cries out, "Why not me? I deserve that more than he does! I want! I want! I want!" We know we should be happy for him, but, truthfully, we wish we had it.

Maybe we have left such material desires behind us. Being spiritual, we have moved on. Until we hear the stirring young gifted one teach and move the multitude to repentance and restoration and in our dark hearts we question, "What dues has he paid, Lord? I have been your faithful servant all these years and never seen such fruit. It's not fair!"

Jesus knows us cold, doesn't he? In the parable of the workers (Matthew 20:1-16) he used the illustration of calling workers for a wage. Some came at the beginning of the day, agreed to the wage, and devoted themselves to the task. Others came at the end of the day and received the same wage for a short amount of work. At this, the workers who had labored hard all day cried, "Unfair!" To which the overseer replied, "Mind your own business. Or are you envious because I am generous?" (OK, that's my paraphrase.) I know, the point of Jesus parable probably had more to do with Israel and Gentiles than the point I am making here, but I don't think he will object.

God gives to each one according to God's plan, in his sovereignty, and we need to, essentially, mind our own business. As Jesus said to the other disciples regarding John's lifespan, "what is it to you if I decide he should tarry until I return?"(John 21:22) As usual, our difficulty arises when we forget who is God and who is not.

Another part of the sovereign plan of God that we overlook is his lovingkindness for each of us. The Mother who says "no" to her child who wants the second dessert or the Father who does not give his young son the keys to the Jaguar does so out of love. They can see consequences the child cannot see, and are protecting them in ways the child cannot understand.

There are very good reasons, no doubt, that we do not all look like movie stars and have unlimited wealth. These are not the things that will bring us into spiritual and emotional intimacy with God and one another, and that is the purpose of our being here. That is the destination of our journey on this, our road home.

"Love... does not envy." I Corinthians 13:4

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Recently I was lying in bed in the early hours before the dawn. It was during one of those seasons as a counselor when the task of bearing other’s burdens was taking a particular toll. I could feel the pain of the sheep entrusted to my care in the depths of my soul. This pain motivates my prayer, my study, and my diligence as an under-shepherd. At times, I grow weary in doing good, even knowing better.

On this particular morning, my words all used up, my soul was groaning in sighs too deep for words. Suddenly, a wave of peace swept over me in my bed as tangibly as a wave of water. With it came a sense of knowing. I somehow knew that God had heard the cries of my soul on behalf of the beloved. I knew the prayers would be answered in ways above and beyond our expectations. The Father is not stingy; He is not meager in granting the desires of our hearts when they are in alignment with his will. He is able and willing to grant them exceedingly and abundantly above and beyond our wildest dreams.

These are the moments that keep me going. Much more than words of praise on lips of men, more even than the days when actual life circumstances begin to shift miraculously and the hand of the Lord is seen to deliver us in times of trouble…it is in these quiet intimate whispers in the wee hours of the morning when it seems darkest and most hopeless, hope breaks through in the intangible voice of the Spirit of God. Ironically, I would never know these moments without first walking a narrow and difficult path. God’s treasures are rarely found on the broad and easy road.

If you are weary of wielding the sword of faith, take heart. He is not far from you. He will hold up your arms and make you victorious for his Name’s sake. If you have prayed for the wayward child until your knees are calloused and your inventory of words has run dry, keep crying from the depths of your spirit. He hears you. He will answer your prayers and be true to his promise to hold his sheep tightly in his hand. If your heart is broken by the circumstances of life that have thrown it to the floor again and again, hand it to Him. He is the Master of mending the broken hearted. Wherever you are today, know that He is not far from you. His love for you is never-failing and oh, so competent.

We are not paupers, as the enemy would have us believe. We are indeed, children of the King. Take heart.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Love and Unkindness on the Road Home

Unkindness and love are mutually exclusive. They have nothing to do with one another, and are polar opposites. They just do not mix. Yet, how many times do we say we love God, and curse man, who is made in God's image? Beloved, this should not be so.

Unkindness creeps in like weeds among wheat. Springing up among the tender shoots, its motives often indistinguishable from those that will eventually bear nourishing grain. However, the fruit of unkindness is more unkindness, along with discouragement, bitterness, and resentment. Because of unkindness many have turned away from the fellowship of believers. Kindly forgive the mixed metaphor, but many lambs have gone astray because other spoiled sheep wanted their way over this triviality or that. The Shepherd is not pleased by such things, but calls us to follow his example of servant leadership instead:

"If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care--then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim any special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless life..." Philippians 2

The pathway to kindness is not found in human effort. Those who have tried that path have admitted in their latter days that it really was about the attention they gleaned for their self denial. So it really was about them in the end. What a horrifying discovery for a pilgrim who set out to deny self!

The pathway to kindness is to find the heart of the Father beating in our chests. He has promised to replace our hearts made of stone, and to give us new hearts made of flesh, and to write his statutes upon those hearts (Eze. 11:19). He gives us the desires of our hearts; he changes the things we desire so that we desire the things that he desires. His desires are for the good of people. Kindess must follow. Selfishness cannot abide in the same heart for long.

So the pathway, I believe, is less about a set of spiritual disciplines (though these may be helpful for some) and more about a relationship with the Father, the Shepherd, the Vine...our source of power and wisdom and love on the road home to intimacy with God and others.

"Love is ...kind." 1 Corinthians 13:4

"But the fruit of the Spirit is...kindness." Galatians 5:22

"He who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness. Whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble." 1 John 1:9,10