Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Jun
25

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For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)

Why is forgiveness so difficult? It might be because we often think of forgiveness as a word. We say “I forgive you” and we think that is it, but it isn’t. Forgiveness is more than a word. When we have been deeply hurt by someone, simply saying the word will not take care of the problem. Forgiveness is a process. It is something that takes time. It is something that does not end with the utterance of a single word. It is something we must continue to work at. I believe many people struggle with forgiveness because they think saying the word is going to magically make things better. When it doesn’t they then think they have done something wrong or that they are terrible at forgiveness. In reality deep wounds are not quickly healed.

We must begin changing the way we think about forgiveness. Forgiveness is not just a word we say. It involves our feelings. It has to do with our attitude towards other human beings who sometimes do awful things. Forgiveness is about following the ways of Jesus. It is about loving others who do not always love us in return. It is also about not allowing bitterness and hatred to take over our lives. When we refuse to forgive the person we hurt the most is ourselves.

What does it look like to be a forgiving person? What sort of practices must we commit to if we want to truly forgive?

We must forgive more than once. Forgiveness involves saying “I forgive you” but what some people don’t realize is that these words may have to be said over and over again. We may say “I forgive you” and even feel good about it afterwards, but then a few days or weeks later those same feelings of bitterness come back. When this happens we must forgive all over again. Sometimes forgiveness does not come easy at all. Sometimes it is difficult to even get the words out of our mouth. Just saying “I forgive you” may be an accomplishment in and of itself. When this occurs we might want to treat forgiveness as a discipline. We might want to keep saying “I forgive you” until it becomes easier. Words have power and meaning, and when it comes to forgiveness we often have to return to these words multiple times.

We must pray. Forgiveness and prayer go hand in hand. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” It is difficult to be like Jesus when people hurt us. We often struggle with feelings of revenge and bitterness. These feelings do not go away overnight and they don’t go away on their own. We need God’s help. We need to talk to God about how we feel. We also need to pray for those who have hurt us. Praying for our enemies will help with our own feelings.

We must change the way we think about others. Forgiving someone who has hurt us does not mean we must be friends with them, but it does mean we must change the way we think about them. We must wish the best for them. We must not hate them or wish something bad happen to them. Forgiving someone often involves changing our attitude towards that person. This happens through prayer and speaking words of forgiveness, but it also happens through our actions (Rom. 12:20). When we are struggling with how we feel about another person we can commit to doing something good for them. Our actions influence how we feel and think about others. An act of kindness may make all the difference in the world.

As Christians forgiveness is a necessity. We cannot be a Christian and refuse to forgive. We must also recognize that forgiveness is a lifestyle. It is something we commit to and it often takes time. Forgiveness is about the words we speak, but it also involves our feelings toward others, prayer, and acts of kindness. Let us follow in the footsteps of Jesus and be willing to live a life of forgiveness.

Jun
22

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Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:17-18)

What kind of person do you want to become? This is an important Christian question. This is a question all Christians need to contemplate. Becoming a Christian is the beginning of a life changing journey. It is a transformation into the image of Jesus. If the kind of person we want to become does not look like Jesus, then we have the wrong model.

To become like Jesus is not some flowery language we use while never expecting anything to happen. To become like Jesus is not something that happens after we die. To become like Jesus is something that is real, practical, and concrete. We have been given four accounts of the life of Jesus. We know what kind of person he was. We know the things he said and did. The writers of the New Testament believed the life of Jesus could be lived out in our own lives.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21)

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1)

If we are going to get serious about becoming like Jesus, then we need to ask ourselves some practical questions. We need to be open and honest. We need to examine our lives so we know what we need to work on. This self-examination needs to be combined with prayer and Scripture meditation.

Questions

Here are some questions we need to ask ourselves. This is not an exhaustive list, but it is a good place to start.

How are we like Jesus in the conversations we have? Is the focus of our conversations more on ourselves or others? Do we listen to the people we are conversing with or are we simply waiting for our turn to speak? Are we an encouragement to others or do we just like to complain? Do we only have conversations with people we like or do we seek to engage people on the margins?

How are we like Jesus in how we treat others? Do we put the needs of others before our own? Do we value some human beings over others? Do we notice people who often get overlooked? Do we show compassion to people who are suffering?

How are we like Jesus as a parent and a spouse? Is the love we have for our spouse like the love Jesus had for the church (Eph. 5:25)? Do we make time to spend with our spouse and our children? Do we exemplify the life of Jesus to our family? Do we act one way around our family and another way in public?

Prayer

We cannot be transformed into the image of Jesus on our own. We need help. We need people in our lives whom we trust, people we can share things with and who will pray for us. We need to be connected to mature Christians who are able to mentor us, but this is not all. Most importantly we need to be connected to God. In 2 Cor. 3:17-18 Paul informs us that our transformation into the image of Jesus is only possible with the help of the Holy Spirit. If we are struggling with something in our life, the first place we should turn is to God. God uses our weaknesses to his glory. God is able to do what we cannot do on our own. We cannot expect to change if we do not have a healthy prayer life.

We must set aside time for daily prayer. We must get in a prayer rhythm so it becomes natural and a part of our lives. This can be difficult and many people struggle with prayer. If you are having a hard time praying you are not alone. If you cannot find the words to pray, then use a prayer book. Pray the prayers of others until you are able to pray on your own. Some people find it helpful to record their prayers in a prayer journal. Whatever struggles you may have be encouraged to press on. We need prayer. Prayer is able to change lives.

Scripture

How we approach Scripture is important to whether or not we are going to be transformed by it. It is possible to know lots of Scripture and even be able to quote it but not be transformed by it. In order to be transformed by God’s holy word, we need to spend time regularly meditating on the word. Meditating is different from reading or study. When we meditate we open ourselves up to transformation. Meditation involves choosing a smaller portion of Scripture and reading it several times, praying over it, and seeking ways to apply it to our life. We can be changed by any passage within the Bible, but there are several passages which speak directly to the transformation we seek. Here are a few.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippian 2:3-8)

This is a good meditation to return to often. We naturally think of ourselves more than others and we need to be reminded that the Christian life involves sacrifice. The life of Jesus was a life concerned with the other. Jesus lived for others and he died for others. To have the mind of Jesus is to humble ourselves and look to the interests of others.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)

Conflict is a part of life and when we experience conflict we often want to seek revenge. This is not the way of Jesus. Meditating on this passage from Romans will help us deal with difficult situations. Through prayer we will learn to be a calming presence, instead of a person who only adds fuel to the fire. Our mission as Christians is not to seek revenge, but to do good deeds to all and share the love of Jesus with others.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12-15)

There is much in these four verses to dwell on. To be like Jesus means we are to have “compassionate hearts” and act in “kindness.” It means we must be patient while we are “bearing with one another.” It means we must forgive. Jesus gives us the ultimate example of what forgiveness looks like. From the cross he says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus forgives! He does not wait for the murderers to come to them. He does not wait until they feel sorry for their actions or admit any wrong. He forgives and this is what we are to do as well. When we are wronged we must forgive as quickly as we can. This is not an easy thing to do, but if we are going to be like Jesus we must practice it.

What kind of person do you want to become? To wear the name Christ means that we seek to be like him. This is not something that happens overnight. It doesn’t even happen in a month or a year. It is a journey that will take us a lifetime. To become like Jesus will take discipline, patience, and endurance. In a culture that wants everything right now, we are not always accustomed to things that take time. The life of a Christian is abundant and rewarding, but we must not get in a hurry or we might become frustrated. To become the kind of person we want to become involves us committing to a life of examination, prayer, and meditation. If we trust ourselves to God, then God will make something beautiful out of our flawed and imperfect life.

Jun
17

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We are accustom to reading the Bible as truth, which it is, but if truth is the only thing we see then we are missing much of what the Bible has to offer. The Bible is also full of beauty. It reflects the glory we find in Jesus. To miss the beauty of Scripture is to miss the glory of the Son of God.

This beauty is found before the Messiah takes on flesh and is born in a manger. The Old Testament is full of beauty. The poetry in the psalms and the prophets contain echoes of better things to come. The Gospel of Luke begins with a story about a childless couple. The righteous prayers of Elizabeth and Zechariah are heard by God and he decides to act on their behalf. As Zechariah enters the temple, he is visited by an angel who delivers the good news. Zechariah questions the angel. He cannot believe after all these years that God is about to do something. Because of his unbelief, he is struck speechless. For nine months Zechariah does not utter a word and then his son is born. The first words that come from Zechariah’s mouth are a poem. He praises the God of Israel for acting in his life, but not his life only. Something amazing is about to happen. God is going to act and this time the whole world will take notice.

By the tender mercy of our God,
    the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:78-79)

In beautiful, poetic language, Zechariah describes what is about to take place. God is going to “raise up a horn of salvation” from the “house of his servant David.” The long awaited Messiah is about to enter the world, but God is going to do more than send a messiah. God is coming! God will take on human flesh. God will be born. God will rest his head in a feeding trough for animals. God will identify with his creation. When Zechariah speaks of the dawn breaking and the light that will help those who live in darkness, he is not talking about just any light. The Light of the world is coming.

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)

God’s mercy is greater than we could ever imagine. The incarnation is something we still have not fully wrapped our minds around and it has been 2,000 years since God first took on flesh. God is serious about redemption. Since Adam and Eve first sinned in the Garden of Eden, no one had ever imagined that God would leave heaven and enter into this world as an infant. The glory of God is not just about how God is different from us. The glory of God can clearly be seen in this radical act of God becoming human. The story of redemption is not about what humans must do to be saved, it is about the amazing things God has done to save humanity.

God entering the world was good news and Zechariah understood this. Things were going to change for the better. God would bring salvation to his people who were being persecuted (Luke 1:71). God would show mercy to his people, and he would remember his covenant (Luke 1:72). God entering the world was “good news to the poor” (Luke 4:18). God would work to set his people free as he had done long before. The blind would see. The oppressed would be liberated. What people would experience when God came near would be like the year of Jubilee but even greater (Luke 4:19).

Jesus accomplished all these things in his earthly ministry. After his ascension, he passed the torch on to his followers. The ministry of Jesus belongs to us now. We are the torchbearers! Just as holy Scripture reflects the beauty and glory of God, we are to reflect the beauty and glory of God to the people around us. We are to be Jesus to others. Christianity needs to attract people. It does not attract people through worldly means. Christianity should not attempt to out entertain the world. It cannot do this. What Christianity does have is true beauty, a beauty that the world is longing for. It is the beauty of a person feeding the hungry, helping the homeless, and healing the sick. The glory of Jesus shines when we follow in his footsteps and do the things Jesus did.

Anyone who picks up a newspaper or turns on the news knows that this world is broken. God came to redeem the world but redemption is not yet complete. It began when God took on flesh. People’s lives were redeemed when Jesus healed them and forgave them of their sins. The life of Jesus is proof of a better way to live. It is a life we are to imitate. As we are being molded and shaped into the image of Jesus, we bring glory, redemption, and beauty into this world. We are a light on a hill that shines in the darkness. Redemption is happening but creation still longs for something more. We live in the now, but not yet. God’s kingdom is a reality, but we still pray “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We see evidence of redemption all around us. Lives have been changed. Alcoholics have become sober. Broken relationships have been mended. We know redemption is possible and real, but we also know there is much brokenness in this world. Like in the days of Zechariah, we long for the coming of God. We look forward to the return of Jesus. What God began long ago, he will bring to completion one day. So we, along with Zechariah, look forward to the day when God’s glory will shine brighter than it has ever shone before. We look forward to when all wrongs will be made right. We long for full redemption and to dwell forever in the presence of true beauty.

We pray for what Zechariah spoke of long ago.

By the tender mercy of our God,
    the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Jun
16

slow-church-book

Chris Smith and John Pattinson want to start a revolution, a slow church revolution, and I hope they succeed. What is slow church?

A slow church is one that seeks to follow in the Way of Jesus day by day, even when doing so seems inconvenient or even impossible. A key part of our slowing down as churches is taking the life and teachings of Jesus seriously, not ignoring them or rationalizing them away but really seeking to embody Jesus together within all the particularities of our own neighborhoods. (p. 94)

Many people do not take the time to slow down and even consider how much we are influenced by the culture in which we live. Christianity began as a counter-cultural movement, but recently much of Christianity has acquiesced and embraced our culture. Chris and John are calling for a slow resistance to culture by embracing the teachings of Jesus. Slow Church is an excellent introduction to what this looks like. It combines theology, ethics, and practical examples and presents a picture of what a healthy church who takes Jesus seriously might look like.

Slow Church is not a fad, a new program, or a gimmick to be tried for a few months until something better comes along. Slow Church is the opposite of all these things. It argues against them and suggests these things are one of the problems with the modern church. We want quick fixes. We want something that will change lives overnight or produce instant growth. When we adopt this mentality we are mirroring the fast-food culture in which we live. We want things our way and we want it now. We try program after program with very little to show for it simply because Christianity does not work this way. Mature Christians are not made overnight. Christianity is more accurately described as “a long obedience in the same direction” (This is the title of a classic book on discipleship by Eugene Peterson).

Slow Church is not something new, although the ideas within the book may be new to some people. It is a way of life that can be traced back to the beginnings of Christianity and has roots in Judaism before it. Western Christianity is facing some obstacles that have some Christians worried. Declining numbers, shifts in thinking, secularization, and many other things are issues Christians are concerned with. We have tried culture wars that have gotten us nowhere. We have attempted seeker sensitive worship that has failed to create a deep and mature faith. Where do we turn in uncertain times? Chris Smith and John Pattinson are arguing in Slow Church for a return to the ancient ways of Christianity. They are calling us to invest in people and our communities. They are calling us to be Christians 24/7 and not just on Sunday. These ways are not always easy, but Jesus never promised us that it would be easy. Fast, easy, and instant are things we have adopted from our culture, the ways of Jesus are much different.

Slow Church is a great read, but I hope that Christians and churches do more than just read it. I hope they will implement the ideas found within this book. I hope it will serve as a conversation starter for many Christians and church leaders. I hope we will take the time to stop, slow down, and think about what we are doing as a people who claim to follow Jesus of Nazareth. Do our practices look more like the practices of the Lamb of God, or more like our local fast-food restaurant? I hope Slow Church starts a slow revolution that catches on quickly.

Learn more about Slow Church here.

You can also follow the Slow Church blog here.

Jun
09

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One of the first stories we find within the pages of scripture is a story about the dangers of anger. It is the story of Cain and Abel. This is the first of several stories within the book of Genesis about the conflict between brothers. Each of these stories highlights something different. The story of Cain and Abel is about several things, but most importantly it is about what can happen when anger and selfishness go unchecked.

There is a lot of speculation regarding the sacrifices in this story. God had regard for Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. Why? The Bible never tells us and we should leave it at that. The emphasis is not on the offering. God does not even seem to be upset by Cain’s offering (Gen. 4:6-7). God simply blesses Abel, but does not bless Cain. This is the catalyst for Cain’s anger. He is jealous. He refuses to rejoice with his brother, but instead he chooses to sulk and feel sorry for himself.

While Cain is fuming over these events, God comes to him and asks him a series of questions.

The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)

God does not want Cain to be angry or upset. He wants Cain to pick himself up and try again. He wants Cain to succeed. This is what God wants from all of us. If Cain refuses to heed this advice, then he will be in danger. God warns him that sin will be lurking at the door. It will be lusting after him.

Sin is not to be messed with. Sin is dangerous. Sin is described here as a wild animal. It is waiting and watching, ready to pounce at any moment. It is like a hungry animal that is ready to eat. It will not allow anything to stand in its way.

Cain does not listen to God. He allows his anger to build and build until it comes pouring out. Cain kills his brother Abel.

Anger and selfishness is a deadly mix. When we act in anger we do stupid and sinful things. When we allow anger to take over, we are not thinking rationally. We do things that we normally would not do. The violent and heinous crime committed by Cain began with anger.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” (Matt. 5:21-22)

What can we do about anger? We must not allow it take charge of our life. When we feel anger coming on we must deal with those feelings before they get out of control. We must continually examine ourselves to make sure we are not harboring ill feelings toward anyone else. If there is conflict between ourselves and someone else, then we need to work to resolve our differences. Cain refused to address his feelings, even after he was warned by God, and because of this the situation quickly escalated. An angry feeling quickly turned into something more deadly.

Cain refused to follow the golden rule. He refused to treat others the way he wanted to be treated. He refused to love his neighbor as himself. We have a choice. We can follow in the footsteps of Jesus and choose to love others, or we can be like Cain who allowed anger and selfishness to be the driving forces behind his actions. The way of Jesus is not always easy. Sometimes we wake up on the wrong side of the bed. Sometimes people rub us the wrong way. Sometimes we feel wronged and we want revenge. It is not easy always loving the other. It is a sacrifice. It means we recognize that the needs of others are more important than our own feelings. It is valuing community more than self. One way leads to life and the other leads to death. Which one will you choose?

Jun
06

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Compadres Blog Tour

I am part of a Facebook group called Compadres and this summer we are doing a blog tour. Each week a few of us will post on something from the life of Jesus. I will post the links here so you can follow along. Jeremy Schopper is the first one to post. Check out The Glory of Jesus

Too Many Bibles?

Every time I go to the bookstore they are advertising a new Bible. Nowadays you can find a Bible tailored to your own beliefs, likes, fashion, favorite celebrities, etc. Is it possible that there are too many Bibles available? This is the question a former Bible publisher asked and wrote about. Check out Four Modern Versions of the Bible that are Ruining the Bible

On Leaders

James K.A. Smith recently interviewed Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College. The interview offers some fascinating information on leadership and the value of mentors. On the importance of mentors Lindsay says,

What does matter is the formative influence of an adult who speaks into your life and who has a sustaining relationship with you that you carry with you. Each of us could identify one, two, or three people outside of our family who had a formative influence, and my hunch is that the relationship you had was not for months, or for semesters, but for years.

Check out The Hidden Curriculum of Leadership

Sunday Nights

Many congregations are asking questions about Sunday evening services. At my own congregation attendance for Sunday morning worship has increased, while attendance on Sunday evening continues to decline. This is not unusual. Some congregations have abandoned Sunday evening worship services, while others are looking for different alternatives. Bobby Ross Jr. at The Christian Chronicle has written an article about the dilemma many congregations are facing. Check out Five Ideas to Improve Sunday Night

Hans Urs von Balthasar

Balthasar is a Catholic theologian who is both brilliant and challenging. His works can be overwhelming to some, but for those who press forward they are well worth the work. Here is a great introduction to the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar.

The Secret Sisters

There have been several great albums released already this year. One of those is the new album by The Secret Sisters. The final cut on the album is a song called River Jordan. Check out an acoustical version of the song below.

Jun
03

old-key

Here is a sermon on the spiritual discipline of secrecy and the importance of prayer based on Matthew 6:1-18.

Jun
02

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Popular commentaries on the Bible are not always the most fun things to read. Sometimes authors ignore the text completely and go off in a direction that is far from the book they are supposed to be discussing. Other times you might find an author who is more interested in proof texting and discussing his or her favorite doctrines rather than helping the reader learn more about the text. Often popular commentaries are shallow and don’t address the issues that average readers of the Bible struggle to understand. Writing a good popular commentary is difficult, but Michael Whitworth has succeeded in writing an excellent commentary on the obscure book of Obadiah. Esau’s Doom is a great introduction to a prophetic book that most Christians know little or nothing about.

Not just anyone can write a commentary that is enjoyable, educational, and that everyone can read, but that is exactly what Michael Whitworth has done. He does a great job of engaging more technical books and boiling down the important information that help readers understand the background and issues at hand within Obadiah. He also includes many helpful illustrations that make the ancient text come alive. Not only that, Michael is a great writer. His writing style is not stuffy or boring. Michael’s love for God and scripture comes through in his writing. The reader is able to feel Michael’s excitement for God’s holy word and his excitement is contagious.

Esau’s Doom is a great book for Bible teachers, ministers, and anyone who wants to know more about Obadiah. You do not have to be an expert theologian to understand this commentary. Esau’s Doom is a commentary that anyone can pick up and learn from. It does not read like a commentary, but instead read’s like an interesting article that opens the reader’s eyes to new information. The information found within this book will help a person teach a class on Obadiah, or simply understand the Bible better.

Obadiah is a brief book. It consists of twenty-one verses. It’s brevity is probably one of the reasons for its obscurity. Because Obadiah is not a lengthy book, Esau’s Doom is not long or wordy either. Michael has done a great job of making his commentary reflect the book which is its focus. A person could read Obadiah and Esau’s Doom in one setting. We live in a culture that is obsessed with busyness. We fill each fleeting moment with things that are designed to distract. Why not spend an afternoon getting to know a book of the Bible you may not be familiar with? Michael Whitworth has made it easy to do just that, and we should be thankful for his noble effort that we are able to benefit from.

You can learn more about Esau’s Doom and download a copy here.

Jun
01

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How do you define love? It might depend on who you ask. What kind of love are we talking about? Are we talking about the kind you read about in the latest Nicholas Sparks’ novel? Are we talking about that scene in your favorite romantic comedy that makes you feel all warm inside, or are we talking about something else? Perhaps love is a wife who stays with her husband and cares for him even though he has lost his mental capabilities and he doesn’t remember her at all.

What if we are not talking about romantic love at all? In our current culture when we hear the word love, we tend to think about romantic love. The word love is found all over the Bible and it is rarely used in the context of romantic love. How do you define biblical love? Again, it might depend on who you ask. Everyone does not think the same way. Moderns tend to think rationally and logically. They want an actual definition. Postmoderns do not think this way. Instead of looking for a definition, they would rather hear a story. One is not right and the other wrong. They are simply different ways of thinking. The Bible actually provides an answer for both perspectives.

If you are a rational and logical thinker, then the Bible provides you with an actual definition of love.

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

That is a pretty good definition of love. We can learn a lot about what love is and is not from that definition, but does this definition tell us everything we need to know about love? I don’t believe so. Sometimes a definition is good, but in this case we need a little more.

Love is central to Christianity. The apostle John tells us that God is love. It is important that we understand this concept the best we can. Instead of propositions and definitions, postmoderns would rather have a story. This is not a threat to Christianity, since most of the Bible is story. The Bible uses stories to help teach us about important concepts like love.

In Luke 10 Jesus is asked by a lawyer what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus points him to the law, but the lawyer is not satisfied. He wants more clarification. Jesus quotes the two greatest commands: Love God and love your neighbor. The lawyer is still not satisfied and so Jesus tells a story. It is a story we are familiar with. We may not be able to quote 1 Corinthians 13, but we know the story of the Good Samaritan. Stories stick with us. We can easily recall them, and this is significant because a story like this one helps define what love is.

The story of the Good Samaritan is a story about sacrifice. Love costs us something. It is easy to walk by on the other side of the road, but love demands we stop and help. Love demands our time, energy, and wealth. The Good Samaritan was willing to sacrifice these things for a complete stranger. Why? The only answer is love.

Jesus defines love for us in this story. The definition we get from Paul is nice, but this story goes even further and yet this is not even the most comprehensive story about love in the Bible. The story of Jesus is a story about love overcoming power. Love defeated Caiaphas and Pilate. Love overcame the power of Rome because love was willing to lay down his life. Love not only died for his friends. Love died for his enemies as well. Love offered forgiveness on the cross. What is the greatest power at our disposal? It is not power or might. It is love. Love conquers all.

How do we tell people about love? We could give them a definition, but I don’t think they would be too interested. It is hard to find anyone who would listen to another person talk about the definition of a word. Thankfully a definition is not the only thing we have. We have a story, but not just any story. It is the greatest love story ever told. Ask someone if they want to hear a great love story and I am confident you will be able to find some people who are ready to listen.

For more on modern and postmodern thinking, check out The Church, Postmodernism, and Relative Truth

May
20

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O Lord, our Sovereign,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory above the heavens.
    Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
    to silence the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars that you have established;
what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under their feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Sovereign,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

(Psalm 8)

“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.” Maya Angelou

Psalm 8 is one of several creation accounts found within the Bible. The most famous of these is Genesis 1 and 2, but there are others. As God questions Job in Job 38 he speaks of the creation of the universe. We are given a creation account with a twist at the beginning of the gospel of John.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

One of the things that all these creation accounts have in common is an element of poetry. When God tells us about creation he uses poetry. Why is this? Creation is debated by Christians and atheists. It is even debated by Christians and Christians. When we come to the creation account we want answers. We want details. We want a textbook on the origins of the universe, but instead we are given poetry and song. Why?

I am not sure I have the answer, but I found this quote by Yehudi Menuhin, one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century, and it provides some helpful insight about music, poetry, and creation. Menuhin states, “Music creates order out of chaos: for rhythm imposes unanimity upon the divergent, melody imposes continuity upon the disjointed, and harmony imposes compatibility upon the incongruous.” In creation God is creating order out of chaos. What is happening in poetry and song mimics what is happening in creation. Order is being created out of chaos.

Psalm 8 describes the order of things. The Universe is often referred to as the cosmos. It is an ordered system. We might say there is a rhythm or a beat to creation. When things get messed up it means we have gotten out of rhythm, it means we are missing the beat.

Psalm 8 begins and ends with the same refrain.

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”

The order of all things begins with God. God is sovereign. God is over all. He is the creator of all things. The rhythm and beat of the Universe is established by God.

Amazingly, God invites human beings to partner with him in maintaining and caring for creation. The psalmist is amazed by this. He asks,

“What are human beings that you are mindful of them,
    mortals that you care for them?”

He then explains that God has given human beings a special place in creation. We are God’s partners in helping maintain the order God has established. The psalmist writes,

“Yet you have made them a little lower than God,
    and crowned them with glory and honor.
You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under their feet.”

We live by the beat God has laid down and we get to help others find this rhythm. This is a lot of responsibility because I do not know if you have noticed, but the world is out of rhythm. The world is living by a different beat.

Each day we pass by people on the street who do not acknowledge God as the Sovereign ruler over all things. They have not found the right rhythm yet. We find others who want to mess with the order God has given us. Some want to place more emphasis on the planet than on human beings. Others think they are free to do whatever they want to creation. They think it is theirs to use as they wish. They completely miss the point that God has made us stewards and that God cares about what happens to creation. When we fail to honor God’s good creation we are missing the beat.

People are out of rhythm when it comes to how we treat one another. God has created us in his image. The psalmist says we have been made a little lower than God. Every human being bears this image. We are to treat each other with respect and dignity. We are to love our neighbor as our self. There is an order to life and it is important that we find it, so we can live by God’s beat.

Thomas Merton once said, “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” When things get out of whack in our lives it could be because we are not living according to God’s rhythm. We are missing out on the abundant life Jesus has promised because we are moving to a different beat. We must find God’s rhythm. We must adjust our lives according to this rhythm, and we must share this rhythm with others. Many are looking for it and it is up to us to help bring a little cosmos to a chaotic world.

May we take the time to stop and listen to the song God is singing. May we seek to move in harmony with God’s song and bring order and peace to a world that is out of rhythm, a world that is longing for God’s beat.

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