Friday, May 27, 2011

The Main Thing

Me and my son Brennan
"The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." (Zephaniah 3:17)

If someone asked me to describe God in one word, it would be hard, but I would probably go with the word "love." Everything He is, everything He has done, everything He is doing is motivated by love...His love. Not our kind of "conditional, superficial, over-emotional love, but His pure, un-conditional love. Think about it...

- In the beginning God creates...why? Love.
- God walks with Adam and Eve in the garden because of love.
- God delivers Israel from slavery because of love.
- God rescues Noah and his family because of love.
- God sends Jesus as a substitute for us, to take our punishment, because of love.
- Jesus remains obedient to the Father all the way to the cross, because of love.
I could keep going...

You know where we often go wrong? We think it's all about us. It isn't. We are not the subject; but we are the object. We are the object of God's love, but He is the subject. He is the main thing. He is the one who made a way for us, who pursues us, who loves us time and time again.

There's a story in the Bible that perfectly conveys God's immense love for us. It's Hosea's story. Hosea is commanded to marry Gomer, a prostitute, and take her as his wife. He does, and she bears him 3 beautiful children; (2 sons, and 1 daughter). Soon after, Gomer leaves Hosea for another man...and God promptly tells Hosea to go and show his love to her again.

"Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another and is an adulteress. Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods..." (Hosea 3:1)

This is one of the most important stories in the Bible. Why? Because it shows us exactly what God has done for us. I am the adulterous wife, and so are you. Every time we sin, we commit adultery. And yet, there is our bride-groom, pursuing us still, loving us always.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1)

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." (1 John 4:7-12)

What is the point of this post? God's love, when fully comprehended, will motivate everything we do in this life. His life laid down for us, with a promise of heaven awaiting. I'm afraid that too often I lose sight of this love...a love that should compel me to fulfill the greatest commandments; to love God, and to love people.

And that picture at the top? I included that because I think it's a picture of God's love of us...He delights in us, and rejoices over us. After all, He made us in His own image!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Just Show Up...

Have you ever been through deep waters? Have you ever gone through a time in your life when you felt like you were being buried alive? Have you ever felt, gulp, even that God was working against you? Alone, isolated, attacked, forgotten?

Recently I read through the book of Job, one such man who faced this wall of pain. Imagine for a minute that you woke up this morning, thinking it would be a day like any other, when suddenly...

- Your boss calls you into your office to tell you that due to the economy, they have to lay you off
- You get a text from your neighbor that your house has burned to the ground, and everything in it was lost
- Five minutes later, your wife calls you at work to tell you that a tragic accident has taken the lives of your entire family...they are all gone, dead...only she remains alive.
- You check in at the local hotel, only to come down with an extremely painful outbreak of boils on your body. You are in excruciating pain, and you even look detestable, such that nobody will meet your gaze. Instead of receiving pity, you get scorn and dirty looks.
- And as if that weren't enough, your financial advisor emails you later to apologize, but all your investments have gone short, you're broke. Zero money. It's all gone.

Instead of focusing on Job and his response, I want to look at someone(s) else;

"Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was."

There are two obvious applications from this;
1) I want to be that kind of friend...someone who just "shows up" even if I don't know what to say.
2) Sometimes the most meaningful ministry you can have is just showing up.

I need those kind of people in my life...those who don't try to solve my problem, but will just sit with me and be there in times of need...and I need to be that kind of person for others as well. Who in your life right now, needs you to just "show up," and sit with them for awhile, and listen?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Who's to Blame?

Brennan heading for the surf
My family just got back from was an amazing time together; our first real vacation with our 1 year old boy, Brennan. We were on the beach and were amazed at the fearlessness that "B" showed...his feet hit the sand for the first time ever, and he made a bee-line straight to the ocean. If I hadn't picked him up before he reached the surf, he'd have taken a nose-dive for sure.

Throughout the trip I noticed just how fearless and independent Brennan is. He would charge for the water, and I'd try to hold his hand to keep him safe, but all he wanted to do was push my hand away. Funny thing was, on the occasion he would take a face-plant or get knocked over by the unsuspecting wave, he would give me this look of panic that seemed to say, "Dadda, why didn't you save me?"

It dawned on me that so often, this is exactly how I, and many of us, tend to deal with God. We constantly push him away, trying to live under the illusion of control and independence, until the moment some tragedy hits us. Then we turn to God and ask "Why?" When all along, oftentimes, (not all the time), the tough times we experience are a direct result of our own dumb choices that had we walked closer with God and allowed Him to lead us in the first place, we might have avoided altogether.

This isn't to say that all our tests, trials and tragedies are avoidable if we just stay close to God; not at all. However, there are definitely some pains we experience that could be avoided...and even if it can't be avoided, how far from God do you want to be when that moment hits? The closer you are when it hits, the shorter the distance you have to run to Him for help.

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
     I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
     and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
     when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
     and the flame shall not consume you.
(Isaiah 43:1b-2)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Axioms, Adages, and Proverbs (8): Leadership

If your'e late to the party, I am a collector of what I call "Axioms, Adages, and Proverbs" - quotes or sayings that motivate me. If you want to catch up on other posts in this thread, click here. It's been awhile since I contributed to this category of posts so here's a new one. It comes from Wayne Cordeiro, Pastor and Leader of New Hope church in Oahu. His leadership launched this church into the multiple thousands, and they have since planted all over the country and world. I recently was listening to a podcast of his directed at leaders. He had this to say;

In the end you won’t be measured by what you do, but by what others do because of what you have done. (Wayne Cordeiro)

Now don't be mis-led...we know from Scripture that indeed we will be judged for all of our deeds...some will burn, others will survive the fire. However, what Wayne was alluding to was in regard to our leadership. What does real leadership look like?

The good leaders lead people...the great leaders equip people. What I mean is this; some of us lead by doing lots of great things, and that is great, but our leadership will only extend so far. The great leaders are those who pour into others, equip them, and set them loose to use their gifts to lead. There's a simple model for this;

1) You watch, I do
2) We do together
3) I watch, you do
4) You do alone

If you want your influence to expand, you have to multiply yourself. Ultimately it means "working yourself out of a job."

In the New Testament we get a great picture of the relationship Paul has with his young apprentice, Timothy. Paul poured into Timothy, trained him up and set him loose. Who's your Timothy? Who are you pouring into and training up? Or are you holding so tightly to your leadership position that you feel insecure in training anyone else up behind you?