Lovely

The other day my wife and I were sitting at a restaurant waiting for our dinner. Across one of the walking lanes between tables was a little girl sitting with her mother. She was singing a song most of us with a partially televised childhood would know. It’s a song made popular by a big purple dinosaur. To my credit I can remember it as: “I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family. With a great big hug and a kiss from me to you, wont you say you love me too.” This little girl, who I am certain has heard the song more recently than I had managed to learn only part of the song. She sang on repeat: “you love me, you love me, you love me”. She had the right rhythm but knew only those words. To this my wife and I shared a laugh. Then I started thinking. This girl had unwittingly described how most people tend to perceive love, a one sided, in my favor sort of connection. Just as this little girl did not yet understand the declaration of love as a two way street we often miss the boat in a similar fashion.

I started thinking of how often my treatment of others was not a willful act of love regardless of circumstances but little more than a reaction to their present treatment of me. I walked around with an attitude much like the fragmented lyrics to this young girl”s song. You love me, you love me, and perhaps if you love me well enough I may grace you with a few scraps from my own table of love.

This however is not an act of love at all. To love that which has already treated you with love is little more than natural instinct. The way a child loves their mother, at least at first, is a selfish re-action to the love their mother has shown them through the protection, provision, and affection.

This is not the trueness or the fullness of love. It is at best the cliff notes to a good book. It may summarize the idea but you are missing out on the beauty and details that make the book what it is. While reading the cliff notes might give you a reasonable understanding of what the book is about, it lacks the depth and intimacy that exists within the pages of the story.

In short, this love, which for many of us is our default mode of love, is a truncated, watered down, diluted version of love that lacks what love is really about.

We chase after this shallow love because it fill us with a sense of value an purpose. It feels good. Like eating skittles for dinner however, it does not provide us with the nutrients we need. Though a skittle diet may sound appealing for awhile, should you ever try to sustain it for long the time would certainly come when you would desperately long for something of substance.

Love that matters is not a reaction. It is not selfish, shallow, or summarized. It is a harsh, real, and often ugly emotion that opens you up to as much pain as it does pleasure and promises as much suffering as it does joy. True love is a conscious effort of the will. It is a choice made in the biggest of decisions and the smallest of moments. The suffering of this love is that it requires no less than the constant denial of self. The comfort of this love is that it offers the hope of a relationship built not by you, meeting your own needs, but by the one who returns your love.

Their is only one place such a love originates: God, who while we were still sinners chose to love us. That choice caused Him immense pain and sacrifice. Yet because of His conscious willing effort to love us, we can know what true love is. Through Him we can learn not to love as a reaction, but to radiate love as the entirety of our being. Through this, the transformation of God in us, we become true ambassadors for Him, embodying who He is.

Instead of looking to people to love us and treat us with the value we consider ourselves to have, we ought to seek nothing more than to love them with the value that God has for them. I can’t help but wonder; what would happen if we spent as much time worrying about how we loved others as we did how they loved us?

Jesus Challenge: The Invitation

Jesus Challenge: Invitation

The resurrection of Jesus changes everything. Darkness is turned to light, death turned to life, despair turned to hop, and perhaps most significantly sinners turned to saints. Jesus transforms the lives of His people so that they may live more like Him. Jesus turns the sell out into the sold out for His kingdom through the process of discipleship. Early disciples faced persecution and resistance from the world. A good number of them suffered a great deal for their faith. Some, like Paul, were disowned by their family. Some were imprisoned. Some were beaten. Some were even killed for following Jesus and preaching the gospel of His grace. 2000 years later not much has changed. All over the world there are Christians who suffer because of the name of Jesus.

In America physical persecution is pretty rare. While being a Christian might get you mocked, disowned, made fun of, fired, or lose you some potential opportunities in life the overall cost seems pretty low. As a result we can sometimes give too much credit to fear. As followers of Christ, even in the face of the most horrid of persecution we have nothing to fear. Why? Because Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus defeated death. He gives us victory over the greatest threat against us. We have nothing to fear because no matter what happens to us in this life when we have Jesus we have victory.

Jesus’s resurrection doesn’t just change our standing with God, it changes our attitude towards Him. Peter was a sellout. While Jesus was on trial Peter denied Jesus three times to save himself. When Peter saw Jesus, risen from the dead, something in him changed. He went from sellout to sold out for the kingdom of God. He boldly proclaimed the gospel even when he was endangering his life to do so and ultimately- he died upside down on a cross because he did not consider himself worthy to die in the same fashion as Jesus did.

The early disciples faced real persecution. While we may face persecution it is pretty weak by comparison. Getting laughed at or insulted by a stranger just doesn’t compare to bleeding or dying. Sadly we often respond to persecution with cowardice. We water down the gospel, hide our light, and in effect deny Jesus with our lives. Many of us live like the pre-resurrection Peter. Jesus calls us to do more. He challenges us to do better. What Jesus says to Peter after raising from the dead is the message He would likely share with most of us:

“Do you love me? Then feed my sheep!” It’s time to stop selling out and to become sold out for Jesus. The challenge is simple

It’s time to be courageous, and the charge is very simple: invite someone to church. We all have people in our lives who don’t know Jesus and don’t love Jesus. Every spiritual journey begins with an invitation. So be that invitation.

 

Real Men

There is a difference between being a man and being a male. If you are equipped with a “Y” chromosome you are a male. Being a male does not make you a man. In fact I would say an increasing number of males in the world today are blatantly not men. They don’t know how to talk to a woman, treat a woman, or care for a woman the way a man should.

When you consider the porn industry generates more money annually than professional basketball, baseball, and football combined the problem becomes quite apparent. Cowardly males use images of girls to try and make themselves feel like men. As a result women become viewed as objects for sexual gratification rather than people created in the image of God. No surprise that with porn permeating every aspect of society human trafficking is on the rise as well. Eventually those cowardly males don’t feel manly enough watching someone else do it, they have to participate. So what do they do? They take young girls who have been stolen from their families and use them to try and feel like a man.

Real men are not predators, they are providers. A real man treats a woman like a precious daughter of God. A real man talks to a woman like she is a woman. They dont neglect, mistreat, abuse, cheat on, yell at, or lay their hands on a woman. Cowardly males do that, but not men.

Guys, there are too many males in the world. We don’t need more. My challenge to you is to step up and be a man. Learn how to protect, care for, provide for, love, and honor your wife. If you are not married honor the wife you will have in the future by being faithful to her before you meet her.

The only way to end human trafficking and stop abuse is for men to stand up and to challenge males to become men. Be a protector not a predator. Be a provider not a pervert. Stop acting like males, and become men.

Doing something

We see a lot of things that are wrong. Often times we brush them off and ignore them because doing something about it would be too difficult or inconvenient. Sometimes people do bad things. What is worse is that the people of God so often do nothing about it. We look at things in the world that we don’t like and instead of saying: “My God is big enough to change that!” We cay “Oh God I don’t want anything to do with that.” Avoiding evil doesn’t make us good, it just means we are not as bad as we could be. What amazes me is the frequency in the Gospels that Jesus tells His disciples what to do in comparison with what not to do. I find myself often spending more of my time avoiding the wrong things than trying to seek out the right ones. The irony is that in seeking to do the right things you will often naturally avoid the wrong ones. Do you think Jesus sat around and tried to think of ways to not sin? Or did He just focus so much on trying to do what God called Him to do that sin couldn’t get ahold of Him? What if we strived to live like that? Not know by what we are against, the rules we follow, or the things we avoid. What if we lived like Jesus; seeking to carry out the mission of God and focusing our energy on that. I wonder what would the world look like then? What would the church look like? What would we look like?

Living your life trying to avoid the “bad stuff” makes you like the religious people who murdered Jesus. At best, all you have to hold on to is your own effort to make yourself good enough. Striving to be like Jesus means doing more than avoid evil but striving to honor and obey God in all we do.

What’s the Problem?

One of the most frustrating things to me about the Christian community is the sheer amount of time we waste taking sniper shots at each other. We think we have the right, in the name of “protecting sound doctrine” or “defending the truth” to act in completely unloving and ungracious ways towards each other. We criticize, attack, demean, and even condemn each other over petty differences in our beliefs or practices. The cycle seems never ending: a Christian leader rises to popularity and begins making an impact on the community and then people start searching for mistakes, errors, so they can criticize them. I see this happen and even as a pastor I wonder why anyone would ever want to be a Christian when we treat our own people this way.

When I was training for ministry we were taught the 80-20 rule. This rule basically states that 80% of the work is done by 20% of the people. What I did not realize at the time was that a good portion of the other 80% of people spend their time trying to tear down the 20% who are actually doing something. Rob Bell was basically branded a heretic and all but crucified in public opinion after his book: Love Wins. Now I don’t agree with everything Bell says, the conclusion of his book, or with some theological positions he holds but heresy seems a bit harsh. Without defending all his theology I will say he did not deserve some of the hate filled criticism he received.

My case in point comes from pastor Mark Driscoll one of the best-known and most controversial preachers in a long time. Numerous articles have been posted and printed criticizing Driscoll and calling him a cult leader. This is a favored term of the critics who spend the majority of their lives acting more like the devil than like Jesus. Remember it is Satan who is a characterized by accusation. When we draw accusations against our brothers we are acting like the devil.

Now I am not defending or justifying everything Driscoll says or does. Does he takes things to far? Yes. Does he push boundaries more than they need pushing? Yes. He doesn’t seem to have any issue making a royal rear end of himself. On the other side of that coin, he has woken up the church, especially men. While he is not the first person I would call when I need encouragement and support I have to say, I respect him. Again this is not to say I agree with everything he says or does. I respect him not because he gets it all right but because he is not afraid to try. Most Christians I know are so afraid of making a mistake they don’t do anything. Pastors are too soft or too cowardly to call them out on it so they continue to live like leeches draining kingdom resources and offering nothing in return. Driscoll challenges people. He calls them out. He makes change.

Yes, sometimes he pushes too hard and his actions do not fairly reflect the love of Jesus but at least he is doing something. You know what, it’s working. Driscoll actually challenges men to be men, to treat women right, and to follow Jesus. If you want to call him a cult leader for that sign me up and give me some punch. Sure it seems ridiculous, even offensive to actually expect people to try and become more like the God they claim to believe in. He may not always be perfect in what he is doing so learn from his mistakes, but do something. Christopher Columbus discovered a country. He thought it was India, mistake, but in his trying he discovered what has become our home. Instead of tearing down those who are bold enough to sail across the world in search of something greater because they didn’t name it right perhaps you can learn to appreciate that they are paving a road. Driscoll is bold enough to make mistakes so you don’t have to. Men are responding to what he is doing. So are women. His ministry is effective, his message is clear. He is not perfect. But who among us is? The difference between Driscoll and his critics is that he actual does something that matters between his mistakes.

Does everyone agree with his discipline? No. Discipline is never really agreed upon anyway. Most churches are too cowardly to try. So at least acknowledge that he is trying. Here is what really puts me over the edge: we are a generation of Christians majoring in the minors. Discipline is not a primary issue. It is not a salvation issue. How he chooses to do it may not work for everyone but it works for some. Call it a cult if you want, by that standard anyone who expects you to actually try to live like Jesus in some form or to be anything beyond nominal in your faith is a cult leader. No one seems to care that the guy spends the majority of his time talking about Jesus and what he has to say about Jesus is solid. I mean we can tolerate a world of preachers who spend all their time talking politics, personal preferences, and ranting about insignificant issues, but when someone comes along to remind us that it’s all about Jesus we sign him up to share Jesus’s fate.

For those so quick to criticize I wonder: where is their fruit? What have they done to advance the kingdom of God in a practical way? I don’t imagine many could stand up under the scrutiny of a nation, put their lives under a microscope, and endure the attacks he has endured. Not from outsiders. Not from unbelievers. From his own brothers and sisters who sat back and ignored a problem he is now addressing and now, rather than supporting or perhaps even trying to help him improve what he does we push him off the ledge.

I am aware of the irony in criticizing critics. Someone needs to call them out. Someone needs to say enough; enough cowardly Christians tearing each other down. We have had enough sniper shots at any Christian foolish enough to actually try and do something for the kingdom of God. Enough. If we spent half as much time trying to share the love of Jesus with lost and hurting people as we did trying to tear down leaders in our own camps the great commission would be fulfilled and there would be no lost people left.

Stop spending your time criticizing the leadership of others. Stop calling everyone you don’t agree with a cult leader. Stop pretending you are without sin while pointing the sins of everyone else. Stop being a toxin that destroys life and start producing. Use that new found free time to do something that matters for the kingdom of God.

What was that thing Jesus said we would be known by? Our love. Not how well we attack each other. Jesus said people will know we are His if we love one another. Stop making the devil’s job easy by ripping each other apart all the time. Start loving people. Even when you disagree with some of the things they say. Even when you disagree with some of the things they do. Jesus didn’t give conditions required for you to love. He requires you to love unconditionally.

My challenge to you, who call yourselves Christians, who claim to believe in and follower after Jesus is simple: prove it. Prove that you love Jesus by treating each other with love. When the world looks at us and all they see are the pointless battles we have with each other how can they see the love of Jesus? So before you write your next critical article. Before you post your next negative comment. Before you lash out at the Christian who sees things a little different than you ask yourself this question: how is the love of God revealed in what I am about to say? How is God glorified in what I am about to write? If a non-Christian were to hear what I am about to say about my own spiritual brother or sister would they be drawn to Jesus or would they run for the hills?

The Bible teaches that we will be held accountable for every word we speak. Before you decide it is appropriate to lash out at the Christian leader you disagree with remember that Jesus died for them, that He loves them, and that you will have to explain to Him why you spoke like that to one of His previous children.
How fitting it is that Paul did not end his epistles “justice and criticism” but grace and peace.

Grace and peace my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ,

May your lives be characterized by the love of God

Tyler Edwards

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