Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ingredient #9 - Holiness (Love - Part 11)

"...does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth..."
I Corinthians 13:6

"Did you hear what happened to ______________?"

"It's about time - he deserved it!"

"Did you see that movie yet?  They meet once a year for their whole life!  It's so romantic!" 

"He's the funniest comedian on TV - yeah, he can be off color, but it's hysterical!"

"I had no idea they were in so much debt!  Shame on them!"

"I saw your friend at a restaurant last week and guess what? She wasn't with her husband!"

What do all these comments have in common?  They all have a sense of rejoicing in sin - juicy gossip about other people's struggles, happiness when someone's sin catches up to them, movies that glorify sinful romantic relationships and laughing at base jokes.  

What else do they have in common?  Everyone reading this blog has been involved in discussions similar to these.  Yes, I used a 100% word - everyone.

I named our next ingredient holiness because it clearly describes God - He finds nothing exciting about sin but delights in good, righteous truth.  Sin was way too costly for God to find it funny or amusing - He does not revel in it, He does not delight in it - He will not even allow it in His presence.  Sin and its consequences are not a laughing matter.

But in our flesh, we gravitate towards enjoying sin.  Think about it - when's the last time you saw a movie and felt nauseated by the sinful display of premarital or adulterous sexual content?  Have you seen a good, clean comedy lately? One that doesn't use cursing or swearing, sexual innuendos or lying and cheating to accomplish its goals?  Even our superhero movies (which are harmless, right?) typically have some sort of selfish breakdown or illicit relationship during the movie, but we cheer them on and laugh at their crudeness and hope they get the girl in the end.  But we watch the movie and we even recommend it to our friends, completely hardened to the sinful content.

We are surrounded by sin and the celebration of it - from our music to what we read to even our news channels.  We want to see people fall, we want to hear bad things about others and we tend to adjust the curse words so that we can say them without feeling too bad. Not sure what I mean with that one?  I'd love to write a list of phrases we all regularly use but my heart just won't let me put it in writing...

God tells us that love doesn't rejoice in unrighteousness - true love doesn't want to hear the bad things and cheer sin on, but rather it delights in truth.  A great example of this was last Sunday when we had 60 people come forward for baptism.  To hear the stories of how God had drawn these people into His embrace was truly something to rejoice about! Sitting in that auditorium nearly an hour after the service was to be over and hearing our people cheer after each baptism was truly a delight to my soul.

What was your response when you heard that a friend of yours was baptized?  Did you roll your eyes and think, "Well, we'll see if that lasts..." or did you raise your hands in praise to God, praying for protection and strength for your friend as she grows in Christ?  We can test our love levels by our response to life - what fires us up, what do we enjoy and what breaks our heart.

So why do we gravitate to the gossip and the sin?  I think it's because it makes us feel better about ourselves.  "I would never have done that!" is what we're saying when we share a bit of juicy gossip about our neighbor.  But when we say that, we forget that our sin was bad enough to cause Jesus to die on the cross for it.  True holiness is a righteousness magnet - it is drawn to the positive and repels the negative.

So in your relationships where God has called you to love - family, friends and even enemies - examine your response to gossip and sin.  Do you enjoy to hear of the damaging effects of sin in someone's life, or does it break your heart?  True love longs for righteousness in other's lives.  If you have a spouse or an ex-spouse whom your heart is hardened against, God wants you to long for righteousness in their lives.  He wants you to rejoice when good things happen to them - when they are blessed by the Lord or when they make decisions that are good, true and's hard to do because it's not in our natural nature to respond this way, but it is in Jesus' nature.

Remember, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live...yet not I, but Christ lives in me." (Gal. 2:20) We are able to delight in righteousness because it is Christ who lives in us and trust me, He LOVES righteousness!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ingredient #8 - Forgiveness (Love - Part 10)

"...does not take into account a wrong suffered..."
I Corinthians 13:5

I have been looking forward to this ingredient since the inspiration to write this series.  This is my favorite ingredient, though it is the hardest to acquire. Like imitation vanilla, too many people use imitation forgiveness and though is tastes similar, it really does not replace true, rich, costly forgiveness.  Artificial forgiveness not only cheapens your love reduction sauce, it will ruin it.

When you do not "take into account a wrong suffered" it means you have truly forgiven the "wrong."  If you have been at Harvest for any length of time, you have heard my husband say, "There are no enduring relationships without forgiveness." So let's start by defining forgiveness, and obviously we have been exampled this by God.  

Forgiveness is a three-part contract:
  1. First, when you forgive, you agree not to hold the offense against the offender.  This means the slate is wiped clean.  You don't bring the offense back up to the person, like, "Hey, remember when you did this to me?  Remember how you hurt me?  You really owe me because of what you did..."  All of those responses are gone because the offense has been removed from the account.
  2. Second, when you forgive, you are agreeing not to talk to other people about the offense.  You can't call your mother/father/best friend or co-worker and talk about it.  When your friend says to you, "I heard what _______ did and I can't believe they did that to you!"  You politely say, "Oh, that - I forgave that and there's no issue between us."  Period. Discussion over.  True forgiveness doesn't talk to others about it.
  3. And finally, when you truly forgive, you are agreeing not to dwell on the offense in your mind.  You won't think about it.  When the offense comes to mind, you stop and replace it with a different thought.  Dwelling on the offense only produces bitterness that has a ripple effect in your life.  If you can't stop remembering - or I should say, when you choose to keep remembering, you will not be able to continue with that relationship because inevitably your thought life will come out of your mouth and your actions.  This is the hardest part of forgiveness but just as God chooses to remember our sins no more (Hebrews 8:12), we can make the choice not to dwell on the offenses of others.

"As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."  Psalm 103:12

"When you were dead in your transgressions...He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions..."  Colossians 2:13

"Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin..." Hebrews 10:18

"If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." I John 1:9

Jesus' middle name is forgiveness.  Over and over in the gospels you see Him forgiving people of their sins.  It's His business - He delights in extending mercy and grace.  Forgiveness, complete forgiveness is the only way we can come into the presence of His Father and we know that because we are forgiven so much, we are called to be GREAT forgivers!  

Jesus used the moment of the women who washed His feet with perfume and tears to point out to the Pharisee who had invited Him for dinner this truth:  "For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much;  but he who is forgiven little, loves little."  Forgiveness is the result of great love.  When you put the needs of others before yourself in a loving, godly relationship, forgiveness is an abundant ingredient that fuses all the other ingredients.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs His followers to be great forgivers - "But if you forgive others their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their transgressions, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." Matthew 6:14,15  We are called to live with a preparedness to forgive so when we are asked forgiveness, we are quick to forgive.  I call this - living with a spirit of forgiveness.  True love forgives quickly and even at times it lets love cover the sin, "because love covers a multitude of sins." I Peter 4:8

Forgiveness is costly - Jesus paid the price of forgiveness with His life. When you forgive, you will lay your life aside and bear the cost of the offense by saying three simple words:  "I forgive you."  Forgiveness is the most important ingredient in love, for without it, you are unable to be patient, kind, selfless, gracious, humble, etc.

Be sure you understand what you are doing when you extend forgiveness - it's a gospel moment for you to emulate and imitate your Creator, Lord and Savior.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Big Day in the Wisen Family

"Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth."
Proverbs 5:18

Tomorrow is a big day for our family.  Our youngest is getting married!  Christopher and Morgan have dated nearly four years now and we are blessed that the Lord has given such a godly, sweet young woman to share our son's life with.  We have prayed for this day and specifically for her for literally decades and now it's here...

It's 7:30 a.m.  As I sit with my coffee and my blog open, I've been up a few hours already because my mind is racing making lists of what I need to get done today.  But I have a few minutes to collect my thoughts,  talk with the Lord and receive wisdom from His word before things get busy.  

David is doing the wedding tomorrow, so he will have one last opportunity before they say, "I do" to remind them of the seriousness of the decision they have made to be married.  But good old mom?  Well, the wedding party is now surrounding my son and any tender moment I was hoping for is most likely gone, so I am going to write my final pre-wedding charge and text the kids the link!  Isn't modern technology the best???  

Chris and Morgan,

What a blessing both of you have been to Dad and I.  We have had a front row seat watching the two of you grow in your love for each other and we are confident that your home is being built on the strong foundation of Jesus Christ. This truth calms all fears and concerns, and brings great joy to our hearts. 

Dad and I were married even younger than you - don't let anyone look down on your youth.  Marriage will be a protection for both of you as you journey through this world.  Hold tightly to each other, cling to the Father and watch what He will do in you and through you.  The verse above talks about rejoicing in the wife of your youth - that whole chapter is most likely a letter from Solomon to one of his sons.  Christopher - go read Proverbs 5 today if you can find the time.  

Tomorrow will be a great celebration of your union before the Lord.  Don't take this vow lightly - God is serious about marriage.  Use the resources He has given you to create a stable and joyful  home - His Spirit to guide you, His Word to instruct you, your families who love you but love the Lord more, the body of Christ to encourage you and worship with you.  Remember that Jesus is with you at all times - He is your strength, your example, your leader and your friend.  A marriage that includes Jesus is a strong cord that cannot be broken.

It is my prayer that the two of you grow closer to each other as you grow closer to the Lord.  Chris - love Morgan sacrificially, lead her patiently and learn everything you can about her on a daily basis!  Morgan, follow Christopher's lead, finish him where he is lacking and be his biggest fan! Even when the other is unlovable, choose to love.  And when life is going smoothly or you hit bumps in the road, hold tightly to each other and to Jesus.  Cultivate a home filled with gratitude, thanksgiving and praise to the Lord for all He has done for you - for He has blessed you richly in your salvation, your heritage and in your relationship already!

Well, you know me - I could go on and on, but I will wrap it up.  I love both of you with all my heart and am so excited to celebrate with you tomorrow!  Dad and I are so proud of both of you, your love for each other and your love for the Lord!  

Let the fun begin!


(Squish, aren't you proud of me for not expositing Song of Solomon for you???)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Ingredient #7 - Self-Control (Love - Part 9)

" not provoked..."
I Corinthians 13:5

Are any of these your emoticon of choice?  Hopefully not but I don't think we'd admit to it anyways...

Today we are going to talk about anger and self control.  I choose the ingredient "self-control" because God's Word teaches that we have a choice when it comes to anger.  Ephesians 4:26 tells us, "Be angry and yet do not sin, and don't let the sun go down on your anger."  Anger, in and of itself, is not sinful - it's a God-given warning signal that something is wrong and needs a response.  The question is, are you going to respond sinfully or righteously?

Paul tells us in his letter to the church at Corinth that love is not provoked - true love, when faced with an offense, chooses to control its anger and not go off on that person. Jesus exampled this many times, when He was accosted, interrupted and basically stalked by the demoniacs, lepers and the needy in general, His response was not anger but instead it was kind, compassionate forgiveness that they received.  Even on the cross, He prayed to the Father to forgive the soldiers of their offense of killing Him, because they were blinded to what they were doing.  

Now, Jesus did display anger during His ministry here on earth.  He boldly went after the dead hearts of the Pharisees over and over again - and yet, if you read His words, they were spoken from a broken heart. Jesus sorrowed over the lostness of the leadership - His anger was seen when His Father was disparaged and truth was distorted. Even turning over the tables in the temple was a cleansing of His Father's house - Jesus was not out of control. He never hit, killed, swore, threatened or mocked His enemies. But He made His point it a big way, from a loving heart that sacrificially gave all He had but wildly defended the holiness of His Father.

So where does anger come into play in our lives?  Do you know an angry person?  Go ahead, think about your friends and relatives.  I know there's one on your list - you know, that person who has a chip on her shoulder, never feels she is respected, constantly complains and criticizes, blows up at the smallest offense - overreacts and her anger is constantly boiling just under the surface. And no one likes to be around her - you try to make your escape shortly after the conversation begins because she is such a downer to be around.  

True love is not provoked - push its buttons and grace pours out. Ephesians 4 goes on to instruct us to put away all "...bitterness, wrath, slander, anger and malice..." These reactive responses are not Christ-like but rather self-focussed.  When I am stepped on, when someone mistreats me, when I am hurt or offended, I spew bitterness and hatred back at them.  I talk to everyone I see about my hurt and I continue to play it over and over in my mind, until I blow again.  Is that the person you want to be?

Instead, God wants you to choose to respond in kindness, being tender-hearted (compassionate) and forgiving to those who have hurt you (Ephesians 4:32). Why?  Because the end of that verse says this:  "...just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."  There it is - that constant reminder of our forgiveness in Christ is all the motivation we need to be Christ-like.

Why is it so hard to have self-control and not lose our temper with those whom we love?  It seems like those around us can give us a hard time and hurt us and lie to and about us, and we handle it much better than when someone we love does the same.  God tells us that true love is not provoked to anger - it chooses to be understanding, patient, kind, forgiving...loving.

No list of examples today - hopefully as time goes by, you are seeing your own application of His Word in your life.

Read this out loud before you move on to your day and think through what true love looks like in your life:

Love is patient, love is kind and it not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not easily provoked...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Ingredient #6 - Selflessness - (Love - Part 8)

" does not seek its own..."
I Corinthians 13:5

Mmmmm...that last piece of pie.  It looks so good and it's calling your name.  

When you offer it to the other person at the table you feel like you've really sacrificed something, giving up your desire to please them.  Wow.  That's love, isn't it?

Well, it actually is loving to sacrificially put the needs of another person before your own, but I have to admit - as sacrificial as giving up a piece of pie seems at the moment, it is hardly a true picture of sacrificial love.  The definition we use at Harvest of love is pretty simple but clearly defines this sacrificial love - You Before Me.  When you love someone, you put their needs before your own - or as Paul put it in I Corinthians, you do not seek your own.  

Your own what? (I can hear you asking it already - finish the sentence!)

You own way.

The NIV puts it this way - " not self-seeking..."  Love does not seek its own way, but lays down it's "way" for the other.  Our sixth ingredient in our reduction sauce of love is selflessness.  You before me, your way before mine, sacrificially putting the other before yourself.  True love.

Okay, let's flesh this out - Jesus first.  Romans 5:8 says it all:  "But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us."  Putting our need for restoration and salvation, Jesus laid down His rights and exchanged places with us.  Even in the garden you seem Him wrestle - not with doing what was right or wrong but with the reality of being separated from the Father and bearing His wrath alone.  But love did not seek its own way - Jesus did not put Himself first, nor did He count the cost and walk away.  He laid down His life for His enemies - for us.

Jesus' example makes the real life situations that we face seem rather petty, but we need to see what this looks like on an every day basis for the average Joe Christian, so here goes:

  • Why do mother's sacrificially give up sleep for their babies?  For the love of a helpless child - putting that child's needs before herself. (Okay, Kristen, that one was easy...)
  • Have you ever worn an old pair of jeans so that your children or husband could have a new pair? (Again, Kristen, that's not that big of a deal...)
  • Have you ever given up a night out so that you could care for your neighbor's children while they have dinner out? Or offered to babysit for free so someone could go to a parenting conference at the church?  Or gave your night-out money to your sister who really needed the oil changed in her car? (Okay, meeting someone's needs is fine...)
  • How easily do you give up the remote?  What about when your opinion doesn't matter?  How do you respond when plans are made without you?  How do you feel when you're passed over for a leadership position, a ministry opportunity, a job or a part in a play?  Do you get frustrated when you don't like what's on the radio? (Hey, don't mess with my remote!)  
  • Do you get angry when people aren't grateful for what you do?  Does it irritate you to wait for others?  Do you quicken your step when walking into a restaurant to beat the other couple walking from the parking lot?  Do you serve yourself at dinner before others can choose their portion?  (For the love, I get it! I get it!)
At the heart of man is a selfish will that listens to the world when it tells you to stick up for yourself because no one else will - "You deserve a break today", "You're worth it", "Me before You!"  I've even heard it said, "God helps those who help themselves!"  But what God has exampled for us and what God demands from us is a self - LESS love.  

So, once again, we find ourselves in a test mode - start with those in your immediate reach.  For a few days, live your life as usual, but when you go to bed at night, think about your actions, your words, your expressions, your feelings - were they selfless or selfish?  After a few days, you may find that you may find it necessary to double or triple this ingredient in your sauce.

Patience, kindness, contentment, humility, graciousness and selflessness...take a deep breath and let the sweet aroma of this combination fill your mind.  But wait, we're not even halfway through the recipe...

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ingredient #5 - Graciousness (Love - Part 7)

"...does not act unbecomingly..."
I Corinthians 13:5

Are you a gracious person?

Not sure how to answer that, are you? Well, test yourself:
  • How do you respond when someone cuts you off while driving?
  • What do you tip a bad waitress?
  • How well do you forgive when someone hurts you?  purposefully?  repeatedly?
  • What is your preferred method of confrontation,  bludgeoning or with kindness?
  • When you're angry, what does it look like?  
  • When you're taken advantage of, when you're overlooked, when your rights are violated, when you're reviled, when you're mocked and despised, how do you respond?
I think you get the picture.  As citizens of a free country, we have inalienable rights - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And if those rights are stepped on or violated, we have the right to bear arms - in other words, we have the right to fight for what is ours.

Our fifth ingredient is graciousness which does not act unbecomingly or ugly - you know, that ugliness that appears only we've been pushed to our limit.  But God says that true love doesn't ever act ugly, instead, it is gracious - or better put: full of grace. 

Let's look at Jesus first. John 1:17 says, "For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ."  The law was truth alone - no grace.  Just a thorough pounding of God's standards and our inability to maintain them.  The law was painful to realize - it was the prosecuting attorney, judge ,jury and prison system all wrapped up in 613 commands.  

But Jesus was not simply the fulfillment of the law; He was also grace.  Jesus spoke truth with compassion.  He understood we could never live the law, so in gracious love, He lived out the law and then paid the punishment of the law on our behalf. This is how grace and truth were realized in Jesus Christ - His willingness to lay aside His rights and become the sacrifice for the lost proves to us that the law (or truth) required a high price and Jesus was willing to pay it.

Look at how gracious our Savior is:
  • "...while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously..." I Peter 2:23
  • "...who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men...He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross..." Phil. 2:6-8
  • "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for our sake became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich." II Cor. 8:9
So love does not act ugly - Jesus, because of His great love for us, did not model selfishness or ugly outbursts of anger, or road rage, or sourness, or competitiveness.  He never yelled at a ref, cursed in his car, demanded His rights or even defended Himself during His trials.  He never shook a fist, flipped a finger, allowed His face to turn red or spewed out words that were R-rated.  He was the model of self-control but greater than that, He was gracious - marked by kindness and courtesy, tact and delicacy, charm and good taste (according to our above definition).

So do your words edify or tear down? (Eph. 4:30-32)  Are they kind and courteous?  Do you easily set aside your rights or are you that quintessential ugly American, who demands his rights wherever he goes?  Yes, we are to love even our enemies, but let's just use this litmus test in our families.  With your parents, to your children, with your spouse, to your siblings - are your words gracious?  Do they show compassion and kindness?

When stress and temptation push our buttons, God wants us to respond in love - a love that is not ugly but rather gracious, kind and attractive...ugly love is not really love at all.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ingredient # 4 - Humility (Love - part 6)

" does not brag and is not arrogant..."
I Corinthians 13:4

These next two actions go together and in the negative we see that we are to put off arrogance but in the positive, we can put it this way - love is humble.  It doesn't brag and it's not arrogant.  In the life of Jesus, this is a very easy picture to paint.  If anyone in the history of the world had cause to brag, it would have been Jesus, right?  

I don't know how many times I've used the line with my children, "I brought you into this world and I and can take you out!"  Of course, it was in a joking manner but the point was to remind them who they were talking to.  Jesus could have used that line and meant it but He never did.  Jesus created the world He stooped down to save, but He was not the picture of arrogance, but rather the picture of humility. He always put the needs of others before Himself as an act of humility, not pride or arrogance. He didn't demand respect but instead gave of Himself to serve. Imagine each scene below and note how you picture Jesus:
  • protecting Moses from His blinding glory
  • allowing Jacob to limp away from a wrestling match with his dignity in tact
  • choosing to discuss with Abraham the future of Sodom and Gomorrah
  • washing the feet of his disciples
  • healing Peter's mother-in-law's fever
  • touching rotting and decaying lepers
  • stopping to acknowledge the hemorrhaging woman
  • calling down the tax collector from a tree
  • allowing the prostitute to wash his feet with her tears
  • healing the ear of the soldier who was leading Him into captivity
  • refusing to demand equality with God, but instead emptying Himself to the point of suffering death on a cross
I could go on and on but I think you get the point. The Almighty Creator set aside His rights and humbly served because of His great love.  Love is nothing without humility.  Let me show you how this fleshes itself out in every day living:
  • Have you ever had to wash up a parent after they had an "accident"?  Love says, you did this for me for years, I can do this now for you.
  • Have you ever given up your seat at church so a family could all sit in the same row? Love says, just because I was here first, isn't a reason to turn a blind eye.
  • Have you ever planned your own birthday party because your family was too busy to remember? Love says, my birthday is just another opportunity to love on my family.
  • Have you ever had your plans interrupted, your advice tossed aside or your needs overlooked?  Love says, I'm flexible, I'm still here and my needs are met by Jesus already.
  • Have you ever been praised, cheered on or highly esteemed?  Love says, I'm simply using my gifts to glorify the Lord. 
Love is not arrogant and does not brag.  It doesn't say, "Don't you know who I am?  Don't you remember what I said?  Don't you know what I'm capable of doing?  Haven't you already seen my greatness? Look at me!"  Rather it says, You before me.  It is a humbling thing to lay down your rights to put the needs of others before you.  

But that's exactly what Jesus did.

He is a King Who became a sacrifice.

As we add ingredients to our love reduction sauce, don't skimp on the humility.  The purest place to find this ingredient is at the foot of the cross. When we compare ourselves to other people, we typically think too highly of ourselves. But when we look at ourselves in light of the cross - when we compare ourself to God - humility should naturally flow from our's not a hard ingredient to find when you're being honest about yourself before a holy God.  

So spend a lot of time with the Lord and watch your pot fill with humility...

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant...

(What wondrous love is this, O my soul...)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ingredient #3 - Omit Jealousy (Love - Part 5)

"...and is not jealous;"
I Corinthians 13:4

Ingredient #3 is actually an ingredient that we need to omit from our savory reduction love sauce - jealousy.  Jealousy is basically feeling resentment because of another person's rivalry, success or advantages.  Another way to put it - having negative feelings over another's success or life.

Jealousy is one of those ample ingredients that comes in our sin nature - covetousness and jealousy are twin sins that have no place in love.  They break down the purity of love and turn love into something God never intended it to be.

Let's start with God.  This is going to be tricky because guess what?  God is a jealous God. (Deut 4:24). Are you confused yet?  I guess we need to understand how God can be jealous but we aren't allowed to be.

First, God's jealousy is holy and righteous. It does not flow from sin but from holiness. It is not a competitive resentment because of another person's success or life.  It is a pure desire for our undistracted attention.  God does not want us to worship anything but Him.  When our hearts are turned away towards other idols, God jealously pursues us because He knows that in our pursuit of other idols, we will be hurt.  Anything that takes our attention away from God will hurt us in the end and God loves us enough to be jealous of our attention for our own good.

So the only jealousy that is acceptable is a righteous jealousy that is concerned over the holiness of another.  It doesn't produce negative, competitive, angry emotions but produces concern, love and a pursuit for righteousness in another's life.

Sinful jealousy puts the need of self before others.  David was jealous of another man's choice of wife, so he stole, lied and murdered to get what he wanted. (II Samuel 11)   Rachel was jealous of her sisters fertility so she whined, complained, threatened, connived and bought her husband's affections in her search for happiness. (Genesis 30).  Joseph's brothers were jealous of their father's love and they beat up and sold their brother into slavery (Genesis 37).  Achan was jealous of the wealth of the Canaanites and he disobeyed God, stole, hid, lied which resulted in the death of his fellow soldiers, and eventually he himself was killed for it (Joshua7).  Jealousy did not produce righteousness in any of these people's lives but instead caused sin to reign, thus bringing sobering. painful consequences into the lives of all these characters.

So we need to go and get our long-handled strainer - you know, the one with the holes in the ladle - and reach down into that pot and strain out all the jealousy.  We have to put it off and put on contentment and gratitude in its place. Here are a few examples of what that looks like:

  • I can love my neighbor, even though they have nicer stuff than I do - BECAUSE God is my Father and I will steward what He has placed in my care and be grateful for what I have
  • I can love my step daughter without competing for her father's attention - BECAUSE I am secure in the love of my heavenly Father and I know how important it is for a father to spend time with his children and I am thankful that I married a man who loves his children
  • I can love my enemy, even when they seem to prosper and succeed while I struggle - BECAUSE I know that God causes all things in my life to work together to conform me into the image of His Son and so this struggle is for my good and I am thankful for it
  • I can love my husband as he participates in his hobbies BECAUSE I trust my heavenly Father is working in his life and I understand that he needs an outlet for the pressures of life and his hobby is something that brings him joy and I am thankful that he is happy
  • I can love my parents, even when they seem to pay more attention to my siblings BECAUSE I understand that the love I need flows freely from God the Father and I am an instrument of His unconditional love to be used for His glory and I am thankful that I have parents to love 
Remember, friends, life is not a competition.  We aren't held in high esteem in God's eyes because of our talents or our possessions.  Maybe we're not the shiniest penny in the jar or maybe we don't have abs of steel or maybe we can't sing like a bird - God holds us in high esteem because of what Jesus did to purchase us.  We are precious because we are covered in the righteousness of Jesus and our sins have been removed from our account.  Jealousy only thinks about self but contentment and gratitude puts our eyes on Jesus.  

Let's review:  
  • Love is patient, bearing the hardships and delays of life with a calm, you-before-me attitude
  • Love is kind, a considerate, helpful and generous way of putting others before yourself
  • And it is not jealous, so it doesn't react negatively to other's choices, successes or life experiences but rather is grateful and content with where they are, still putting others before self
The water should be starting to boil a bit. Let's wait until we get a few more ingredients in the pot and for the full boil before we turn it down to simmer...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Ingredient #2 - Kindness (Love - Part 4)

" is kind..."
I Corinthians 13:4

If she said it once, my mother said it a thousand times - "You treat your friends better than your sisters!"  Now, I can quote my mom here or I can own the statement, as I'm sure my children have heard this declaration leap from my lips in the past.  But it's a very true statement - families tend to treat others with more kindness than they treat themselves.

Really, Kristen?  I don't think that happens in our home.

How about a few examples?
  • Do your children fight over where they sit in the car?  Do they fight with their friends over where they sit in their car? at school? when the friend comes over to your house?
  • Last doughnut in the box on the kitchen counter.  Do your children offer it to their siblings or snatch it away without a thought?  How about when a friend is over?  Do they offer the doughnut to them first?
  • Do your children call each other names? Do they call their friends those same names?
  • Okay, time to really get personal - quick are you to forgive your husband?  Do you need a cool down time so that he can sit in the awareness of what he's done to you?  How about with friends? Do you forgive quickly when they ask forgiveness or do you make them suffer a bit, too?
  • Husbands - are you as impatient with your co-workers when they tell you a story as you are with your wife when you get home?  Do you turn up the volume on your computer when they're talking to you, like you do on the television when you're wife is talking to you?
  • Believers - why is it easier to forgive and extend kindness towards an unbeliever but when someone in the church hurts you, you struggle to get over it?  
The second ingredient we are now going to add to our pot is kindness.  Kindness is defined as being considerate, helpful and generous by nature.  So what are some acts of kindness?
  • giving up your seat on a crowded bus to a pregnant woman
  • picking up the tab for dinner when out with friends or inviting someone to your home for dinner
  • doing something to be helpful for someone in your house - cleaning, organizing, reading, finding, washing, editing, head-massaging (I threw that in just in case my daughters were reading this)
  • using edifying words rather than critical words
So, considerate, helpful and generous acts of kindness should flow out of your love.  It's easy to love our friends, because we don't live with them.  But day in and day out, through the good and the bad, to show kindness to our family when sometimes they are just downright annoying - that's true love.  And showing kindness to our enemies?  Is that even possible?

By the way, kindness has been modeled to you:
  • "The Lord is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds." (Psalms 145:17)
  • "For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared,  He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy..." (Titus 3:3-5) 
  • "Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4)
God is considerate (sending His Son), helpful (sending His Son) and generous by nature (sending His Son).  His kindness towards us leads us to repentance and salvation. And remember, even while we were His enemies, Jesus died for us (Romans 5:10).  So if we desire to imitate Christ and be conformed into His image, we need to foster a considerate, helpful generosity towards not just our friends and family, but also towards our enemies.

A person who has experienced the kindness of God has the ability ( through the power of the Holy Spirit), the desire (to be like Jesus) and the motivation (glorify the Father) to be kind. It's a gospel concept, friends.  Choose to be kind.  

Choose to be considerate of all people - after all, they are image bearers of God, just as you are.  Don't grab that last doughnut, don't hog the remote and don't push your way to the front of the line.  Put others before yourself - be considerate of others feelings, circumstances and limitations.

Choose to be helpful - last week I saw an elderly man frantically searching the pharmacy shelves for something.  After a few minutes, I walked over to him and asked if I could help him find something.  Of course, as my life would have it, he needed to find the stool softener - but in God's gracious timing, it was right within my reach and that awkward moment was over quickly.  But it was an act of kindness - seeing a need and being helpful - being the arms of Jesus.   Friends, be aware of your surroundings and be helpful.  

And finally, choose to be generous - with your time, your money, your energy, your smiles and hugs, your home, your talents and your life.  You have been greatly provided for and as you steward His resources, be generous with them.  

Kindness like this is only going to make your love richer, deeper and more Christ-like.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ingredient #1 - Patience (Love - Part 3)

"Love is patient..."
I Corinthians 13:4

Learning to tie your shoes - I'm not sure who it's more frustrating for, the one learning or the one teaching.  But it definitely is a picture of, wait!  We have velcro now, so patience is really not necessary.

Our first ingredient that we toss in our 11 quart pot is patience.  It's interesting to me that patience is the first on the list, since it is a rare ingredient to find in the world of character development.  I think it's because love needs a lot of patience.  It reminds me of ingredient lists on food products, where the largest ingredient is listed first.  Is it possible that patience might really be that important?

Patient defined:  bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc. with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger or the like. (

When we read that love is patient, we get the first hint of the sacrificial nature of love.  Provocation, annoyance, hardship, pain - in a relationship where these aspects are evident, only a loving response could produce patience.  The picture of a parent teaching their child to tie their shoe is not really the crisis that demands patience. So to flesh this out, let's look at Jesus first.

In a discourse encouraging people to honor authority, especially unjust authority, Peter uses Jesus as our ultimate example:

"For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience towards God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.  For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience?  But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.  For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth, and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed."  I Peter 2:19-24

Enduring harsh treatment with patience, do what is right and patiently endure suffering, follow in His steps, no sin, no deceit, no reviling, entrusting Himself to His Father - these are all results of applying patience.  In Jesus's life, He endured much by setting his eyes on the Father.  He came to do the will of the Father (John 6:38) and in John 8:29, Jesus says this:  "And He who sent me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him."  Jesus set His eyes on pleasing the Father, knowing He was not alone, and having patience - not lashing out in anger, not showing weakness or anxiousness, or complaining, but quiet strength which trusts God's timing in all things - having patience, Jesus completed the will of the Father through His death.

So how are you with patience?  Ask someone close to you - children, spouse, parent, best friend - Am I a patient person?  How do you see patience or impatience in my life?  Ask yourself, too.  Learning to trust that God is here, He is in control, He has a plan for your life, His timing is perfect - these things will develop patience in your life.

Tips for developing patience:

  • When you find yourself impatient - complaining, anxious, frustrated - stop and confess it to the Lord - it is sin, so let's call it what it is
  • Choose to love others (love - you before me), patiently, selflessly putting their needs before your own 
  • Memorize Colossians 3:1-4 and in times of anxiety, stop, confess and quote - then practice setting your mind on things above
  • Give yourself enough time - sometimes we set ourselves up for frustration because we are behind and then someone else's slowness becomes our problem
  • Remember Jesus' patience towards you and towards humanity in general (II Peter 3:9)
  • Remember, choosing patience is a gospel moment in your life - your motivation is not to "get through it" but to become more like Jesus through it - He has not left you alone, but has given you the Holy Spirit to accomplish this
Okay, now that we've looked at patience, you know what's going to happen?  Get ready, your opportunity to put in into practice is just around the corner!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Foundation First (Love - Part 2)

You are loved.

If you attend a service at almost any Harvest Bible Chapel, these will be the last three words you hear from the stage, and it's quite a statement.

When we first became a Harvest and the pastoral staff started saying this, I was overwhelmed.  I thought it was a bold statement for us to make as a church and, looking around the room, I wasn't sure I loved every person there.  How could we possibly sacrificially put the needs of every person in this room before our own needs? What in the world would this love have to look like?  It took about 2 years for me to realize that the pastors were actually  being pastoral when they said that - they were being prophetic.

They were speaking on behalf of God.

In order for us to study love together, we need to lay a foundation that we can build upon and the foundation is this:  you are loved.  Said another way:  God loves you.  Said in a biblical way:  For God so loved the world that He gave.

When God lays out an instruction for us to live by we must understand it is for our own good, but we also must understand that it flows from His own character.  He doesn't ask us to do anything that He Himself isn't subject to and when it comes to love, His instruction is a simple definition of His character.

"Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous: love does not brag and is not arrogant..." These beginning statements in I Corinthians 13: 4 could easily be rewritten with "God" exchanged for "love":  "God is patient, God is kind and is not jealous; God does not brag and is not arrogant..." He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things - He never fails.  I John 4:8 tells us that God is love.

So in laying a foundation, we have to start with the fact that we have already been exposed to perfect love. In my intro blog, I implied that people long for a taste of that love, but truth be known, every day is an opportunity to see and know the love of God.  We just have to recognize it.

In general, God extends His love for us daily by patiently waiting for all to come to repentance - this is why He doesn't bring the final consequence for sin upon the world as we know it - I Peter 3:3-13.  He provides us rain and sunshine alike - Matthew 5:43-48.   James 1:17 tells us that every good thing comes from above - this includes mathematical intellect, physical athleticism, vocal excellence, maternal instincts, skillful carpentry, medical and technical advances, and the list goes on and on.  Why is there so much talent in the world?  Because we are image bearers of God. Not just believers, but all humanity falls in this category.  This is why we celebrate man's achievement - because whether or not they acknowledge it, God has given talents and abilities to humanity as a gift that gives us a tiny glimpse of His glory.  God loves His little image bearers and provides for them, even in a state of rebellion.

The hardship of life comes with the consequences of our sin, and the love of God is all over that as well.  He loves us so much that He sacrificially gave His perfect Son as payment to buy us back from slavery.  An exchange of character - our sin for His righteousness.  Now that's a love that does not brag and is not arrogant but was humility on display.  Hebrews 12:9-11 tells us that He loves us enough to discipline us - for our own good.  Again, it may not seem joyful but sorrowful for the moment, but He trains us by it so that we may share in His holiness.

As we move forward, we must understand and recognize the love of God in our lives because that, and that alone, will be the greatest motivator in our ability to love.  We are commanded to love the Lord our God (Mark 12:30), love our neighbor (Mark 12:31), love our enemies (Luke 6:27),  love one another (John 13:34), love our wives (Eph. 5:25), and love our husbands and children (Titus 2:4).  Really, everyone is covered here, so how can we possibly love everyone in our lives the way God wants us to?

The answer is pretty simple:  "We love, because He first loved us."  I John 4:19

The love of God has been made visible in the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.  (I John 4:9) Because of this love, we can now love like Him (I John 2:3-6) by keeping His Word and acting like His Son.  His love has enabled us to love in a way those who do not know Him will never be able to love - selflessly, sacrificially, and completely.

In Luke 7, Jesus finds himself at a dinner with a prominent Pharisee, when suddenly a woman, who was a well-known "sinner", throws herself at His feet, anointing them with perfume and tears.  When the Pharisee questioned Jesus about allowing this woman to do this, Jesus says something life-altering:  "...her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little."

Understanding the forgiveness of God which flows from His love towards us will directly have an impact on our ability to love.  A great way to grow in your love for others is to have a realistic view of yourself. As we begin this study, you will be tempted to compare how you love to those around you - horizontally.  Fight that urge.  Compare yourself vertically - to a perfect God, who loves you perfectly even though you are a perfect sinner.

Foundation - You are loved.  Do you know the truth of that statement personally?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Love Reduction Sauce (Love - Part 1)

My brother-in-law is a French chef.  Yeah, my life is rough.  His first Christmas with the family he feverishly worked the whole day before, roasting, baking, broiling, cutting, chopping, creating and I had the privilege of sitting and watching. At that point he didn't trust me enough to hand me a knife, although I did make the cheesecake dessert.  But he and a friend were a delight to watch.

The highlight of the meal began in a large 11 quart pot like the one above.  It was filled half way with water and put on the flame first thing in the morning on Christmas Eve.  As it came to a boil various cuttings were thrown in throughout the day.  At one point several vegetables were tossed in - carrots, including their long, green, leafy tops, mushrooms, and celery for starters.  Onions were peeled, cut in half, broiled until burned and then tossed in the pot.  Frederic was making a side dish with lobster tails and the parts of the lobster he wasn't using were thrown in the pot, as well as some beef ribs he had roasted for a few hours.

Periodically the pot was strained of it's larger bones and vegetables with a long-handled colander and more water was added.  Then more scraps would be thrown in.  Herbs, seasonings, more vegetables - what I would have normally ground in the disposal, he was throwing in this pot.  By the end of the day,  the pot was strained one final time and filled to the top with more liquid - wine, water, broth, whatever was lying around.  A low flame was left under the pot for the night.

Christmas morning brought great joy, not only in the presence of family and a full Christmas tree, but with the incredible smells of a feast waiting to be consumed.  To my surprise, when I lifted the lid on the 11 quart pot, it was nearly empty!  I got up on my toes to peer into the bottom of the pan where there I found about one and a half inches of a thick, brown sauce.

Quick side note:  Don't ever use the word "gravy" around a French chef. That's a highly offensive Americanism that never graces the lips of true culinary masterminds.  The appropriate word is "sauce."

Now this "sauce" - a reduction sauce, I later learned - was so thick your spoon could stand upright in it.  And it was rich, brown gold!  Oh. My. Dear.  I am not joking, this sauce was like getting a glimpse of the garden of Eden in a pot.  A spoonful on top of your meat and all you wanted was silence and a fork.  It was incredible.

And it should have been - it took 24 hours to make!  When cleaning up, I personally scraped every last smudge of that sauce from the pot and saved it in a tupperware, hiding it in the back of my mother's freezer for the next time I came for a visit.

Yes, I really did that.

Okay, Kristen, get to the point. 

Love is a reduction sauce of sorts, at least according to I Corinthians 13.  It's like taking a big pot of water and adding the following ingredients:  patience, kindness, trust, humility, attractiveness, selflessness, long suffering, forgetfulness, righteousness, big shoulders, belief,  hopefulness and endurance.

But it's not until you put the flame under it that it starts to really get good.  It simmers and then boils, and then everything softens and mushes together, and as the water boils off, what is left is a rich, thick love that most would die to have just one spoonful.  But you don't get it without the heat and in practical terms, the heat is adversity.  When things really get tough, when the heat is turned up, that's when love really starts to mean something - more of the essential ingredients are needed and when added, the end result is a love that never, ever fails.

But today, when the heat is turned up in life - marriage gets hard, temptation gets real, parenting gets difficult, submitting seems like torture, words become abusive, relationships are torn apart - when the heat is turned up, there is suddenly a shortage of ingredients and love comes up short.  It's watery, flavorless and even a plastic spoon doesn't stand a chance.

I'm going to tackle true love here on my blog.  I know I've been pretty unimpressive for the past few months at writing new posts but for those who know me, you know I haven't been sleeping in and eating bon bond...well, maybe a few, but it's time to return.

So buckle your seat belts because we're in for quite a ride.