31 August 2012

Make Promises You Can Keep

Not infrequently have I head people use the expression, “Don’t make promises that you can’t keep,” but I never took the time to think about the implications of actually taking that to heart. In thinking about it, I realized that the statement has an opposite that is not directly stated, yet still rings out from behind the words in the original. If you should not make promises that you can’t keep, then does that mean that you should make promises that you can make? Probably not, at least not always. But for a moment, I made the thought experiment to see where it would lead, and it led me to think up the phrase, “don’t keep people from making promises that they can make.” I think that this is the real inverse of the first cliché. People often use the phrase about not making promises unless they can be kept as a way to push people away or to keep people from doing things for them. But is that really right? Why try to keep people from making lofty promises?

In the worst case version of the cliché, people actually take it severely enough to make it a guiding principle that overarches major life decisions and relationships. Rather than allow people to open up to them and to open up to other people as well, they are walled-off by the thoughts of not making promises that they are not guaranteed to be able to keep, and they keep people who want to promise things to them away.

The simple fact of the matter is that life is complicated and does not always throw us what we expect. Never making a promise is a guaranteed way to keep one’s word intact, but it also excuses one from ever saying that one will do something for someone. I think that it is really about fear of commitment at the root of the thinking. Rather than be willing to stake a claim and to bet all the chips on one outcome—to work towards that outcome through pure exhaustion if need be—it’s easy to give in and say that it’s  really impossible to make that type of promise.

Sometimes it’s the right thing to do to allow people to promise you things, and to bet that they will keep that promise. It’s wrong to indiscriminately disallow any hint of a promise that someone makes, and it’s also wrong to accept any promise that anyone makes. However, it’s not wrong to judge the merit of a person and their word and to be discerning as to whether or not they can be trusted to keep their word.

If someone promises love, devotion, honesty, or effort to change something about themselves, and if it is a promise that you think can keep and those types of promises and you want them to keep and make those promises, why say no? Maybe you could even help them to keep that promise and to encourage them to keep that promise rather than simply writing them off as a sure failure at whatever it is they are promising.

A promise is not always a guarantee, but you can be certain that it’s an indication that the person is serous and passionate about doing what it is he or she said. Maybe give people a chance to keep a promise. Maybe allow people to commit themselves. You may just find that people are able and willing to go beyond your expectations. Perhaps you have decided to expect too little from too many people.

26 August 2012

Time is in the Way

Time and space may stand in the way,
but that can’t erase the feeling I wake up with every day

My heart races as I walk the streets searching faces to find you,
and I long for when your heart embraces mine too

I’m slowly falling apart at the seams more each day,
And I live each day chasing after dreams of some day

You are out there now, hoping for a heart that’s giving
and ready to grow the love that’s worth living

Don’t give-in and give-up searching for the right one,
The one that is right now out there looking for you

Keep your chin up and cheer-up and eyes open,
And if you fall down get back up again and keep going

I don’t want to miss you when finally do pass by,
And then have to live each day missing you until I die

You may like these Goes Without SayingTime is in the Way if you liked this

25 August 2012

God's Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

Recently I made the decision to sit down in an uncomfortable seat and dine with anxiety and fear. Pushing the comfort-zone as far as possible is an important part of life, and particularly to mine where what I want to do is far out of my reach unless I run to it—through much uncomfortable territory. I found myself realizing I was anxious and fearful, which is a step in the right direction because at least I have the presence of mind to realize my own state of being. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being fearful. That is not the way to live life. That is not the way things ought to be. So, being a problem solver, I got to thinking about what fear is, what drives it, and how can I stop from becoming afraid.

The verse, 1 John 4:18 came to mind: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” I started thinking about what that actually means. First off, it tells me that when I experience fear, I am not being motivated by love like love should motivate me. It also says that when doing and being only what is loving—is to be perfect. Several other verses about God and Love came to mind. 1 John 4:16 “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” The part of the verse that really came to mind was “God is love.” The other verse that came to mind was 1 John 4:19, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

It was a confrontational thought, because being fearful means I don’t know how to or am not being loving, and that means that I don’t know God, at least not completely. It also means that God is not abiding in me as He should—because I am separating myself from Him.

So, fear is being unloving and stepping away from God. But, what to do? Where was I going wrong? In what way was I not being loving. I believe verse 17 clarifies and ties together the point in verses 16, 18, and 19. Verse 17 says, “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.” In verse seventeen where it says “by this is love perfected,” is referring to God’s perfect love. Remember, we love because He first loved us. We can love because we know that God loves us perfectly even when we don’t love perfectly.

When fear starts creeping in, rather than think about punishment—embarrassment, getting fired, and so on—I should realize that God loves me perfectly. That should give us such confidence that we don’t have to fear. Why be afraid, when in the presence of the mighty and wonderful God and creator of existence I am loved.

Perfect love does cast out fear, but not my love, and not any person’s love. The perfect love that casts out fear is God’s love for me, God’s love for you.

This makes perfect sense right? Does a child feel fearful when held in the arms of a loving father or mother? No! God is an all-good, perfectly loving father. His perfect love casts out fear. 

17 August 2012

Love People to Death, Love People from Death

It struck me as odd this morning in my daily reading and meditation of several Bible passages how biased the typical view of love is. It’s as though there are two main groups of people within Christianity—at least that are most noticeable—there are those who are loving to everyone and then there are those who are loving to everyone. I will clarify what I mean by that in just a moment, but let me first say that both are very sincere and trying oftentimes with a lot of heart and effort to do the right thing. I’m not trying to put anyone down, I’m trying to put down a misunderstanding with the hope of lifting people up by sharing an insight.

So now for the clarification that I promised a few sentences ago. What I meant in saying that there are two groups of people that are by definition, trying to do the same thing, was that both views are right in that they recognize that love is the right answer. However, both have a different understanding of what love is or what it is to be loving to people. Me, being a very disagreeable sort of thinker, I am saying that both are off the mark of what it is to be loving and that love is really a balance between the two extremes set by the two groups.

Ok, the two perspectives. The first one is that love is the answer to everything. No matter what a person says or does, the right thing to do is always to love them. They believe that love means looking past and beyond every poor decision, sin, and to never be judgmental. After all, we can’t walk in their shoes. People with this understanding of love stand on the conviction that this view of love and their treatment of people eliminates errors though it’s strength and ability to overcome. Love is the answer. Some Christians take it as far as to sound like a certain group from the 70’s that spoke of peace and love, man. The people who truly live this love are admirable in so many ways, the ability to overlook wrongs and the heart of compassion and mercy is an amazing testament to their obedience to do what they believe is right in complete disregard of conflicting pressures. They completely go against the grain of the culture that drives like a machine to find and fix problems—even in people.

The other perspective is the converse of the first one. These people like to fix sin and people. This frame of mind is one that seeks to build and design love in life and in the lives of others though disciplined head-on collision with errors, confronting them one by one and eliminating them. There is no mercy for sin. A thief should be punished so that the pain of his actions will testify strongly against the error and thereby persuade a change in heart. Righteousness may be a gift from God, but as God’s children we have an obligation to be righteous in word and deed. If we are dead to sin, then sin must be put to death with prejudice—and quickly too. If we are sanctified by God, we should not take God’s commands lightly and we should be fully sanctified in our actions and thoughts. Anyone who sins may be treated as sin, and whatever is necessary to defeat the sin—that is necessary. This frame of mind is honest and upfront about sin, and courageously confronts sin in all forms to weed it out.

We’ve all seen both of these views of love and seen the value of each in different circumstances. From the Bible we know that Jesus did the will of his Father perfectly. In all things he submitted himself to God to the point of death on the cross. So then, looking at Jesus should show us what love looks like. Jesus’ life if painted would be a portrait of perfect love. It so happens that we have a portrait of that life though the gospels that illustrate vividly the love that God intends for us to have in our own lives. Let’s take a look at that picture.

I recommend reading the gospels as books sometime if you never have. The Bible was not originally diced up in bite sized verses and chopped into chapters. It was written as books. Short books albeit in many cases, but still books and I don’t think that reading a few verses here and there is ever going to reveal God’s wisdoms that he wants to speak to us in the scripture. Reading and meditating on verses and chapters is certainly important. God’s word is highly complex and requires the attention to detail that studying it provides, but it’s also important to take a step back and look at the word as a whole from time to time.

When we take that step back and look at love from a distance in the gospels, what does Jesus’ life tell us that love is? Some like to point out that he did not throw the first stone. Others after reading the same passage will point out that he told her to sin no more. Some will point out that Jesus would eat with sinners that others would not dare to, then people will point out the way that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and the Sadducees is very harsh and correcting—even condemning at times. Either saying that Jesus walked around and just harshly judged people all the time is not the full story, and neither is the idea that Jesus accepted everyone as they were and that was fine no matter what they did he would be their friend. When the rich man walked up to Jesus and asked what was keeping him from getting into the kingdom of heaven, Jesus didn’t say, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll forgive you even if you do love money more than me. It’s fine.” No, Jesus confronted the man on the issue. But also notice that he didn’t beat the man over the head with the guilt. He told him what he needed to do, and the man went away sorrowful because he was so rich and didn’t want to give it up. Jesus softly told the man what was necessary. Presumably the man went away and did not do what Jesus had told him he needed to do.

In an odd way, love does not always trump sin. Jesus was loving to everyone and he still ended up being tortured and murdered horribly on a cross with criminals—who he also loved. Jesus maintained his stance and devotion to God and the Truth. He spoke that truth to people and asked them to listen to take its guiding hand and walk in the Truth. He tolerated sin in people offering forgiveness to those who had the heart to repent, but he did not simply accept sin. However, he rejected sin most usually in a calm and respectful way that would lead people to repentance rather than leave them recoiling for shelter.

Being loving is very difficult and takes wisdom and discernment. God says in James to pray if we need wisdom and He will give it to us. We will never have a simple guide that tells us what to do in every possible scenario. Rather, the right thing to do is to allow the spirit of God to guide our hearts and direct our minds in accordance with God’s will. That is the short and simple answer. We need at all times the knowledge and wisdom of God working within our hearts and minds to guide us into a proper walk in love.

In the end, neither perspective is wrong and neither is right. Rather, being loving is a complex mixture of both attitudes depending on the situation. Rather than look for a simple guide to how to treat everyone—look to God to supply you with the wisdom and discernment to act in love. He can and will direct your heart.

09 August 2012

Gentle Controversy

Controversy is a sea that we are always treading in. For some it’s worse than others, but everyone is constantly immersed in controversy, political, social, or religions controversy. All we can do is deal with it, or alternatively resign ourselves to a life as a hermit. As a Christian, I look at the controversy from a Biblical standpoint with the aim of understanding the proper way to handle the controversy.

There seems to be two general ways of coping with controversy, either not caring and staying as oblivious and un-opinionated as possible or to go overboard and to personally seek out and to allow the controversies to consume a large part of time and focus. Most people are not in either category entirely, those are extremes. However, both mindsets are wrong in a Biblical sense—which I hold is the only way that should even be considered a viable option--even for non-Christians, the advice the Bible gives is not going to hurt you. Controversy should never take center-stage in our lives. Our focus ought always to be to Love God with everything we have. Our relationship with God is paramount to everything else. However, as I said earlier, we still encounter controversy, and God has not left us uninformed on how He expects us to behave when faced with controversy.

In the Second letter of Timothy, there are some very pertinent passages explaining the way that God desires us to handle controversial discussions.

2Ti 2:23  "Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.
2Ti 2:24  And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil,
2Ti 2:25  correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth,
2Ti 2:26  and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.

Does this resonate with you at all? Have you ever found yourself wrapped up in a “foolish, ignorant controversy?” I know I have. I should have nothing to do with that. It should be disgusting to me.
But why, why is it wrong to get overly involved in that type of controversy? It says in verse 26, it’s to help our opponent. That’s right, it’s God’s will to try to help our opponent. God is on our side, and that means that He expects us to love our opponents—enemies.

This does not mean that we are to be weak and allow our opponents to say and do whatever they want. It does say to “correct” our opponents--but in a “gentle” way. Do you see the message here? God does not want us to be rude and mean and petty in our quarrels, but he does not say to avoid quarrels either. Rather, when you find yourself in a situation that requires you to correct someone else who is wrong about God, do it in a kind and gentle way so that they may escape from the devil’s snares.

It sounds so very simple, but trying to put this knowledge into a mode of heart that guides us is more complicated than cooking your average microwave dinner. It takes extensive focus and determination to go beyond your view of things and to hold fast to God's view when confronted and offended. It is possible though, and it is right and worth the effort. God will pay you back for your devotion to Him, and people will pay you back by seeing the true desire and love that you have for them and for God. If that is what people see when they see you, and if that is what people hear when they talk to you, then you will have given the best argument for your perspective.

06 August 2012

The I Complex

I recently was thinking about a personal problem of mine, and trying to come up with a solution to it when it struck me that the problem was not a problem of my circumstances as mush as it was as problem of the way I viewed me in relation to my circumstances. The whole problem was that I was viewing people as objects to make me feel the way that I want to feel. In other words, I was thinking about other people in a selfish way. People are not meant to be used for the purpose of I, but to fulfill the purpose of I. People are not here to make me happy or to provide to me what makes me happy. That is simply using people, and it’s only a matter of time before the realization strikes that people are being used, and that will correctly cause a sense of guilt. We can’t demand any of the things that are truly important to us. We cannot demand love, kindness, respect, friendship, or a time commitment from others. We do not have the right. We are free to do what we please, but only with ourselves in ways that affect ourselves.

So then, what to do? Rather than thinking of a personal need and wanting others to supply that need, look at others and see how you can supply their personal needs. Rather than wanting someone to be something for you, want to be something to them. Try to work hard to help them.

It comes down to the statement, to give is gain. That statement sounds so foreign and backwards often because of the way our minds have grown accustomed to thinking backwards. However, there is nothing odd about that statement at all. And we naturally tend to think about that statement in a material sense, as in giving money or belongings to those who need, but the statements should really apply to all things. It is gain to give time, energy, love, thoughts, a word of encouragement, a compliment, and thousands of other things to others. People don’t really need material things here in America where we are drowning in our possession, they need things that we are. We should strive to become for others what they need. Who knows, maybe if peoples personal needs such as love, kindness, friendship were fulfilled by others more often, then there would be less of a draw to make ourselves feel better by buying things.

In all of this I am saying don’t try to fix yourself with things and people. Try to be what others need. Don’t try to make a friend, try to be a friend. Don’t try to make someone love yo, find someone who you can be love for. Don’t try to earn kindness, give away kindness. When you do, you have given to others and have opened up room to receive, but that can't be the goal but a byproduct.


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