Fruit of the Spirit Challenge: Reflections on Love

Perhaps you've heard the saying, “Love conquers all.”

So many people get into trouble because they enter into a romantic relationship with their eyes closed and a simplistic understanding of that statement, but in it’s truest, deepest form, love actually does conquer all.

Love an inexplicable, unstoppable force that places the other above self and overcomes all obstacles.

In 1 Corinthians we read Paul’s description of love. 1 Corinthians 13 has been so overused and overplayed that it has become cliched, but if we stop and take a hard look at what Paul is saying, it’s astounding.

Paul writes that love is the foundation of patience, kindness, and faithfulness. He says that without love, even the sacrifice of our very lives is meaningless. He tells us that love is enduring and unending.

And this is where we get into trouble, because our imperfect love cannot conquer all. Love that is conditional and based on the response of the one loved is not truly love.

In the book of Hosea we catch a glimpse of true love. God calls Hosea to love his wife in spite of her infidelity. He calls Hosea to love Gomer regardless of her actions and the pain she causes him, and God says that Hosea’s marriage is a reflection of the love that God has for His people: love that is not contingent on the actions of the other but that exists unconditionally.

And on the cross we see just how far God’s unconditional love goes.

This week as I’ve sought to live a life of love, I have found myself incapable and inadequate, but I have also seen God answer my inadequacy and found that when I press into Him, I am able to begin to reflect His love to those around me.

Fruit of the Spirit Challenge: Love, Day 1

It’s amazing how a little bit of focus can change your perspective.

I woke up this morning thinking about beginning this nine week challenge and what it means to love, and within three hours of starting my day (which started at 0530) I had noticed more about the people around me than I usually notice in a week.

From the prostitutes standing on the corner eight blocks from my house to the wounded warriors racing in a marathon with a hand cycle, I started to see people through different eyes this morning.

I evaluate people based on how they relate to me. The Starbucks barista rings me up quickly, so I like her. The driver in front of me is slow, so he is probably a person of low moral character. That guy over there has no impact on my life, so I don’t give him a second thought.

But today I tried to take a different perspective..  I found myself feeling the pain of working the corner all night to make a few dollars; feeling the horror of losing comrades, loved ones, and limbs in combat; wondering if guy cleaning the plaza feels like he's stuck in a dead-end job.

On the cross Jesus identified with us, took on our sin, suffering, and pain.  Romans 5:10 tells us that while we were still God’s enemies, Christ died for us.

If God viewed us with compassion and love in the midst of our outright rebellion against Him, perhaps that is how I need to view others in the midst of my “busy schedule” and minor annoyances.

Perhaps that is where love begins.

 

Love Those You Lead

Leadership Lesson #1: Love those you lead.

If you’re going to lead people, before you do anything else, you need to love them.  If your love for them isn’t first and foremost in your leadership of them, then people will simply become tools for your success instead of individuals created in the image of and loved by God.

If love is not at the foundation of your leadership, then you will care more about accomplishing objectives and getting the job done than the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health of those you are leading.  And in God’s economy, if people are hurting because you as a leader have failed to serve them, then you’re failing, no matter how much it looks like you’re accomplishing.

Something I’ve been striving to do with my team is to let them know they’re cared for.  Perhaps I’ve even erred too much on the side of caring for the person instead of accomplishing the mission, but I would hope that no one on my team would feel unloved.

Love doesn’t mean you’re ineffective or don’t set and achieve goals.  Love doesn’t mean you don’t have hard conversations, but it does mean that you’re more concerned about the person than the position, you lead with grace, and you value your team as people rather than a pathway to success.

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National Community Church – The Elephant in the Church – The Unchristian Elephant – Joel Schmidgall

Date: 10/25/2008 – Disclaimer

John Stuart Mill has an essay entitled “On Liberty” in which he explains how words lose their meaning. He says that the best example is Christians. Christians say beautiful things but don’t believe them.

I say these things:

  • It’s better to give than receive
  • Love your neighbor as yourself
  • If someone asks you to go one mile, go with them two
  • Judge not, lest you be judged
  • Pure religion is taking care of widows and orphans

I do these things:

  • I give more than I receive
  • I love my neighbor like myself
  • I go beyond what people ask of me
  • I don’t judge others
  • I take care of widows and orphans

There’s a huge discrepancy between what we say and how we act. You know what the word for that is, hypocrisy.

We see Christ’s calling, and then we see the way that they act.

84% of young people say they know a Christian. 15% of those people say that they Christians act any differently
49% of young people have a negative perception of Christians.
Among young people, negative perception of Christians is three times larger than it was a decade ago.
Judgment, hypocritical, political party, anti-homosexual, boring, and confusing are the words used to describe Christians
Love respect, trust, and hope are used very infrequently in regards to Christians

Do we act like Jesus or do we live it in our heads and go out and live a different set of principles?

Modern day Christian behavior seems decidedly unchristian. There’s a difference between the Scripture, between the red letters in the Bible and the way we live out our lives.

I love the Church. I am a product of the Church. Many of the examples in my life come out of the Church. The Church is the Bride of Christ.

The same people that ran towards Jesus in the Bible often run away from Christians.
God came to earth as Jesus to bring salvation, experience our suffering and pain, pay the price for our sins, and became our high priest and mediator before God.
I went to Thailand a week and a half ago and prayed, “God, break my heart.” It came out of my mouth. I hadn’t intended to pray it, but it stuck with me. When was the last time I prayed that, “God, break my heart as yours broke.” The incarnation is God coming as man to bring us salvation, deliverance and healing. Yet a lot of times we just ignore the heart of God. I’m not talking about pity or guilt or sadness. I’m talking about a deep penetration within our hearts, a deep understanding, about how God sees the need in the world around us.
These realities don’t scare me. They make me sad, give me anxiety, but they don’t scare me because we have a message of hope. I believe God has called us to step into the power he has so beautifully laid out for us. What if the Church began to care about the things that God cares about, to care for the poor, for the widows and orphans, not to judge but to love.
We talked about A1:8 a couple of months ago. It’s about stepping out and doing, about “we will.” One of my favorite moments about the trip to Thailand that we just returned from. We had gone out and talked to girls in the bars and invited them to church, and on Sunday night I was speaking and three of them came. We had them stand up and honored them and welcomed them. We will care for the needs of those around us. A1:8 is about taking “what if” to “we will.”
When you step out and make yourself available to God, God will challenge you.
Change of place, plus change of pace, equals change of perspective and priorities.

I’m preaching to myself today. I’m glad you all could be hear, but my heart is being purged because of all of the stuff I’ve built up in here. I need God to shake me up.

A good summary of the work of Christ – Luke 4:18-19 – The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor…
Do any of these words cross your heart or mind on a regular basis?

Jesus said that he came to serve, not to be served, to give his life as a ransom for many.

This is the secret of what we’re talking about today. We’re not talking about an image problem. We’re talking about an action problem. We don’t need to get excited about an issue. We need to get excited about Jesus Christ. He will lead us to the people we need to serve. Jesus leads us to those places.

We talked about going to Thailand here, but we didn’t really understand. Then we got there and heard about it second hand. Then we saw it first hand and were disgusted by what we saw. The first night we went out we were overwhelmed. I was overcome by a myriad of emotions, anger, disgust. I believed it before, but I don’t think I really believed it until I saw it.

John 4 – Jesus hangs out with the Samaritan woman at the well. These are people who don’t hang out. Samaritans didn’t hang out with Jews, but Jesus wasn’t worried about perceptions or categories.

Our days and nights in Thailand were strikingly different. We saw these bright, shining faces during the day, and at night we went out into a place with neon signs where girls were traded as commodities, where they don’t have nametags but numbers. In one bar you could throw a ping-pong ball at the girl you want. Girls were treated as objects. It was disgusting.

There was a moment where we were sitting on the second floor of a bar drinking a coke. I looked in the face of one of the girls and it hit me; this is the girl at the well. God gave me his viewpoint. He said that behind all of that stuff, she is not a number. She is a name. She is a daughter of the living God, created in my image. She’s not number 8. Her name is Em.

Isaiah 43 – For I have called you by name, and I love you. And I care about you, and you’re better than this. And I want to wrap my arms around you and take you out of this, take you out of this environment.

Let me ask you a question today, does your heart break as God’s heart break? When you see suffering does your heart break? Or is the world right about us. God help us. Lord help me.

What personal sacrifices are you making, what family sacrifices are you making for the Kingdom of God, for the thing that God deeply cares about. Do the things of the Kingdom of God captivate my heart. I’m talking about me, and don’t you dare think that this message is for the person next to you. It’s not. This is more than giving a few bucks or giving some money. It’s more than a donation.

Are you willing to allow your life to be turned upside down? Are you willing to give everything you’ve got?

The elephant in the Church today is that Christ followers forget to follow Christ. We have Godliness in form but not in feature. It’s on the exterior, and we’ve been called to the carpet by the world.

I’ve looked the lost in the eye this week, and do you know who the lost is? It’s a good sweethearted girl who is broken, who needs someone to speak into her life.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer: An authentic church is one that lives for others.

Jesus said to share the living water.

John 4:28 – Leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and told people to come and meet Jesus. Jesus didn’t try to save a town. He tried to save one girl.

Destiny is what God chose for you.