Archive for the ‘ Wisdom for Today ’ Category

Love Like Jesus Loved

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1 NRSV

MP900399820[1]A week or two ago I was talking to a colleague about ways I could help a student in one of my classes. The response from my colleague was, “Be careful, no good deed goes unpunished.” I had never heard that phrase before. Do good deeds end up being punished?

Good deeds often involve acts of mercy. Merciful acts can be quite loving and beautiful acts of charity. Jesus’ self-sacrificing decision to come to earth, so that we might live, was certainly a great act of mercy.

MP900400146[1]Still, it did not go unpunished. Instead of being welcomed, Jesus found himself the target of religious hatred, and the innocent victim of humankind’s depraved indifference to God. His good deed was punished by death.

Knowing how it would all turn out, did Jesus turn away from God’s calling? Of course not. He continued to follow God faithfully, even to the cross.

The problem is, we are not Jesus. When faced with an opportunity to show mercy, we sometimes shy away from paying the price. We would rather avoid the problems and pain that come with love. We take the road that is less rocky, and less difficult.

Jesus warned against putting our hands to the plow and looking back. For those who would follow Jesus Christ, our call to love must trump the sometimes painful and difficult sacrifices that come with living like Jesus lived. Doing what Jesus asks of us isn’t always the most logical decision, or easiest thing to do. But it is the wise thing!

MP900178883[1]I am not Jesus. But like you I want to become more like him. Why not join me in asking God for the wisdom and grace to love more like Jesus loved, no matter what the consequences may be.

Bridges of Love

But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ… Ephesians 4:15 NRSV

MP900447728[1]In response to a recent posting, one reader left a comment that got me thinking. They pointed out that not only should we speak the truth in love, as Paul tell us, we should use love to build a bridge that is strong enough to bear the weight of the truth we are trying to get across.

The image of building a bridge of love is a powerful one. Bridges allow us to cross otherwise impassable chasms. Bridges support us when there is no ground to stand on. Bridges allow us to make connections that would be otherwise impossible.

The problem with bridges are that some of them are not very sturdy. They may be unable to bear the weight of those who try to cross on them.

MP900442723[1]When we have a truth we want to share to help someone, we better be sure there is a strong enough bridge to bear the weight of that truth. Truth is not always light. It can hit us like a ton of bricks. It may also be difficult to bear. Only when carried across a strong bridge of love, will that truth be able to have the desired impact.

That tells me that I don’t want to just speak truth in love. I want to lay a strong foundation of love, support and understanding. Then, when I am ready to speak the truth, the bridge we travel together will hold us and sustain us until we reach the other side.

FaithJesus did that. He laid a foundation of self-sacrificing love that was so deep and strong that the truth he spoke could be heard, accepted and embraced.

This week, why not build bridges of love, so the truth you witness to draws those who listen to God!

Painful Sacrifice or Loving Opportunity?

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Luke 18:22 NRSV

One of the sadder encounters Jesus had was when a certain ruler asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This man seemed to be a pretty good guy. He had done most everything right. He followed the commandments and lived a godly life. I imagine he just wanted a little encouragement from Jesus. He wanted to be told that he was on the right track, and that he should stay the course.

Jesus did tell him that he was on the right track and done pretty well. But staying the course was not what Jesus wanted. Jesus wanted this rich young ruler to make a major change. He wanted him to use all his wealth to bless the poor and needy.

MP900384779[1]Apparently that was too much to ask. That was more than he was willing to do. That was a sacrifice just too big to make.

I’m sure this ruler must have walked away discouraged. He must have thought about how painful such a sacrifice would be, and how unfair it was that Jesus asked him to do all that.

But Jesus didn’t ask him to make a sacrifice. Jesus asked him to take what he had and to use it to love the unloved and forgotten. Jesus wanted this young man to seize the day, and take hold of a once in a lifetime opportunity. He asked him to do something remarkable that demonstrated what God’s extravagant love could do in a faithful believer’s life.

MP900385339[1]I think if the young ruler could have seen it that way, he might have been more willing to step forward and respond. But he didn’t. He just saw it as a painful sacrifice, decided to hold onto his money, and missed his big chance to stand with Jesus.

The story reminds me of times when opportunities came my way that felt more like painful sacrifices. In those times I remember thinking more about what I had to give up, than what I could do as a co-laborer with Christ. Having to endure discomfort and make some big sacrifices often made me less willing to respond. But in the end, God’s gentle and consistent nudging always remind me of the privilege I have to share in God’s work, and to be a living witness for Jesus Christ.

From those times, I’ve learned that wise people count the cost, but they don’t let the cost keep them from loving God and serving Jesus Christ. They accept the sacrifice, and step forward in faith to seize the opportunities God places before them each and every day!

True Boldness

Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15 NRSV

MP900438373[1]When it comes to speaking with God, the writer of Hebrews urges us to approach God with boldness. Boldness is an interesting attitude. It sometimes goes with arrogance. Arrogant people tend to be more bold, but  their arrogance can blind them to their need for God. Driven people also tend to do bold things. The problem is their drivenness tends to deafen them to God’s call, and distract them from God’s work. Brave people can also be expected to be bold. The only problem is their bravery can cause them to ignore risks, and keep them from counting the cost before they act.

So what kind of boldness are we supposed to have when we approach God’s throne of grace? I think God wants the kind of boldness that comes from a humble heart. That boldness steps forward from a position of submission. That boldness recognizes our many shortcomings, and the great need we have for God’s mercy and help.

I also think God wants a boldness that steps forward in faithful expectation. After all, we go to God because we want help. We believe God has the strength, love and wisdom to step in and provide the grace that meets our needs. We pray because we are bold enough to expect that those who seek will find, and those who asked will be answered!

MP900401980[1]Humility and faithful expectation are two attitudes we can cultivate. Wise people don’t approach God with a bold arrogance, a driven deafness or with reckless bravery. They  approach in grateful humility and faithful expectation.

Go to God today with the kind of boldness that truly seeks God’s mercy and help in times of need.

Building on the Rock

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock…And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” Matthew 7:24, 26 NRSV

MP900447716[1]Jesus made it clear that the wise man builds his house on the rock. The foolish man builds his house on sinking sand.

That’s a great principle, and an awesome truth. I can truly say that I want to be wise, and I certainly want to build my life on the rock, and avoid sinking sand at all costs.

The problem is, knowing exactly what things are solid ground and what things in life are sandy soil. The writer of Proverbs helps us with that. Proverbs 14:15-22 gives a list of contrasting characteristics that define what actions wise and foolish people do. The actions of the wise build lives on solid ground. The actions of the foolish build on sinking sand.

The wise consider their steps.

They exercise caution.

They count the cost before making decisions.

They turn away from evil.

They orient their lives around truth.

They passionately pursue God.

The foolish believe everything.

They throw caution to the wind.

They show no restraint.

They are careless.

The are quick-tempered and impulsive.

They act foolishly.

They fill their mouths with lies.

They plan evil and pursue folly. Proverbs 14:15-22 paraphrased

I want to live like a someone who is wise, as I’m sure you do. These are simple reminders of what we all need to do to continue building lives that are both rock solid and pleasing to God!

Kings & Kingdoms

Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. Psalm 145:13 NRSV

MP900443670[1]Just take a quick glance at world events and notice how quickly things are changing. Every day we hear about protests, intensifying struggles between governments and regional instability. I think it’s safe to say that in today’s world kings come and go, and kingdoms rise and fall.

Of course today is no different from any other time in history. The past is a repeating story of emerging empires, revolutionary movements and the rise of new civilizations. The problem is that every new wave that comes, eventually goes. Every uprising is followed by some kind of downfall.

That’s why I put my faith in, and pledge my allegiance to, God’s kingdom. God rules over all God has created. Christ is King of heaven and earth. All of history is moving to the culmination of God’s plan.

These are the facts. Nothing can change God’s purposes. No king or kingdom can challenge Christ’s authority. No one can overthrow God’s rule.

MP900438577[1]While we watch the rise and fall of kings and kingdoms, we would be wise to entrust our days, and affix our destinies to the King of kings and Lord of lords. He rules over all. His kingdom has no end!

All who truly trust the King of kings can find great hope and peace, even in the midst of constantly changing times!

A Man of Authority

“For I also am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and the slave does it.” When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” Luke 7:8-9 NRSV

MC900410935The stories of Jesus’ miracles bring hope and encouragement to many of us. When we read what he did, it opens our minds to what he can do in and through us.

But when I read the miracle stories, I don’t just want to be reminded of Jesus’ love and power, I want to learn from the mindset of those he healed. What was it they were thinking that encouraged them to go to Jesus? What kind of faith did they have? What was their response to our Lord?

One of my favorite miracles was the healing of the Centurion’s servant (Luke 7:1-10). As healings go, this was pretty typical. The really memorable part is the attitude the centurion had toward Jesus, and Jesus’ response to that attitude.

U.S. Army First Sergeant Epaulet --- Image by © Royalty-Free/CorbisThis Roman centurion was wise enough to realize the extent of a person’s power and ability depend, at least in part, on that person’s authority. Centurion’s had the power to make a soldier do whatever they commanded, because the centurion had authority over that solider. That means the power Jesus had to heal and perform miracles was related to his authority.

What the healings and miracles Jesus performed revealed was that his authority extended far beyond any Roman commander, far beyond any Jewish elder, far beyond any government official, and far beyond the authority of anyone else who had ever lived. Jesus’ power revealed he had authority over disease, over demonic forces, and even over death itself. With that kind of authority, Jesus had the power to do anything!

This centurion understood the connection between authority and power. Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s insight and show of faith. But really, how hard is it to believe that Jesus could do a miracle, if you understand who Jesus is and the authority he has? Maybe the problem many of us have is not a lack of faith, but lack of fully appreciating the authority Jesus actually has, and what that means to those who love and serve him.

The most foolish people I know think they are something they are not. This centurion knew who he was, and knew the limits of his own authority. He also recognized the reach of Jesus’ authority. That recognition opened the way for Jesus to do a miracle in his life!

Laughing Man Head and ShouldersI know what I can do and what I can’t. I want to be as wise as this centurion and recognize the authority Jesus has. Then I know Jesus’ power will be able to work more fully in and through my life.