Category Archives: 1 Corinthians 13

Seeking Approval From Ghosts

About a couple of years ago, I read the book, I’m Proud of You: My Friendship With Fred Rogers, by Tim Madigan. Mr. Madigan is a journalist who spent time interviewing the famed Mr. Rogers and found a friend in him. I highly recommend this book, if you want to read something that makes you reach for a tissue.

Within the book, through the friendship with Mr. Rogers, Tim was discovered a need for a certain level of approval. Mr. Rogers, being the kind of person he was, saw this and began to end his responses with, “IPOY”…which stands for, I’m proud of you.

Personally Speaking

My father was, by all accounts, a pretty decent guy.  He was pleasant, well liked and seemingly content most of the time.  There were issues, however, that kept him from being part of the household on a consistent basis.  So, from a young age, I remember my father either working long hours, or making a stop at a “local watering hole” before he came home. I don’t think he meant to be distant, but it did end up that way.

By the time I was nearly eleven, he had a massive stroke that left him in nursing care for the remainder of his life.  The man I barely knew had permanent short-term memory loss, so he needed 24 hour care.  He was not the same man, really.  In the long run, I never really got to know him.

Years later, as an adult, I unwittingly began seeking approval from others.  Men in authority, such as pastors or other leaders who would have been some level of paternal figure. It was not really a desperate thing, but it seemed to be a subconscious necessity.  It took me many years into my adulthood before I realized that I was seeking someone’s approval.

However, we are always approved.

Unconditionally, undeniably, unashamedly, unconditionally…with no regret, no reservations and without doubt…God approves of us.  No, not everything we do.

Everything we are.

His beloved children.  This is why Jesus went to anyone, from any walk of life, with any ailment, no matter their station in life, how they lived, smelled or looked…He would treat them with love and respect, placing a loving arm around them, covering what others would bring as exposed shame.

He never said He approved of what someone was doing, but He clearly showed He approved of the person.

He approves of you.

He approves of me.

Showing approval.

We still need approval, here on Earth.  We need to express and show approval.  You know, like when a little kids brings you his brilliant artwork.  Sure, it may look like mud-colored chaos on a piece of warped and water logged paper.  But, as a loving parent, you let them know how great their work is and hang it on the refrigerator for all to see.

One thing I have been trying to be diligent about…letting my two sons and son-in-law know that I am proud of them.  Yes, I let my girls know that, too.  But, I believe the impact of a Dad communicating this to his sons is important.  I don’t want them seeking approval from people who may wind up taking advantage of their efforts.

Once in a while, I will post something on my Facebook page about one or all of my boys, if not all of the kids.  I will explain how they are becoming fine adults, parents and citizens.  I have often closed these with “IPOY”.  When I talk with them, personally, I try to remember to let them know that I am always proud of them.

Story.

This is rather condensed, but I hope my point comes across.

An old friend was explaining to me about some stuff his son would write.  He told me his son has great insights.  However, from a theological standpoint, my friend had disagreements and let his son know what he felt was inaccurate.  Upon explaining this to me, he said that, perhaps, his son was seeking his Dad’s approval.  So, I just said that he should give his son his approval.

Not long later, he was reviewing another of his son’s articles.  He had some normal critique, but some of his critique was about to become rather, well, critical.  Under the advice of his wife, he left out those portions and his son’s response was very positive.  My friend actually sees a turnaround in his relationship with his son.

Dad’s approval for his sons means much. Mom’s approval for her girls means much. Parents approval for our children means much.  Grandparents approval for our grandchildren means much.  We may not agree with everything, we may have to correct or show the correct way.  But, we should always approve of them.

 

Approval comes from love.

Love says my desires are less important than others’ well being.  Love says my knowledge is less important than someone else’s effort.  Love says that my being right is less important than supporting someone going through a tough spot.  Love says that my agenda should be set aside for the betterment of someone else.

The ghost is gone.

There is no end to searching for approval from someone who is not there or who will never show proper approval.  For whatever reason, I finally came to realize that I was searching and how vain that search was.  God always approves of me and He is a proud father of all of us.

I now know He approves of me.  The ghost his gone.

We are His children and that is all there is to it.

If Jesus were to leave you a note, He might sign it…

IPOY

 

 

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Do Not Support PBA

My wife watches our youngest granddaughter 4 days a week.  The little one is 10 months old and enjoys watching Mother Goose Club.

Over. And over. And over, again.

What the heck, she’s adorable and it is all about her, anyway.

What does this have to do with this “PBA” mentioned in the title?

I will tell you with the story of the Three Little Kittens.  Hearing the several renditions of this old nursery rhyme made both me and my wife consider something about the story.

You know these kittens…the ones who lost their mittens.  The story has to do with PBA. What is this “PBA”?  I will get to that.  Now, let’s remind ourselves of the old story.

Basics of Three Little Kittens

It goes like this…they lost their mittens, mother calls them ‘naughty kittens’ and they are notthreekittens allowed any pie.  I am not sure what kind of pie…looked like some kind of fruit, to me. My cats don’t care for fruit. As for mittens – cats have no thumbs. Maybe they were really baby tube socks.

I digress.

Then, the little kittens find their mittens and their very pleased mother gives them pie. Problem here, is, they wore the mittens while eating the pie.  They, thus, soiled said mittens, which rendered them as ‘naughty kittens’, once again.

Can’t threaten them with no pie…too late for that.

This has a big problem, though…Mom served them the pie. Did she not notice the mittens?  Well, whatever.

The little creeps decided they would wash their mittens.  This pleased Mother Dear, once again.  With that, she noted she smelled a rat nearby.  Okay, now kids.  Don’t wear your mittens while mauling that rat.  It will only start all over again.

By this point, you are wondering what this PBA is all about.  Enough with these ignorant kittens.

PBA is Performance Based Approval.  

Often, people are approved or disapproved based on their performance.  Performance Based Approval is a serious issue within the Church.  How we act, what we say, what we do or don’t do, what we wear, how we talk, etc., etc.  There is more about pleasing others than there is in knowing that the Father is pleased with us.

The Father always approves of us.  While I am pretty sure He is not so thrilled when we act contrary to His design or desire for us, He approves of us.

Parents…don’t you approve of your kids?  Sure, they can be loud, disobedient, wall-coloring, sass-mouthed, fight-picking, booger-eating vermin.  But, really…you totally approve of them.  Not the booger part, just them.  How much more does the Father approve of all of us?

In the Church, people are graded.  How much they serve, what they do, how loudly they praise or how often they raise hands during worship.  How we conduct ourselves determines whether we can head up a ministry or even serve in one, or in some churches, where we get to sit.  Sure, there are things that we need to be wise about concerning certain issues.  But, too many are put into some sort of confines of man-made rules.

Look who Jesus chose as His twelve.  Judas was overly concerned about money, Peter was headstrong and had issues with Gentiles, James and John wanted to one-up each other and there was certainly a good share of argumentative questioning and doubt to go around.  Jesus also ministered to countless people who had nothing to do with Him after they were healed, taught or fed.

He approved of every single one.

Really?  Yes, He did.

Maybe we just need to get over ourselves or get off of our high horses.

God’s approval is not based on our performance.  Why do we demand certain performance in order to approve of anyone?

What this breeds, most often, is behavior modification.  People will act and talk in certain ways around their fellow Christians, whom they want to be approved by.  They can’t be themselves, they can’t have a bad day, they can’t have a hole in their jeans which are frowned upon for wearing in the first place.  They have to sing with a certain amount of apparent excitement, talk like life is one big victory, be sure to give tithes and offerings, have near perfect children, perfect hair and never be late to service.

All to win approval.

No.  This is too much pressure for people.

Love and grace have no performance demands for approval.  Say “No!”, to Performance Based Approval.

In this case, I do not support PBA.

 

Once Upon a Church

churchdoorSome brief church stories.

I have attended a few churches in the past 40 years, from a small Presbyterian congregation in Irvington, NJ, to an Assemblies church in Newport News, VA, to a few here in southern NJ.  It has been the few I have attended in the last 25 plus years that opened my eyes to some very important issues that are serious issues in the Church, at large.

First, let me mention that little church in Irvington.  That was the place the Lord used to get my attention in His direction.  The pastor, Wade, was loving and patient and didn’t judge those to whom he ministered.  I have nothing but great memories of those days and the people I got to know.  Wade, particularly.  For that matter, we are still in touch through social media and he has a blog, here. (The Lazarus Project, The Horizontal Church – Take a peek, if you wish.)

Since Then.

The church that really opened my eyes to some issues was a small congregation from the Cherry Hill, NJ area.  We were part of that one for twenty years.  We were deacons, my wife was on the music team, I ran the sound board, our kids did various stuff. About fifteen of those years were spent under a pastor who became more proprietor than pastor…more of a manipulator than minister.  In the last 5 years we were there, his demanding ways became more rigid and his doctrinal views were questionable, at best.  There are a few brow-raising details…but, to make a long story short, we left that church.

What happened after that was we have been basically shunned.  We left nearly nine years ago, and no one from that church ever has called or emailed to see how we are.  We knew most of those people for twenty years. Our children basically grew up in that church.  One family I knew from north NJ and we go back to the late seventies.  How much have I heard from them?  Nothing.

Now, I know what you are saying.  I could call those folks too.  Well, I did.  One family welcomed my calls and we talk from time to time.  Others, it was rather cold, awkward…as if I had some sort of communicable disease or something.  Even the couple I knew from forty years ago has had nothing to do with us.

Shunned.

Then…

We attended a rather large church for a couple of years.  It was a bit of a drive, but worth the trip.  Met some great people, there.  Unfortunately, we were having transportation issues and decided it more prudent to go to a church closer to home.  We kind of just left. Funny thing was, virtually no one noticed we were gone.  Well, one guy emailed me after about a month and I was able to explain things.  But, I was part of a greeting team and the team leader called me a few months after we had left to ask me to head up the team on Sunday.  I informed him we hadn’t been there in X-amount of time – he had no idea.  That team served once a month and no one on the team noticed my absence.

Forgotten.

Finally…

The church we went to next we only attended for about a year.  I attended a couple of study groups and we got to know a few folks there.  We stopped going.  Not one person wanted to know what happened or where we were.

Unnoticed.

Now, don’t think I am trying to get anyone to feel sorry for me or my family.  No need to. This was not meant as a complaint forum.  Just some brief stories to show that we need to consider something Jesus said.

Love one another.

It seems that we have lost the idea of what it is to love one another.  There is also confusion between loving our neighbors versus loving one another.  To put it simply, our neighbor is pretty much everyone.  One another is those with whom we fellowship as believers.

As I have stated several times, love is putting oneself aside for another.  It is putting another ahead…to consider another more highly than ourselves.  When we shun, overlook or forget someone, unless we have a memory issue, we are basically putting self interest above others.

We say we fellowship.  Do we?  Is fellowship just sitting next to each other while listening to the pastor drone on about stuff?  Is it about those covered dish gatherings?  I think it is more…it is about relating with one another.

Just a thought…one thing we need to be careful of is calling or talking people to “convince” them to stay among the congregation.  That is just a marketing ploy.  What we need to do is love, no matter who they are, where they are or why they may be leaving or thinking of leaving.  We should love one another in spite of viewpoints, quirks, ideals, hobbies, habits…just love one another, period.  Can’t do it?  Pray and ask the Lord to work love through us.

After 20 years…

One would think that, after twenty years, that bonds would have been made.  After raising all of your children with that place and having taken part in all sorts of different aspects and activities, one would think that the bonds would be stronger than the fact that you might leave their midst.  But, when we forget how to love, we place importance on things that are less important than what Jesus told us is.

One another.

To be fair, there is the passage about not to fellowship with those who embrace sin or false teachers.  I will probably approach that one, at another time.

 

 

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They Go Together Like a Horse and Carriage

If we go back to the days of “Married With Children”, we may recall Al and Peg Bundy and how they were not exactly the poster couple for a perfect marriage.  Honestly, they were not a reasonable example of decent humans.  But, that is comedy, slightly exaggerating.

The opening song for the show was Frank Sinatra singing, “Love and marriage, love and marriage..go together like a horse and carriage…”.  Not a bad analogy.  A carriage would just sit there, if not for the efforts of the horse.  Besides, marriage and carriage rhyme, so it works for the song.

Let’s just step back a bit.  Let’s say, forget concentrating on a good or a better marriage. Don’t even worry about the dynamic of the married relationship.  Forget your vows for a moment.

What?!  Have you lost your mind?  Did you wake up on the wrong side of your brain?

No, I assure you, I have a point to make  (No answer for any questions concerning any possible loss of my mind).

Here is the where I am going with this:

“3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4, NIV)weddingrings

If you ask me, this is how love works in a marriage.  I have heard the old 50/50 arrangement, which has been later debunked, showing how we should have a 100/100 arrangement.  That one sounds really great for a marriage.  But, there is a problem with the 100% arrangement.

Can’t do it.  At least, not all the time.  Barely part of the time, some weeks.  We also have to figure, what is 100%?  This could set us up to hold our spouse or ourselves to a standard that is too difficult to attain or maintain.

Now, enters grace.  Being human, screw-ups are going to happen.  Personality quirks will show up.  Off days will happen.  Wrong words will be said.  We need to have grace for ourselves and grace for our spouse.  This is not an excuse to not change…loving your spouse should include changing horrible habits or repenting of other offenses.  However, it also means that if your spouse does not change, you exercise grace and forgiveness.

Some years ago, my wife and I were having a tough time with life and each other. Honestly, she was kinda tough, at the time (turned out it was a hormone-tweaking medication, which when stopped, all was right again) and my reactive temper just made things all the more…lively.  One time, just after a bit of a blow out, our old pastor happened to call.  He could tell I was out of sorts, so I explained that things were heated between my wife and me.  Then he asked me, “What if she never changes?”

That question stuck with me.  What if she never changed? Well, if I love her the way I should, she would remain as my wife and I would have to allow grace to reign over the situation.  I would learn to be patient, kind, etc.  I am glad that she did get back to her old self after getting off the medication, but it was rough for a while, I have to admit.

It took me years later to realize that loving my wife is a matter of giving up myself, in the manner which Christ loved the Church.  When we add percentages of effort, we put expectations on ourselves and our spouse that will become too strenuous.  But, if we take days, moments and situations as they are and respond with love, we are on to something.  When we put the other above ourselves, they receive a value as more than just a spouse, but as a treasured person.

If I may be honest, I still don’t have any of this down pat.  Not even close.  But, I am learning more than I did in years past.  It took me about 28 years of marriage before I was even in the right direction!  By God’s grace, I am getting there as we are closing in on thirty-one years.

What have I learned?  Here are a few things.

  • My way should just take the highway, or at least a detour.  Especially true for men…that word, “submit”, is not all that it has been taught (previously posted this idea in one of the Equality or Equity posts)
  • We need grace for our spouse as much as anyone.
  • We need to make greater efforts toward pleasing our spouse. (this one still has a long way to go, with me.  Oy.).
  • We need to pray about and be sensitive when things are “not right” with the other.
  • We need to be wrong.  Yup.  Humblin’, ain’t it?
  • We should have some basic understanding of what makes the other gender do what they do, think how they think, etc.  I highly recommend Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage, video series, by Mark Gungor (Available through markgungor.com, or you may be able to find it on Ebay or Amazon).

Do percentages really matter?  Honestly, the idea of each partner  contributing 100% into the relationship is more the way it should go.  But, it is not so much seeking for each one to put in their fair share, as it is each one acting in love.  Never mind anything except how you are loving your spouse.  If love is the nucleus, we don’t make our main concern over what we are getting, as what we are giving.

Husbands are reminded in scripture to love their wives.  Why aren’t women reminded to love their husbands?  They don’t have to be.  Women give of themselves rather automatically.  Men tend to charge through life, thinking of our own agendas, demanding our own way in some way or another.  Women tend to their men, the household and the rugrats, while still making time for other relatives and outside activities.  Men, we need to consciously seek ways to bless our wives.  We need to step away from ourselves, our agendas and not be demanding.

Love should always be the nucleus.  Maybe you notice a running theme, in these last few posts.  I am going to hammer at this idea of love, as this is one thing that has taken a back seat in too much of the Church.  I think that, for too long, we have forgotten what love is and how we need to walk in His love.  We often use a word we have no idea what it really means.  We say we love someone, but it may not go past personal fondness or that mushy feeling we get in our gut.  Love is not just the way we feel.  It is what we do…it is about the other person.

 

 

 

 

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Others, Before Me…Part 7

“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Curly

There is little in life that shows love like a pug.

Paul had a great way to list three important things, listing one as “the greatest”, without really diminishing the importance of the others.  In my mind, I think the easiest way to look at this is to start breaking down each of these words…faith, hope and love.

First, I notice that it says these three abide, or in other versions, they remain.  No matter what goes on, who said what, what the law says, how rich or poor we may be…there is still faith, there is still hope and there is still love.  No matter what, they will never be out of style, dysfunctional or illegal.

Now, quickly, let’s take a brief peek at faith and hope.

Faith

In its simplest definition, faith is belief.  However, in my studies, it is not the level of belief which is just mental assent. Faith is belief that is completed by action.  This makes the scripture, “Faith without works, is dead”, make some sense.  Faith can only be complete, or alive, by acting upon it.  And, even then, it is based on what the Lord says – not on what we conjure up and stamp the Lord’s name on.

Hope

One friend of mine put it this way…hope is the emotion of faith.  It has been defined as joyful expectation.  It is not a wish, as we so often use it, like, “Hope to see ya soon”, or, “I sure hope you feel better.”.  Hope is really based on what has been set to happen.  When the woman is expecting, she has hope for a new baby.  When God makes a promise, we have hope in the manifestation of what He promised.

Why Love is the Greatest.

Looking up the word, greatest, in the Greek, it comes out to be…hang on to your seats…greatest.  Didn’t expect that, did ya?  Other than that, the idea of being most important came across.

The beginning of this chapter mentioned how whatever we do, without love, there is useless noise or activity.  Love is the utmost importance.  In 1 John 4, we read, “…God is love.”

We can remember why Jesus came to Earth..”For God so LOVED the world…”

Love is the nucleus of all the stuff…and more…in Chapter 13.  Love should be at the nucleus of all we do.

Love brings us mercy.

Love brings us grace.

Love gives of oneself.  For instance…”Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave HIMSELF up…”.  When the crowds came after a tired and worn Jesus, He stopped and spent time to heal and teach them.  He had compassion on them.

Compassion is borne out of love.

People are built to give and receive love.  In this broken world, there are too many who have been denied love for any manner of reasons.  Who will give them the love they need? Who has enough love to give them?  It should be those of us who know how much God loves us all.

Once we acknowledge and embrace His love for us and rely upon Him to allow His love to work through us, we have an infinite amount of love to share.  Actually, most of us know that love has a bottomless supply.  But, we somehow tend to run out of it…as our patience wears out, as we neglect being kind, start becoming arrogant…you get the picture.

Jesus never did.  Well, as God in the flesh, no wonder.  But, He lives in us, so (humanness notwithstanding) we can love much because He loves much.  he said He would never leave nor forsake and said He would leave The Comforter and we are also told that our bodies are a “temple of the Holy Spirit”.  So, yeah…He lives in us.  His love can shine through.

His love is with no condition.  There is no perfection required.  For that matter, there is no gettin’ nothin’ right required.  We don’t have to change to please Him or get Him to love us more.  We cannot impress Him.

No matter how we dress, speak, look, walk, think, act, make decisions, no matter who we hang out with, what we drive, where we live, where we were born, whether we live in poverty or wealth, if we are good looking or not…we are loved.  All of us.

All of us.  Everyone.  It’s just that not everyone knows it.

We need to be that love.  We need to be Jesus to people.

We don’t need to be the next preaching dynamo or the super spiritually gifted tongue-speaking prophet of the ages.  Without love, all that stuff is, frankly, garbage.  Honestly, I feel there are those who use these gifts on their own steam in order to impress and compel people, to essentially “sell” the Gospel, too often for personal gain. This is not love.

Love seeks to bless others.   Love does not seek its own.  Love puts others before self.   It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

The greatest is love.heart

 

 

 

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Others, Before Me…Part 6

There is one verse that is outstanding, to me, in 1 Corinthians 13…verse 11…

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

The paragraph in which this sentence lies seems to cover a little territory.  I know there are great commentaries covering it, but this once sentence just jumps out at me.  It reminds me of what a person who walks in love is.

Mature.

Not like over 50 mature.  Old…like, well, okay…me.  We may be old, but maturity is not necessarily about age.

I have four grown children and three grandchildren.  Watching the stages of maturity has been a front-row adventure.  One of our grandchildren is 6 months old – and yes, she is totally cute!  We have a grandson who is a year and a half and another granddaughter who just turned 4.  Yeah, they are super cute, too.  At each of their stages, they all have one thing in common.  Their main concern is themselves.

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Our first grandchild, a tad over 4 years ago.  The old guy is me.

As for our grown children, they have mostly grown out of that self thing.  The three who are married now consider their spouses and their children.  They even deny themselves something they want so their families can have what they want or need.  But, when they were the ages of their own children, they were just as self-needy.

There is nothing wrong with that, in a small child.  Our youngest granddaughter can do nothing for her self.  She depends on Mommy and Daddy to feed, change and entertain her. She needs these things and they lavish them upon her.  But, in about 15 or 20 years, she should have grown out of this stage.  Our daughter’s son is a year and a half…he gets around and can entertain himself, but still has his needs he depends on Mommy and Daddy for.  Even our four year old granddaughter has demands for food, entertainment, etc.

Love puts others, first.  Immaturity is about self.  Therefore, it stands to reason, to love without reservation, selflessly and without condition is mature.

One more post to go in this series.  Hope ya’ll ain’t bored, yet.

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Others, Before Me…Part 5

Let’s take a trip back up to the beginning of 1 Corinthians 13…verses 1-3…

“If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

Points I see…

  • Verse 1, whatever comes out of my mouth, no matter how grand or spiritual (sounding), without love it is just harsh, loud noise.noise
  • Verse 2, regardless of all the great feats I can do or are done through me, I am zippo without love.
  • Verse 3, no matter how generous I am or how I wear myself down, I don’t get anything out of it, without love.

As I see it, each and every item here is magnificent.  I mean, we are talking spiritual dynamo, here…tongues, prophecy, moving mountains, extreme generosity…this is like, Christian celebrity-level stuff.  But, all of it is crap (yes, I said it..get over it) without love.

Without love, these things will make self outstanding.  They become useless, as they can become a show, something to appear powerful or more spiritual.  In this state, they reach no one, bless no one, help no one…oh, except for the one doing these things.  Gives them that special chill right down their spine.

Right now, in my head, I picture Dana Carvey’s Saturday Night Live character, the Church Lady. churchlady

Whatever we say, whatever we do, no matter how great or how small, how wonderful or how simple, regardless of what heaven we may have reached or what demons we have fought – if love is not at the center, our efforts are useless.  Love causes these things to serve and bless others, to lift people up, give them life.  After all, love is about setting self aside, blessing others with nothing in return for ourselves.

This was short.  Next one, coming soon.