Category Archives: Loving Our Neighbor

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.

 

Compassion in Action

Luke 13:10-17

10 One Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in a Jewish meeting place, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by an evil spirit for eighteen years. She was completely bent over and could not straighten up. 12 When Jesus saw the woman, he called her over and said, “You are now well.” 13 He placed his hands on her, and right away she stood up straight and praised God.

14 The man in charge of the meeting place was angry because Jesus had healed someone on the Sabbath. So he said to the people, “Each week has six days when we can work. Come and be healed on one of those days, but not on the Sabbath.”

15 The Lord replied, “Are you trying to fool someone? Won’t any one of you untie your ox or donkey and lead it out to drink on a Sabbath? 16 This woman belongs to the family of Abraham, but Satan has kept her bound for eighteen years. Isn’t it right to set her free on the Sabbath?” 17 Jesus’ words made his enemies ashamed. But everyone else in the crowd was happy about the wonderful things he was doing.

This passage is familiar, particularly with the emphasis that Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath.  As I see it, this was the first part of the indictment.  It speaks to the rigidity the leaders held and enforced concerning the Law.

The Law was never meant to override the needs of people.  Jesus made this point clear, when He said, “Won’t any of you untie your ox or donkey and lead it out to drink on a Sabbath?”

It’s like, let’s be real…you are able to take care of your animals on the Sabbath, but a woman gets healed and you have a fit because she was healed on the Sabbath.

Really?

They seemed to forget about all those provisional things for people that were also clearly mentioned in the scriptures.  It was the Pharisees who decided all that extra stuff.  They had over two thousand rules in order to obey the Law and much of it was not based on scripture.

Wow.  Sounds a lot like what we hear from much of the Church, these days.

Right after He basically tells them that they treat livestock better than people, He points out two things.  First, He says, “This woman belongs to the family of Abraham…”.  In other words, “Boys, she is one of your own.”  He was showing them that they can’t even take care of one of their own (much less, anyone else) because of their sense of the Law.

He continued, “…but Satan has kept her bound for eighteen years.  Isn’t it right to set her free on the Sabbath?”

womansetfreeSet. Her. Free.

For eighteen years she suffered this affliction.  It bound her.  She was limited. Uncomfortable. Likely, in some pain, too.  She was not free.  Jesus set her free.

Imagine, being her.  No running.  No leisurely strolls. In pain. Being considered as “less than”, or at least, feeling that way.  For 18 years.

No one really knows what caused her problem.  This is probably the reason she was said to have been “crippled by an evil spirit”.  Was it stress?  Depression?  Hopelessness?  All of those?  It may have been an injury, but my speculation is that her malady was due to an attack on her soul.  The father of lies got to her.

Jesus saw the woman and called her over.  She was just there, bent over and probably uncomfortable.  He was not about to wait for her to ask.  As usual, He had compassion. He saw her in her misery, unable to stand straight.  He calls her over, places His hands on her as He says, “You are now well.”

This had some impact.  The “enemies” were ashamed because…

  • Jesus showed the compassion that they would not
  • Jesus pointed out they had eighteen years to show some compassion
  • He pointed out that they would take better care of their animals on the Sabbath than they did people.

1 John 3:17 (NLT)  If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion–how can God’s love be in that person?

Let’s forget the financial reference here, for a minute.  Let’s consider the point.  If there is something we have or are able to do and we overlook or bypass someone who has a need we can fill, we might lack compassion.

Compassion.  To “suffer with”.  Empathy.  When religious dictates rule over the needs of people, empathy and compassion go right out the window.  This was never God’s intention or plan and Jesus demonstrated compassion.

I don’t know about you, but I would like to move forward with compassion.  If I have the ability to do something and come across someone that has a need, I want to be one of those who extends a hand of compassion and love.

When people reach out a hand…are we willing to reach and pull them up?

 

 

 

 

 

Ministry Vs. Invitations

Every church, it seems, has some sort of an “outreach” program.  From what I have observed, there are two main ideas of what “outreach” is.

joinusThe lesser version is where the target of outreach is a getting people into a church. Whatever the specific program, the idea is to add numbers to their gathering.  Most think this is good ministry and what they are doing is spreading the Gospel.  While most involved are genuine, they are missing the fact that what they are doing is attracting people to their church.

When Jesus said, “Go, therefore…”, there was no indication of any instruction that included inviting people to be among their number.  There was a commission to preach the Gospel.

Jesus demonstrated what it is to minister to people.  Of course, minister = serve. He taught, healed and He had the disciples distribute food (that He multiplied) to thousands. Very few of these people became part of the crowd that followed Him.  Yet, He never selected, segregated, cast away, shunned or denied anyone healing or a meal.

For some reason, we feel that if someone does not want anything to do with us or the message we are shoving down their throats, we may feel justified in having nothing to do with them anymore.

‘Tis ignominious thinking, there.

Stop inviting them to church!

Before you go to your corner and ponder whether you have sinned by reading my post, let me clear this up.  What I mean, here, is that we should not make outreach into a recruiting expedition.

We were never called to bring people to church.  We were never called to threaten people with Hell if they don’t yield to the message we are planting in their faces.  I fail to see how this is spreading “good news”.

What is “outreach”, anyway?  To be clear, you won’t find that word in the Bible.  We just added that one to our lingo, some time ago.  Basically, outreach is reaching beyond – so, it is not a mistaken word to add.  We should “reach beyond”.  This is what love would do.

It also means to – now, don’t be offset by the massive difficulty of this definition – to reach out.

But, as much as we use the word, outreach, we have allowed it to morph into something lesser.  It becomes less about ministering to people and more about marketing the local church.  We seem to want to reach out as long as we can pull them in.

Love does not pull.  Love draws.  Drawing is not manipulating or convincing…it happens more organically.  We cannot force it or manufacture it.  It is not our love that draws.  It is not us who draw.  Jesus draws.  It is His love, through us.handreach

We do have some effort on our part. If we are going to reach out, our efforts should be the same ones Jesus put forth.  Take care of people.

Feed, clothe and house the poor.

Welcome and love the disenfranchised.

Protect the weak from predators.

Serve the “less-than’s”.  Don’t let pride get in the way.

Make donations to or serve local food pantries or soup kitchens.

Raise money to help someone who has fallen behind, financially (unless you are loaded, then unlock that purse).

Have a shoulder available.  Sometimes people just need to vent to a non-judgmental ear.

If able, open home to someone who needs a home (teen having a tough time at home, pregnant teen, someone needing financial relief).  This has to be a well considered commitment – it can be a disturbance and upset to the household (we did this for a young woman and there were adjustments, but it was worth it.  Might tell that story, eventually).

Don’t forget, home first.

We also read to love others, especially those of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10).  While outreach is how we show our love to others, we must never forget loving one another. How we interact and take care of each other keeps us all going so we can feel free to reach out to the rest of the world.  Plus, people see how we treat each other and that speaks volumes. So, if a brother needs a “leg up”, another brother, who is able, should give him that boost.

Let’s be reminded…Jesus gave a new commandment…love one another.

Wear their shoes.

When Jesus saw the crowds, even when He was exhausted, He had “compassion on them” (Matt. 9, Mark 6).  To have compassion is to suffer with.  Let’s also consider, sympathy and empathy.  Jesus put Himself in their place…He felt their anguish, pain, anxiety and stress. He knew their loneliness, their shortfalls and their illnesses.  Rather than being all about our own agenda, we should listen to Him and allow Him to show us what He sees.

I, like many others, have been on the  receiving end of compassion as well as ignorance. There were times when I and my family needed some help and someone was there, without any of us asking.  Other times, I stood in “prayer circles”, explaining my trials during unemployment and was basically ignored, other than being prayed for.

The latter issue is huge.  There is too much “God bless you, be warmed and filled.”, which shows no love or compassion.  Too often, people of financial means essentially ignore the plight of a person in their lives who needs a boost.  No…just because someone has money should they dole it out to every struggling soul.  But, if someone has the means…well, John stated it well in 1 John 3…

16 By this we know [and have come to understand the depth and essence of His precious] love: that He [willingly] laid down His life for us [because He loved us]. And we ought to lay down our lives for the believers. 17 But whoever has the [a]world’s goods (adequate resources), and sees his brother in need, but has no compassion for him, how does the love of God live in him? 18 Little children (believers, dear ones), let us not love [merely in theory] with word or with tongue [giving lip service to compassion], but in action and in truth [in practice and in sincerity, because practical acts of love are more than words]. (Amplified)

Less inviting.  More ministering.

Less preaching.  More serving.

Less apathy.  More compassion.

Less judgment.  More love.

I am no better at this.  I speak to myself, as well.  This year, I am praying to see what my hands can do.  I am tired of the same old – same old.  I feel it is time to rise up and be Jesus to people (especially in the current. political and “evangelical” climate).  For me, I am seeking just how that will go.  For now, I do what I can as opportunity is presented.

Let’s all seek ways to be Jesus to people.

 

 

 

Tagged ,

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

 

 

 

Tagged , , ,

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.

740739_10152402552320224_2073004953_o

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.

Tagged , , ,

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.

 

 

Others, Before Me…Part 2

Someone once called me a “kind man” because I handled a vendor (who had made a mistake) without raising my voice or berating him. I was being nice, but I think that being kind has just a bit more to it than being nice.  Anyone can be nice – some can even pull of a facade of niceness in order to manipulate others.  To be kind, however, takes real action and that would derive from goodwill.

Being nice is just a matter of pleasantness, gentle speech, gentle behavior and such. Anyone can be nice or even fake niceness.

To be kind, as per Greek defining, is full of service to others.

loveiskind 

Paul’s #2 hit in the ubiquitous love chapter is that love is kind.

This is more than just a nice thing.  This is action.  Love in action.

Love is action.

I love that definition…full of service to others.

Service.  To.  Others.helpinghand

Jesus told the questioning Pharisees that of all the Laws, the greatest included loving our neighbors.  Then, His New Commandment was to love one another.

Others.  Our neighbors (people, at large) and one another (fellow believers).

Love. Is.  Kind.

Action.  Serving others.

Serving.  It is not about self.

Jesus was quoted in Matthew and Mark, “The son of man did not come to be served, but to serve…”.  Jesus was totally kind.  He fed, He healed, He taught – He even washed the nasty feet of all those guys.  He never had prerequisites or conditions, except to be present and willing to receive.

Today, we hear of “random acts of kindness”.  I believe that, in the economy of love, kindness is active and it should be specific and deliberate.  No offense to the aforementioned statement, but I just think we should be more deliberate and targeted when it comes to serving others.

We live in a lost and hurting world.  Sure, you are now thinking, “Thank you, Capt. Obvious.”.  But, the best way to reach people is by actively serving them.  And, we should do it strictly to bless them…not just to “win them over”.

Kindness is a major outward expression of love.  In its true form, it does not come with an agenda, does not have any requirements of the receivers either before or after serving them and should be done without compulsion.  It is to be done from the heart and without condition.

Mother Theresa was kind.  That guy waiting in line who pays for the struggling mother’s groceries is kind. Feeding the homeless…kindness.  Lending a confident ear…kindness. Free tutoring for a less privileged kid…this is kind.

Love is kind.

Yet another item orbiting around the nucleus of love.

 

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,