Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Being Loved and Giving Love

John 13:34

 “As I have loved you.”  John 13:34a

Lesson One:         I must accept that I am  unconditionally loved and fully accepted by God.

1.      We are freed from comparing ourselves to one another.

·         Make a true appraisal of self.  We identify, accept, and embrace who we are called to be.

·         We can be who we are rejecting envy and jealousy of others.  Another person’s gifts are then not a threat to us.  Others’ gifts don’t diminish or threaten us but complement us.

·         Freed from competition.  We don’t have to outdo others.  We can genuinely celebrate the accomplishments of others without fear of their achievement diminishing us.

·         We are freed from the bondage of comparing others to ourselves or using ourselves or our service as a standard of measurement (2 Cor. 10:12).

2.      We are freed from artificial standards of excellence.

·         We are called to excellence based not on competition but on being true to ourselves and our own potential.  Frees us to exercise our gifts and talents without fear of failure.  Failure is just part of the learning process; it should not defeat us.

·         We are free to accept our limitations.  We can accept with grace and humility the things that we do not do well – our areas of non-strength.

·         Emotional freedom from two things: an inflated head when praised and a crushed spirit when criticized.  (Martin Luther King)  We can receive both with grace. 

3.      We are freed from the burden of pleasing everyone.

·         Freed from the burden of needing to be liked by all or trying to please everyone.

·         It is not possible.  To try to do is unrealistic and creates an integrity problem.

    • If we make it our goal to please everyone, we will at some point stop pleasing God (Galations 1:10; Acts 5:29)

4.      We are freed from urgency and the tyranny of time.

·         Freed from the oppressive burden of trying to get as much done as possible all of the time, from trying to do too much or work merely to try to legitimize ourselves or show or prove our worth. 

·         We are freed to enjoy times of leisure, play, and worship without worrying that we should be accomplishing something.  We can trust God and do the next thing.

·         Frees us from the burden of a perpetual sense of the tyranny of the urgent.  It frees us to give ourselves regularly to the important things of life – not just the seemingly urgent.

5.      We are freed to love others (Ro. 12:3,9).

·         We can only love others, without hypocrisy, when we accept and embrace who we are.  Any other posture is burdensome; it cannot lead to genuine love.

·         Sometimes our generosity is misguided and love for others is offered out of a busy and hectic spirit rather than grace and joy (2 Cor. 9:7).

·         Sometimes we are caught up in the desire to be loved, hoping that everyone will like us. 

·         Joy comes when we are freed from artificiality  - the burden of trying to impress others.  Embrace authenticity, genuineness, and truthfulness.  Freed from the burden of pretense.

We are to work for the purity of the visible church.  We must recognize that this is a process and that any church will be somewhat impure in various areas.  There were no perfect churches in the NT and there will be no perfect churches until Christ returns.  This means that Christians have no obligation to seek the purest church they can find and stay there and then leave when an even purer church comes to their attention.  Rather, they should find a true church in which they can have effective ministry and in which they will experience Christian growth as well, and then should stay there and minister, continually working for the purity of that church.  God will often bless their prayers and faithful witness and the church will gradually grow in many areas of purity.  – Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

“So "you must love one another.”  John 13:34b

Lesson Two:               We must love the church.

1.   Show practical love to each other.

·         Serve one another (Gal. 5:13).

·         Love your neighbor as yourself (Gal. 5:14).

·         Stop biting and devouring each other (Gal. 5:16).

·         Gently restore each other (Gal. 6:1).

·         Carry each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2).

·         Do good things to each other (Gal. 6:10).

·         Love one another deeply (1 Pe. 1:22).

·         Show compassion, sympathy, and humility (1 Pe. 3:8).

·         Cover each other’s sins (1 Pe. 4:8).

·         Offer hospitality without grumbling (1 Pe. 4:9).

2.   Seek peace and unity within the congregation.

·         Rejoice and mourn with each other (Ro. 12:16).

·         Clothe yourself with love (Col. 3:12-14).

·         Bear with each other (Col. 3:13).

·         Forgive each other (Col. 3:13).

·         Make every effort for peace and mutual edification (Ro. 14:19).

·         Don’t quarrel and act in the flesh toward each other (2 Cor. 12:20).

·         Become a peacemaker (James 3:18).

·         Show respect to each other (1 Pe. 2:17).

·         Get over yourself (Philippians 2:3).

·         Look to other people’s interests (Ph. 2:4).

·         Become an encourager (He. 3:13) and thus build up the church (1 Cor. 14:12).

3.   Show respect to the pastor-elders and leaders of the church.

·         Regard them as servants of Christ (1 Cor. 4:1).

·         They are worthy of double honor, respect, and support (1 Tim. 5:17-18).

·         Don’t entertain accusations or slander about them without 2-3 witnesses (1 Tim. 5:19).

·         Imitate their life and faith (He. 13:7).

·         Receive them with joy as grace-gifts from Jesus to the church (Eph. 4:7-13; Ph. 2:29).

·         Pray for them regularly (Eph. 6:18-20; Col. 4:3-4; He. 13:18-19).

·         Submit to their shepherd-leadership (He. 13:17).

·         Make their work a joy, not a burden, for that would be no advantage to you (He. 13:17).

Source Used:  Courage and Calling by Gordon Smith

Marks of a Consistent Life of Faith

Jeremiah 42

Jeremiah – prophet to God’s people; a consistent, though rejected, voice for God

Gedaliah – governor of the land appointed by Babylon; friend to Jeremiah and murdered by Ishmael

Johanan – captain of the Jew’s army; took all of the remaining Jews to Egypt

Jeremiah teaches us that in a life marked by faith . . .

1.      We need to seek the Lord’s guidance for matters in our lives (1-3).

2.      We need to pray for other people (4).

3.      We need to develop a habit of listening to the Lord (4).

4.      We must speak the truth to others, even when it is difficult (4,9-12ff).

5.      Our goal must be to please the Lord more than people (4ff).

6.      We must adopt an attitude of obedience before God’s will is revealed (5-6).

7.      We must be willing to wait on the Lord’s guidance (7).

8.      God’s direction requires us to trust Him (10-12).

In judged Jerusalem it was impossible to confuse material prosperity with God’s blessing.  Social status with God’s favor.  National pride with God’s glory.  Rituals of religion with God’s presence.  The clutter of possessions was gone; the trappings of status gone; the pride of nation gone; the splendor of religion gone.  And God was present.  All the cultural and religious presuppositions that interfered with clearly hearing God’s Word were taken away.  Conditions had never been better for developing a mature community of faith.  Out of the emptiness God would make a new creation.  - Peterson

9.      When God speaks, He challenges us to replace our fears with faith (10-12)

There is nothing more difficult than to live spontaneously, hopefully, virtuously – by faith.  And there was never a time when the external conditions were less conducive to living by faith than in those devastating and bewildering days following the Babylonian invasion.  The temple, the focus for worship for half a millennium, was in rubble.  The ritual, rich in allusion and meaning, was wiped out.  The priestly voices, who had spoken in reassuring tones for decades, were silent.  Out of this traumatic dislocation Jeremiah told the people to set aside their fears and begin a new life of faith.   – Eugene Peterson, Run with the Horses

The clarities of the life of faith develop from within.  They cannot be imposed from without.  They cannot be hurried.  They are organic and personal, not mechanical and institutional.  Faith invades the muddle; it does not eliminate it.  Peace develops in the midst of chaos.  Harmony is achieved slowly, quietly, unobtrusively – like the effects of salt and light.  Such clarities result from a courageous commitment to God, not from controlling or being controlled by others.  Such clarities come from adventuring deep into the mysteries of God’s will and love, not by cautiously managing and moralizing in ways that minimize risk and guarantee self-importance.  These clarities can only be experienced and recognized with the eyes of faith.  - Peterson

10.  Refusing to walk by faith has its own negative consequences (13-18).

11.  The Lord knows our motives (19-21).

Johanan and the people respected Jeremiah enough to ask for his prayers, but they didn’t’ trust God enough to follow His counsel.  They were tired of living by faith.  They decided to go to Egypt.  Fear was one motive.  They didn’t want the risk and hazard of depending on an invisible God.  They didn’t want the hard work of rebuilding a life of faith in God.  They were looking for an easy way out.

Mama G - A Mentor and Friend

I don't write many blogposts; but today I have something to say.

Last Wednesday I heard the news that Alma Galloway, 102 years old, of Clinton, South Carolina, went to be with her Lord.  I experienced the joy of our salvation, the comfort of an old friend, and the sadness of separation at that moment.

One of my college friends, Gene Brooks, posted his own post about Ms. Alma.  I won't rewrite what he has written.  I was very much a part of the 1990's group to which he referred, spent many hours in the Son Room, and remember well the "Him Alone" study. 

One of the most important aspects of my education at Presbyterian College in the early 1990's occurred not at the grand school but in the school's backyard.  From the back of Ms. Alma's house (particularly after the lots behind her house were cleared), you could see onto the backside of PC.  I first began going to her house in the summer of 1992 for occasional Bible studies and prayer times and to see college friends during the summer.  For the next three years, at different intervals, many PC students spent time in that home.  We spent hours and hours in her Son Room, sitting at the feet of Mama G and learning about her Jesus. 

How she loved God's Word.  How she loved her church and pastor.  And how, like Anna in Luke's gospel, she gave herself to intercession and worship.  Her style of simple, direct prayer was very similar to the one taught by Avery Willis, which he called "Conversational Prayer."  The approach of praying as if Jesus is sitting in the room with you, speaking directly to Him (as opposed to making announcements to other people in your prayers).  Simple, direct, sincere.  Praying on the spot.  Asking the Spirit to guide the praying and speak to you as you do.  Believing that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  How I remember the presence of God seeming so thick at times in that prayer room.  It was a refuge for many people, a Bethany, a Bethel.

Through the years I learned to call Ms. Alma to add PC students to her prayer list.  Her normal habit was to wake up early in the morning and sit up in bed, interceding for those on her list for about three hours.  When I left college and attended seminary, I could call her or visit her and she would begin asking me, How is so and so?  I am still praying for him (or her).  She would still be praying for people 1-3 years after I told her. 

Prayer, intercession, and small group ministry have been large facets of my own ministry through the years.  I know that her life and influence made indelible marks on my own approach to such ministries of grace.

It was a joy to share simple meals with her in her kitchen or her porch.  One time she even hosted me and my parents for a very southern supper.  I remember attending her 85th birthday party in the spring of 1995.  When I began pastoring at Cornerstone Baptist Church in Clinton, many a Sunday evening she came with Nell Haggart and sat as close to the front as possible. 

For several years, occasionally I would call her or come and visit her with similar requests.  Mama G, I have met this young woman who is a new Christian and trying to get close to the Lord.  Do you think you could meet with her some and help her?  She was always eager to do so and had a great ministry of mentoring women.  The last time I visited her house was about five years ago.  When I came into the house, instead of the consistent, awaited regular greeting of Hey honey!  Look at you!, she was agitated and not her usual self.  When I told her my usual line about a new woman to disciple, it made her nervous and she said that she could not.  I was not even sure if she knew who I was, and without being told I knew that her mind, that had held so much about the Lord, was fading.  Leaving the house that day I knew that I would never again share the warmth of the Son Room.

A while back I was walking down the hall of Laurens Hospital when I spotted her sitting on the edge of a hospital bed.  I entered the room and visited with her, though she did not recognize me.  She was concerned about finding her shoes, so I joined in and helped her find them!  Though she did not know me, her spirit was warm, affable, and spunky as usual.

I have lived enough as a person and pastor to know that God allows us to enjoy rich gifts in the lives of people, but that those seasons do end and we have to accept that the gift we enjoyed has been released into eternity.  May God be praised.

She was a local woman of God in the likes of a Bertha Smith or Martha Franks.  And I was blessed to know her.  To touch her was to come close to the rustling of the garments of Jesus.