Thursday, December 16, 2010

Without Expectations

We all know that Love is good and we all want Love. But how does a person actually give Love? Fortunately, Jesus not only told us to Love, but also shows us how to Love.

This is a subject that I have given much thought over the past few months. It is the reason for this blog. I have gone through a lot of big transitions in my life this year that have forced me to reevaluate how I live and how I (fail to) give love to others every day. As we come upon a new year, I want to be sure that I have a full understanding of what Jesus said is the most important commandment: to give love.

This year I left a seven year long relationship. It was difficult. I had hard nights, and sometimes I had hard nights with hard liquor. But despite being difficult, it was one of the best decisions I have made in my life.

See, just before breaking up with this girl, I had been thinking about proposing to her. I had a ring picked out and I was even brainstorming how I was going to pop the question. But as college graduation crept closer and I thought about what the rest of my life would be like, I started to realize that continuing a relationship with this girl was not what I wanted. But why?

Why? I mean, I was with her for so long already, right? You can't be with somebody for that long unless you really love them...right?

But love is not based on how long you have been with a person. It is not based on how much fun you have with a person. It is not based on your sexual attraction or chemistry or fireworks or romantic feelings. Love is not a feeling! I am going to say that again because the biggest misnomer in our culture claims that the opposite is true. LOVE IS NOT A FEELING!

I ended my relationship with the girl I planned to marry because I realized that I did not love her. I had all the other things: feelings, attraction, fun experiences, etc. But I was not giving her love.

How do we love then? How could I go seven years through a relationship without loving someone? Don't get me wrong, there were occasions when I loved this woman! It just wasn't my main focus in our relationship. Our relationship, for me (and most likely for her as well for that matter), was based on what I could get out of it. I was with this woman because of how she made me feel. I was willing to commit to her because I wanted to keep her around to make myself feel good. I gave her my love with the expectation that she would give something back to me in return. But real love has no expectations.

Which brings me to my main point. I have been single now for several months. It is the first time that I have been single as an adult. It is an experience that has taught me so much about love, emotions, sexuality, and marriage and what those things mean in the context of living as a Christian. My most recent lesson is that REAL LOVE HAS NO EXPECTATIONS.

See, I recently met a girl. A very attractive girl. At first I wasn't that interested in her, because I know that there are attractive girls all around the world. Plenty of fish in the sea, blah, blah, blah... Besides, one of the first lessons I learned about love this year is that love is not based on physical attraction. But the more time that I spend with this person, the more interested I become in her. I have fun whenever she is around, she is caring to her friends, she loves her family, and she seems to have a healthy relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything a Christian man could ask for! Only one problem... she doesn't exactly express the same interest in me that I have in her.

At first I was okay with it. Actually, due to circumstances in my life right now, I'm not looking to get into a serious relationship with anyone anyway. There is a chance that in the near future I could be going overseas for two years, and I don't want to put anyone through the agony of having to make the choice to wait for me to return. But like I said, the more time I am around this person, the more interested I become!

So I came up with a plan. It was when I was listening to Stevie Wonder and Diana Ross sing 'I'm gonna make you love me'. By the way, never base your decisions off of love songs. Bad idea. Oh, what was my plan you ask? I just said it! I decided that I would do everything for this girl that girls want men to do for them. I was going to make her love me. Luckily I thought about this before putting my plan into action and realized that this would be really stupid. Love can't be taken! It can be received, but never taken forcefully from someone. But the beautiful thing is that on the flip side of the coin, love can also be given.

So I altered my plan. I plan to still do wonderful things for this girl. I plan to love her. But I plan to do it without the expectation that she will love me back. Girl, I'm gonna love you. Oh yes, I will. And I'm going to do it knowing that you probably won't love me back!

You see, God so love the world that he gave his only son to die for us so that if we believe in him we can have eternal life (John 3:16). And this love was given to us without the expectation that we could give anything back to God. He gave us his love as a free gift. The only thing that we earn from God is his wrath, because the wages of sin is death. But his gift to us is eternal life through his son (Romans 6:23).

In Jesus Christ we have the perfect example of how to give love. Jesus gave his very life to save us. He died not only for his friends, but also his enemies. He died to save the very people who spit on him, mocked him, nailed him to a cross and killed him. A good man may give his life for his friends, but very few would be willing to die even for their enemies! "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." (1 John 3:16)

Jesus, thank you for your sacrifice that has saved me, that you gave despite my sins against you. Help me to give the same love to others without expectations. Your love fills me up and I am an overflowing cup. Use me to pour out your same love onto others. Amen.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Vheissu: Who Are You?

Our Identity is found in Christ

What makes up our identity? Is it the jobs we work? The cars we drive? The clothes we wear?

If we acknowledge that there is something greater in the world than us, then we have the hope that we can each be something greater than ourselves. We don’t have to live our lives pursuing simple pleasures. There is something greater ahead that we can daily look forward to!

Without a loving Creator, what meaning does your life have besides seeking simple pleasures? What a sad, purposeless life it would be to live without a relationship with God. And nobody has to live that way! Jesus wants to have a relationship with you. Every human being is equally guilty of sin, so do not tell yourself that you are alone undeserving of God’s grace. We are all undeserving of God’s grace. That’s what makes it so gracious! But those willing to admit their guilt and ask forgiveness will have God’s blessings poured out on them. If you are done with pursuing simple pleasures, always looking for the next high, never feeling fulfilled, and you want to start living your life with a higher purpose, then begin your relationship with Jesus today. Pray to him. Admit your guilt. Ask for forgiveness. Receive forgiveness. No longer be a slave to sin!


Who would others say that you are? Who would you say you are? Who do you want to be? Is there any discrepancy between the answers to these three questions? Leave your comment!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Sanctum: Living in and apart from the world

A look at daily Evangelism

If you knew Jesus were returning in 24 hours, what would you do? I recently read an interview with artist Jimmy Needham that asked a similar question. His reply made me think hard about the way that I live my daily life.

If we knew Christ were to return tomorrow, many of us would excitedly share the gospel with everyone we could. The reality is, nobody knows when Christ is coming (1 Thessalonians 5:2). So the question is, why are we not living that way now? We hold in our possession the greatest news the world has ever known! We should be passionate about sharing it with everyone we can.

Before his ascension, Jesus Christ instructed us to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). This requires us as Christians to live among those blinded by the world system in a way that is holy; holiness that God has given us through his grace. We must be “in the world, but not of the world” (1 John 2:15-17). We must walk this fine line, being “all things to all men” in order to save some (1 Corinthians 9:22).

What do you think?

If you knew Christ were returning tomorrow, what would you do? What things should Christians do in their daily lives to evangelize? Leave your comment!

Song of the day

Grace Amazing - Jimmy Needham ft. Trip Lee

Is America a Christian Nation?

America’s fractured religious identity

Depending on the study you look at, 70-80% of Americans consider themselves to be Christians. Undoubtedly, Christianity has shaped and guided much of America’s social and cultural structure. Yet, despite its Christian majority, America has a fractured religious identity.

Christianity Today published a survey that identifies 5 different types of Christians in America:

Active Christians 19%

  1. Believe salvation comes through Jesus Christ
  2. Committed churchgoers
  3. Bible readers
  4. Accept leadership positions
  5. Invest in personal faith development through the church
  6. Feel obligated to share faith; 79% do so.
Professing Christians 20%
  1. Believe salvation comes through Jesus Christ
  2. Focus on personal relationship with God and Jesus
  3. Similar beliefs to Active Christians, different actions
  4. Less involved in church, both attending and serving
  5. Less commitment to Bible reading or sharing faith
Liturgical Christians 16%
  1. Predominantly Catholic and Lutheran
  2. Regular churchgoers
  3. High level of spiritual activity, mostly expressed by serving in church and/or community
  4. Recognize authority of the church
Private Christians 24%
  1. Largest and youngest segment
  2. Believe in God and doing good things
  3. Own a Bible, but don't read it
  4. Spiritual interest, but not within church context
  5. Only about a third attend church at all
  6. Almost none are church leaders
Cultural Christians 21%
  1. Little outward religious behavior or attitudes
  2. God aware, but little personal involvement with God
  3. Do not view Jesus as essential to salvation
  4. Affirm many ways to God
  5. Favor universality theology

What do you think?

Is America a Christian nation? What exactly is a “Christian nation”? How does this affect America’s political climate? Leave a comment!

Song of the day

Lecrae - Identity Ft. Da T.R.U.T.H and J.R

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Review: Travie McCoy - Billionaire ft. Bruno Mars

Travie McCoy's new song, Billionaire ft. Bruno Mars, caught my attention. Not just because it's a catchy groove, reminiscent of Sublime, but the content of the lyrics hits home for me. I must admit that I have often dreamed of becoming a billionaire, traveling the world and giving away money without a second thought. Yet, something doesn't sit right with this song for me.

It's certainly not the use of the F word, or the ambition to move up in life that bother me. And sure, it seems admirable that Travie sings about buying everyone he knows a Mercedes and adopting a bunch of children from poor countries so that he can buy them all kinds of things. But will buying "all the things I never had" really make me happy? Even if it does, that happiness will be short-lived.

True happiness can only come from Real Goods. Real Goods are the things that are inherently good; the things that are good for all humans all the time. The things in life that are otherwise known as needs. And when we ponder on this we realize how little we really need as humans. It would be great to adopt those children from Africa and buy them everything they ever wanted. But all they really may need is love, security, and knowledge to make them truly happy. Wishing to be a billionaire so you can squander all the money away spoiling your friends seems like a warped sense of altruism.

Which brings me to the reason why I like this song. It makes me think. It makes me think about my own wish to be a billionaire philanthropist. And so now I question myself, why do I need to be a billionaire in order to give to others?

The Widow’s Offering (Mark 12:41-3)

41Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins,j worth only a fraction of a penny.k

43Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Generosity is not measured by the amount that we give. It is measured by the selflessness within our hearts. Father, your generosity is above all else and I thank you for the greatest gift ever given: your Son, Jesus Christ. Forgive me for the times that I have been selfish and given less than I knew that I should have. Give me a new disposition to have the will to give all that I have. For if anyone would come after you, he must take up his cross and daily follow you! Amen.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The greatest of these is...

LOVE - What a concept! But what does it mean? It is the subject of countless songs, and a word that we often use in many different ways: "I love you." "Women love chocolate." "Do you believe in true love?"

So what is Love? Many dictionaries define love as a feeling, affection, or even sexual desire for another person or an object. In other words, the world defines love by the things that bring pleasure to us. Love is often used in the place of desire (e.g., "I love brownies.").

I can't help but see the connection here to a lecture I had today on one of Mortimer Adler's Six Great Ideas. Today we discussed the idea of the Good. For centuries there was a consensus among philosophers that Good=Desire. We make value judgments based on our desires. For example, I might say that my keyboard is good because I press its keys and they all work. The keyboard is good to me because it satisfies my desire to type words. The problem with this definition of Good is that it is completely subjective. If Good=Desire, then I can say "what is good for me may not be good for you." Every person desires different things.

This is where we draw the distinction between natural and acquired desires. Natural desires are inherent in our nature, the things that every human naturally desires. Acquired desires are developed through exposure to the environment, circumstances, and individual temperament throughout life. A simple way to make the distinction between the two is to employ the terms want and need. We do not have wrong or misguided needs, but we can certainly want things that we do not need. So we know that there is a difference between what is really good for us and what we perceive to be good for us. The significance of this is that Good is not subjective. It is a definite standard that is the same for all people.

I found it interesting that another definition for Good is Being. Mere existence is considered good. Consider what God said to Moses through the burning bush: "I AM THAT I AM." This statement is God's claim to Being, and we know God to be the ultimate form of Good. Also, in the story of Creation, God looks at all that He created and sees that it was good. All things, in their simple state of existence, were good. With this assumption, we can then say that all objects in existence are good. Therefore, evil does not exist as an opposing force to Good. Rather, evil is the lack of Good, or existence. Objects themselves are not evil. Instead, evil can be measured by a lack of form, or when objects are put into a state of disorder (sin).

But back to Love. There is debate over whether we should consider Love a noun or a verb. We must remember that it is both. 1 John tells us that God is Love. It is this definition of Love as a noun that allows us to give love as a verb.

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Sonb into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice forc our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. 17In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. 18There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

19We love because he first loved us. 20If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4)

Love is also described in 1 Corinthians:

Love is patient and kind;
Love does not envy or boast;
It is not arrogant or rude.
It does not insist on its own way;
It is not irritable or resentful;
It does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Blogger Fred Sanders makes an interesting suggestion for reading this passage. Since Love=God, replace the word love with Jesus and you really begin to see the truth in these statements:

Jesus is patient and kind;
Jesus does not envy or boast;
He is not arrogant or rude.
He does not insist on his own way;
He is not irritable or resentful;
He does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.
Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Our equation now looks like this: Love=Good=Desire=Being=God

This right here is the meaning of life. Once you understand the Love that was given to us by God in the form of Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross (John 3:16), you will have a desire to show the same love to every person. Imagine, God is in us when we love each other! Whoever loves knows God and God is in him.

37Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’b 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’c 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Do not let your emotions rule you. Love is not a feeling. Love is God. Do all things in Love and you will have a very fulfilling life! (1 Corinthians 16:4)

1If I speak in the tonguesa of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If 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 have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,b but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13)
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)