Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Love is accepting

I've thought a lot about what makes a person quiet, outgoing, shy, rambunctious especially in my own life.  I am beginning to notice a trend.  Lately, on tv, there has been a few shows on regarding bullying in schools.  Kids would shut down, even to the point of no hope, because they were teased, abused, and generally unaccepted.  That is a terrible realization because there is so much hope and love in just the simple act of acceptance, and yet these kids didn't have it.  

Middle school is an interesting time in life.  From personal experience and from counseling kids at camp, or now at church, it is all about acceptance and popularity.  I used to, and still want to go back and counsel kids down in Oregon at one of the coolest camps I have ever seen.  The camps are 4th-6th, middle school, and high school, and each one is completely different.  4th-6th is by far the easiest.  They are at that stage in life where when you become friends with someone, its not overly based on first conversations or popularity, its based on playing out on the playground together and just bonding.  They don't feel too pressured, they just love fun.   In high school, generally everyone is more chill and just wants to hang out.  They already know where they belong and just love to hang out with their friends.  But middle school, oh deary.  For probably the first time, they are at a new school, in a new situation, having to prove themselves in a desperate attempt to fit in and be accepted.  Their energy levels are still off the chart but instead of using them all for fun, they are using them to play an intricate social game where not everyone wins. 

When I was in middle school, or specifically 6th grade I was generally not accepted.  I mean, the reasons were obvious.  Instead of playing foursquare, which i dibble-dabbled in occasionally, I would sit outside the library and read the Bible.  Strange kid.  Of course, I was still 5'2" and wearing glasses.  It wasn't until about 8th grade, by now 6'0", contacts, school record hurdling, etc. that I was beginning to be accepted (hate to say how superficial it all is).  It wasn't until sophomore year that I had found where I belonged with my group of friends who enjoyed the activities I did.  All that to say, looking back on my life, there are times when I am quiet, where I feel unaccepted, and there are times where I am incredibly energetic and outgoing because I am accepted.  And I wonder how many people are that same way, if not all of us.  We are looking to be accepted and until we are, we have no confidence in who we are, or how to act.

It makes me wonder how many times, I myself could have accepted someone else to ease them out of their quietness.  Everyone wants to be accepted.  It's why we all do what we do, sports, acting, writing, etc.  We want to express ourselves in hopes that others will accept us.  Love is all about acceptance and belonging.  Story after story in the Bible, Jesus would walk up to an unaccepted person, and invite them to find their belonging in Him.  The blind, the lepers, the crippled, the uncouth, the tax collectors, the "sinners".   He would accept the opposite of what is generally accepted today.  Can you imagine a school with Jesus as a student?  Going around from lunch table to lunch table talking to the incredibly smart, the socially unaccepted, the kids who can't afford nice clothes, etc.  That would be a completely different school then what I experienced.  It would probably flip the social "caste" on it's head. 

We are told to love in the Bible; to love God, and to love our neighbors.  And yet where is the love?  I want to encourage everyone reading this, including me (because I am reading this too) to take an extra effort to love today, tomorrow, the rest of the week, FOREVER.  To really just take the time and accept someone you haven't accepted yet.  Invite them to something, hang out with them, accept them.  You never know if that's a person's first time being accepted or not. 

Badger Mountain Sunset

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Love is a puzzle

Pardon the picture, but it's college football Saturday so I have to root for my Ducks and Wildcats. 

Do you ever have those times where it seems you take a side step out of life? As if God is giving you an insight into various other places in the world? Call me weird, but sometimes I take a step out of what I see with my own eyes and began to wonder what other peoples eyes are seeing. There is probably some guy sipping rich authentic Swiss hot cocoa on the slopes of Monaco overlooking the thousands of yachts down in the Mediterranean on a beautiful Sunday morning. Or some little child, standing next to his parents, looking out at the sun set across the Grand Canyon, for the first time seeing the vast magnificence and power of creation. Or a couple of friends dining out at lunch at a hectic Hong Kong restaurant, looking out the window at the thousands of people walking, biking, mo-peding, driving. And then you began to think of places that aren't so elegant. A child, waking up at sunrise, sitting in a mud puddled street, no parents to run back to, playing with a flat soccer ball someone had delivered months ago from the other side of the world, yet still with more joy and hope than most. A group of Christians in Nepal, sitting in the shadow of Mt. Everest, excommunicated from taking part in their local village, constantly living in a land of beauty but with death and persecution breathing down their neck. A college student, nestled among 30,000 thousand other students on a beautiful palm lined campus, yet still feeling alone, contemplating suicide, as they all just walk by, wondering where God is and why this supposed God of love doesn't show His love to him/her. 

Life can sometimes seem like a 10 billion piece jigsaw puzzle. You search and search for where your particular piece fits in, trying to match up colors with other pieces. When I do puzzles I always try and place matching pieces near each other, and then look for similar shaped locking components. It's easy with a 10 piece puzzle, still easy with a 100 piece, way harder with 1000, incredibly difficult with my biggest puzzle of 5000. Can you imagine trying a 10 billion piece puzzle? That would be my 5000 piece puzzle and multiplying it by 2 million! I look out at my city of 240,000 and begin to get overwhelmed sometimes when I think about what everyone is doing at every single instant. Some are at the river, some are at all different sorts of work, some hiking up the hills and around the parks, and even others sitting in class at school. And then expanding that to the entire state of 7 million, the country of 310 million, and to the world at 7 billion. And yet God looks at this daunting puzzle and one at a time places puzzles right where they belong, not messing up once. Its a quite amazing realization and puts me at awe of God. He has us all working together for His plan, as well as the trillions of plants and animals, the molecules in the air and water, etc. He holds it all together. Can you imagine that? As I sat on my bed last night pondering that, I'll be honest, I was quite fearful of the implications of that realization. That is HUGE! 

Sometimes, if you concentrate on the entire puzzle, you can become depressed and overwhelmed. You see all the pain and suffering, false hope and false security, and you wonder how you are going to help fix it. Take it easy, God has it all in His hands! He will use you wherever He puts you to match up with the puzzle pieces next to you. You don't have to solve the puzzle on your own, just ask the Lord what pieces next to you He wants you to love, talk to, battle the enemy with. 

Take this simple truth and let it awe you and comfort you.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Love is Jesus

 There seems to be a mentality creeping through the hinges of modern-day Christianity that places the impossibility of man's actions into an impossibility of God's actions.  This can be seen through miracles: because I haven't seen them, they must not exist; through prophecy and tongues or other gifts: because I may or may not have that certain gift, its a little sketchy that you do/don't; and through, what I want to talk most about, love: because I have certain things going on in my life limiting my perception of love, God must also have those limitations.  Now it doesn't quite come out that plainly (most of the time).  We went through 1 Corinthians 13 the other day at church, which btw's, is awesome.  That whole verse 4-8 section always gets me thinking and rethinking and re-rethinking life and how much we can't comprehend about God's love. 

"Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek it's own; is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things; love never fails." NKJV 

Jesus is Agape, or ἀγάπη, or a love that seeks nothing in return, a love described in every usage of that verse.  He suffers long with us and is kind, despite everything we have done.  He does not envy for what's not His (mainly cause it is all His), instead, He is jealous for us (completely different usage and definition, and quite a great song, feel free to sing the rest). He does not parade Himself, puff Himself up.  He does not behave rudely or seek His own, as He died there on the cross for all of us to do His Fathers will instead of His own.  He took it all so that you and I might be considered totally righteous in Him.  He is not provoked, or literally, made sharp toward us and thinks no evil, keeping no list or record of our wrongs as they were completely paid for on that cross.  He doesn't rejoice when we do wrong, but He rejoices when we glory Him, the author of truth.   He bears all things with me, He believes in me, He hopes in me, He endures all things with me.  He has the entire picture of history laid before Him so when we are without hope, when we doubt, He is there seeing all eternity believing in us and hoping, or confidently expecting, us.  His love never fails. 

Sometimes that mentality of man I was talking about earlier creeps in and says, since man gets angry with me, since man is not patient with me, since man makes a list of wrongs toward me, rejoicing when I screw up and not rejoicing in the truth, we seem to think God somehow does the same thing.  I have seen many instances where God has been blamed for being angry at someone, or that He can't forgive you because of the list He has against you.  Let me tell you right now, the Lord loves you in every sense of this verse.  His view of us is entirely different than the world's view of us.  Do not make that dangerous connection that doubts God's love for us because man has not loved us. 

If you currently think God is angry at you, rejoicing in when you do wrong, writing a list of errors you make, go to this verse over and over.  Go to John 3, and Romans, and 1 John 4, etc.  Take that lie and pray it to God and pray for His truth to restore you.  That lie is not of God for God is love.  Never forget that!  "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us", that famous quote by Tozer, is so true.  Do we think of God as some angry tyrannical king who beats us when we do wrong, or do we view Him for as He truly is (which would take a lot more topics to discuss) written in the word and evidenced in creation.  I love to think about that verse sometimes and make sure my view of God is not off base, constantly getting into the word.  It's one of the only ways to contest lies and misconceptions.  Take a moment and really think about how you view God. . . make sure you know He is not angry at you.  Plaster truths like 2 Corinthians 5 which state that Jesus' death for us not only forgave us of our sins but reconciled us to him in His righteousness.  Read and re-read the gospels, constantly going back to His sacrifice for you. 

Jesus is the key.  Jesus died for you and for me so that we might have victory.  He overcame the world so that we might overcome the world and all of its lies and temptations.  Focus on Jesus, focus on His love, not on your boyfriends/girlfriends love, not on a bosses love, not on an enemies love, not even on a friends love.  Focus on Jesus' love only, for on it is the encapsulation of Agape.

God is love - 1 John 4:16