Incorruptible Love

1454516-bigthumbnailGrace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ with incorruptible love. (Ephesians 6:24)

We need to love Jesus with incorruptible love—love that is strong, vibrant, hopeful, undying, and life-altering. We’re going to love something with that kind of passion and strength, because we were created to love. God is love, and we’re created in His image, so that pursuit of love is in us. But if we love anything other than God Himself, the love is corruptible. We can actually even love God with corruptible love by skewing the truthfulness of His love when we return it to Him. But at least living His love gives us the potential to love with an incorruptible love.

Whatever we love most sets the trajectory of our lives. We glorify what we love most. We treasure what we love most. Whatever we love most gets the primary focus and goals.

Is it money? Then you’ll focus on decisions that impact how much money you make and what you can do with it.

Is it children? Then you’ll focus on decisions that determine best education, environment, provisions, activities, etc.

Is it career? Then you’ll focus on decisions that lead to the most success, experience, and position.

Is it pleasure? Then you’ll focus on the entertainment and personal enjoyment value of everything you do.

Is it comfort? Then you’ll focus on decisions that minimize risk.

These things aren’t bad things, but they don’t deserve your incorruptible love. That kind of love is reserved for God and God alone. Skewed focus leads to skewed outcomes.

So what can you do if you uncover a misguided weight of love? You can blame whatever it is that you’re trying so hard to love. It’s not measuring up. The results aren’t what you expected. But blaming isn’t going to help. After all, you shouldn’t be surprised. Just because you’re displacing love doesn’t mean God is going to honor your selfish desire to shift it from Him.

Or you can blame yourself. But self-loathing and shame aren’t going to be productive. You’re never beyond the reach of God’s love and correction. You could widen the circle of blame to include the world. “The world is against me this week.” “Do you know what’s wrong with the world?” (Fill in the answer: economics, liberalism, conservatism, world leaders, sports, men, women, and so on.) But you’ll end up cynical and empty.

Or you can reorient and reprioritize your life toward God. We need to be fully yielded and surrendered to God. Only He is intended to be the primary object of our love. Only His love is incorruptible. That means, only in our relationship with Him can we actually live out incorruptible love authentically. Why try anything or anyone else?

Accept.

Dear God, convict me of any area of my life in which I’m not loving well. I want You to be my priority. I know that doesn’t mean ignoring everything else in my life. That’s not Your will. But I don’t want to mis-assign value that is only intended for You. Encourage and challenge me through every situation and relationship today.

Seek.

How does the trajectory of your love reflect God’s love?

How do you need to redirect your love today?

Know.

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:37-39)

Engaging the Disengaged: 10 Ways to Invest in a Woman’s Life

Not every woman wants to attend a women’s conference, tea, or Bible study. Sometimes it’s because she’s not interested. Sometimes she doesn’t see it as a priority. Oftentimes, she doesn’t know she’s welcome.

Putting an event in the church bulletin doesn’t ensure everyone feels welcome. I recently had a conversation with a woman who posed this question: “Why do you think younger women today don’t get more involved?” I shared a few thoughts, mainly focused on the communication breakdown between women who are planning ministry and those who are uninvolved. I suggested the issue is two-way: those in leadership aren’t effectively communicating what’s available, what needs may be met, and who is welcome. This makes it difficult for those who are disengaged to have opportunities or feel comfortable sharing ideas, needs, and thoughts.

“It comes down to what I’m willing to invest,” I concluded. “Is my focus simply on putting together a program and expecting people to come? Or is my focus on getting to know women and their needs and passions and meeting the needs and feeding the passions?” I explained how the best way to get women involved is through personal relationships and invitations. Women are more likely to attend an event or study with a friend. We also need to invite multiple times in multiple ways.

We discussed back and forth until she threw up her hands and said, “So, I have to make the effort?!”

“No. You don’t have to make the effort. Only if you want to get women involved.”

Are You Willing to Make the Effort?

God created us for relationships. He wants us to intentionally invest in each other’s lives as He guides. Programs can be effective, but aren’t magically magnetic. In order to engage women, we must put people over tasks. We must set our own expectations aside to respond to what God wants us to do. While an event reaching hundreds can be inspiring, intentional time spent with one woman can create a quiet yet far-reaching ripple effect. When you’re willing to make the effort, try these ideas.

1.  Cook together. Swapping recipes is great, but cooking together is a lot more fun. Grocery shop together. Share tips while in the kitchen. Enjoy the meal together or make enough to take home to both families. Even clean-up will be more fun together!

2.  Make a standing date. Weeks and months easily slip by with the best of intentions to get together. Set a biweekly or monthly date. Swap planning responsibilities for variety or grab coffee and a snack at the same restaurant every time. You’ll soon anticipate your regular time together.

3.  Give mom a break. Offer to hang out with a young mom on a regular basis so she can get things done around the house while you occupy the children. Your willingness to spend time investing in her children will pour encouragement into her.

4.  Serve together. Find a way you can help someone you both know or serve a community agency. Clean at a local crisis pregnancy center, or bake and deliver cookies to people in assisted-living.

5.  Work out together. Try a new exercise class together or hold each other accountable by expecting to see each other at a weekly class. Meet at the local gym for regular workouts or enjoy early morning strolls together.

6.  Swap support. Ask for and offer help. Find out what projects others are involved in and lend your support. Ask for help so others are comfortable asking you, too. As you support each other, you share the weight of responsibilities while also getting to know each other.

7.  Gather a group together. Get together with additional people so you avoid isolating yourselves. Whether you attend an event or study with other women or host friends for coffee and dessert, get to know each other as you interact with others.

8.  Organize photos together. Encourage each other to catch up on printing and organizing photos. As you categorize them into years, family members, or projects, you’ll get closer to each other as you share memories.

9.  Learn from each other. No question is insignificant. If you want to know how to create an event or share someone’s photos on Facebook, just ask. If you want to gather ideas for closet organization or landscaping, just ask. If neither of you knows the answer, search for it together.

10.  Remind each other. Serve as sticky notes for each other, extending accountability by following up when someone shares plans for an apology, organization, service, and so on. As you touch base with each other on a regular basis, your friendship becomes part of your routine, and you’ll stick together through struggles and triumphs.

Look around you today for opportunities to connect with others. A lasting friendship might begin with a smile or a heated discussion. Expect the unexpected. God doesn’t work within our guidelines. Let Him guide you to the women whose lives you need to invest in.

Love Without Seeing

The proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:7-9)

Believing in something we see doesn’t require faith. Believing something we don’t see requires faith. As we are faithful, we believe God, who we do not see. Sure, we see evidence of Him. We can know Him without seeing Him. We can have confidence that all His promises will be fulfilled, because who He is includes a faithfulness that cannot be broken.

Faith bridges the unseen world with the seen. The one who has faith is in the seen world; the one who is faithful and is the object and provider of faith is in the unseen. Faith gives eyes to the heart. And that’s how love without seeing and faith without seeing are tied together. They can’t be separated.

Although we have not seen God, we love Him. We have faith in Him, including His love, because love is His character. Although we don’t see God, we believe Him. And our faith includes love. Faith isn’t something of our heads; faith involves everything about us, including our hearts.

We don’t draw a straight line between faith and love, determining faith came first and provided access to, trust in, and respond to God’s love. Faith isn’t a requirement for God’s love. It exists whether or not we acknowledge or accept it. God’s love always has been, is, and will be, because God is love, and He always has been, is, and will be.

Also, love doesn’t have to precede faith. Our faith continues to grow and our understanding, acceptance, and expression of God’s love grows alongside each other. They weave in and out and blend together because they are never mutually exclusive. We have faith without seeing, and we accept and give God’s love without seeing. We don’t need to see or understand everything in order to live it out loud.

Consider these Scriptures that refer to sight.

For we walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:18)

He said, “Go, and tell this people:

‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive;

Keep on looking, but do not understand.’

Render the hearts of this people insensitive,

Their ears dull,

And their eyes dim,

Otherwise they might see with their eyes,

Hear with their ears,

Understand with their hearts,

And return and be healed.” (Isaiah 6:9-10)

We don’t need sight to believe, and we don’t need sight to love. We love because God gives us His love. We love others because we love Him. We love because He created us in His image, and because He is love, we have His love instilled in us.

Accept.

Dear God, I want to love because You love me and give me the guidance and strength to love, not because I try to love in my own understanding and strength. I believe You. I believe who You are and who You say I am. I believe You can do anything and everything You say You can do—and You will. I will step out in full dependence and trust in You. I will love You with Your love. I will put no conditions on Your love, separating what I see and understand and what I don’t. I am Yours.

Seek.

How have you experienced the interdependency of faith and love?

How have you struggled with love without sight and understanding?

How will you live God’s love our loud today even when you don’t see the reason or completely comprehend the purpose?

Know.

As Jesus was approaching Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the road begging. Now hearing a crowd going by, he began to inquire what this was. They told him that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by. And he called out, saying, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and commanded that he be brought to Him; and when he came near, He questioned him, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And he said, “Lord, I want to regain my sight!” And Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God. (Luke 18:35-43)

Adventures in Faith: Soaring!

adventures in faithToday is the final post in the Adventures in Faith series. Thanks for joining the journey. Let’s continue together with new adventures, beginning tomorrow!

Children, come and listen to me. I will teach you to worship the Lord. You must do these things to enjoy life and have many happy days. (Psalm 34:11-12)

Ponder It.

What’s one adventure that thrilled you?

What’s an adventure that challenged you?

Consider how you grew through each.

Receive It.

When Mom looked out the kitchen window, she saw us in the second-story barn window. My older sisters held me by my legs and arms, and they swung me back and forth several times before tossing me out the window.

What she couldn’t see was my landing. The garage obscured her view. She charged out the door in a panic, rounded the corner of the garage and…saw the hay truck stacked with straw and me rolling in laughter and delight. What a great day! Mom, on the other hand, didn’t share my joy. She was relieved I was okay, but her initial fright gave her enough momentum to yell at all of us and demand we stop the fun.

Bummer! I was having a blast. It might not have been the safest way to pass the time, but many of the “fun” things we did on the farm weren’t necessarily safe. Some of the most memorable experiences are the adventurous ones. We’re creative through adventures. We learn through adventures. And we often struggle through adventures. Struggling often produces growth.

Adventures often involve risks and usually involve excitement. Approach today with an anticipation of adventure. Learn. Struggle. Be creative. Make some memories.

Live It.

This is it: the launching pad of the next season of your adventures. Your adventures didn’t just begin, and they’re not going to end anytime soon, especially as you commit and yield to God’s will. He has a journey of adventures for you. Embrace every single one. Soar!

For more stories about life growing up on the family farm, check out Farm Days.

Adventures in Faith: Opportunities for Adventure

adventures in faithShout to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with joy; come before Him with singing. Know that the Lord is God. He made us, and we belong to Him; we are His people, the sheep He tends. Come into His city with songs of thanksgiving and into His courtyards with songs of praise. Thank Him and praise His name. The Lord is good. His love is forever, and His loyalty goes on and on. (Psalm 100)

Ponder It.

What’s one opportunity you missed and have regretted?

What’s an opportunity you are very grateful you didn’t miss?

What’s an opportunity you would love to experience?

Receive It.

We have a lot of opportunities throughout life and throughout every day. We have the choice not only to take or refuse the opportunity but also to take or give credit for the opportunity. We sometimes feel we’ve “made our way.” We take credit when, in reality, we haven’t gotten where we are on our own. In fact, we don’t achieve in isolation. Even when we think our efforts paved the way to where we are, opened the doors, and made the right choices, we’re surrounded by others. Our lives aren’t lived in isolation. Our paths are paved with relationships. Sometimes, we feel we’ve messed up everything. Taking responsibility is one thing, but thinking we’re powerful enough to mess up everything is the same as thinking we’re powerful enough to achieve anything we want. Whether we think too highly or not highly enough of ourselves, we have pride issues, and just about the time we excuse our pride as necessary confidence, we’ll trip over the stumbling blocks pride puts in the way.

We are never so low that we cannot go higher, and we can never get to a height from which it’s impossible to fall. We have responsibility, but God gets the credit. Obedience is the responsibility; guidance and provision only comes from God. He defines who we are and determines when we’re letting pride slip into our lives. Whether we’re giving ourselves too much credit or not enough credit, our credit is misguided. It’s not about our credit; it’s about God’s glory. So, when you’re faced with an opportunity, give it to God. Let it filter through His fingers and will. Let Him decide how you’re supposed to best respond. When you’re faced with an opportunity, get prayed up and prayed for. Each is indispensable, and neither should be done just when you feel it’s an emergency. God’s presence and will isn’t just the only way when we can’t see another way. It’s the only way when we can see thousands of ways ahead of us. Many ways may look beautiful to us, but only God’s way is undoubtedly, incomparably, the most beautiful ever.

Live It.

Place one of your hands under a faucet and let water run over your palm. Try to hold as water as you can. Turn off the water. As you watch the remainder of the water run down the drain, commit to not wasting a single opportunity God gives you today. Opportunities slip too easily through our hands.

Adventures in Faith: Bench, Floor, or Field?

adventures in faithThere are different kinds of gifts, but they are all from the same Spirit. There are different ways to serve but the same Lord to serve. And there are different ways that God works through people but the same God. God works in all of us in everything we do. Something from the Spirit can be seen in each person, for the common good…Together you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of that body. (1 Corinthians 12:4-7,27)

Ponder It.

When have you felt like you had to sit on the sidelines, and what was your response?

When have you been in the middle of an exciting game, part of a healthy team?

Where would you rather be, on the bench or the floor? Why?

Receive It.

There’s a difference between the players on the bench and those on the floor…but they’re all part of the team, and each and every person plays an important part. At least, God intends for them to play an important part. They can choose not to fulfill that important part by pouting or getting defensive. They can feel they were wronged or that they’re under-appreciated. Just as we can in the body of Christ. God gives spiritual gifts to each person who believes in Him. He didn’t leave anyone out, including you. The problem is usually in discerning what our gifts are and how to use them. We get confused about our gifts and respond to how we think we’re supposed to use them or how we’re insufficiently using them when we’re actually misunderstanding or under-appreciating what we have and what we’re doing.

For example, we sometimes assume our spiritual gifts are something we’re passionate about doing. I’m confident God fans the flame of passion in us, but what if we’re not ultra-excited about something: does that mean we’re not gifted for it? What if that just means we’re being stubborn and not accepting God’s will? If I’m gifted to teach, will I be excited about teaching every moment of my life? I may be gifted in advising others, but will I whole-heartedly want to always listen to people whine and complain? Probably not! We’re human, and we need to not base our gifts and the use of our gifts on our emotions and experiences. Whether we’re on the bench or the floor, we need to give teamwork our all. All of our gifts work together, and each of us is essential to the fully-functioning body of Christ. You’re human. You’re going to doubt yourself. But don’t doubt God. When you question your giftedness, you question God’s ability and wisdom. He knows what He’s doing. No exceptions. God expects you to use your gifts for His glory. Your gifts are yours to use, but you’re not the source. God is. He gave you the gifts. He knows exactly where you fit. Let God settle you into your gifts as He settles His gifts into you.

Live It.

Work together today. Invite someone into your life, and serve. Accept someone else’s invitation for you to serve. Don’t insist on doing it your way. Do it God’s way.

Adventures in Faith: Hiking

adventures in faithSo be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you, and follow the commands exactly. Live the way the Lord your God has commanded you so that you may live and have what is good and have a long life in the land you will take. (Deuteronomy 5:32-33)

Ponder It.

What is the most challenging hike you’ve accomplished?

When have you had a downhill experience, physically or spiritually?

How does the security of your footing change when you are confident with God’s commands and uncertain about what you’re doing and where you’re going?

Receive It.

When you hike in the hills or mountains, you’ll get a fresh perspective with every twist and turn. The goal is to get to the summit, where you’ll have unobstructed views, being able to see for miles with fresh air swirling around you. Even though your muscles and lungs burn along the path, you accomplish something with each and every step. You stop for a break, sip water, refuel with a power bar, and continue to ascend. Every step takes you a little closer. You watch your step. Your excitement and anticipation grows. With every challenge, you grow. You develop. Then you reach the top and savor the moment. You breathe and take it all in. You soak in the sights…and the accomplishment.

But you can’t stay on the top forever. You have to get back to where you live. It’s time to move back down the mountain. It seems easier. After all, going down definitely seems to involve less resistance. Shouldn’t it be almost like coasting? The truth is, many more accidents happen on the way down the mountain than on the way up. We don’t pay attention. We’re not as careful. We’re tired, and the climb down is anticlimactic. There’s really not a lot to look forward to it—except survival, a bath, and a good meal. But if we don’t pay attention to where our feet go, we’ll step on loose rock, we won’t have our feet firmly under us, we’ll slip. And falls on the way down can be disastrous because they’re more difficult to stop. Momentum carries us. We can slip into others. We twist an angle or stress a knee. Tired muscles ache and cramp. But we can’t quit. God will guide and give us everything we need, but we can’t get lazy. Focus. Be intentional with each and every step.

Live It.

Take a hike. It doesn’t have to be extremely challenging or time-consuming. Let God guide. Be careful with your steps but also bold as you proceed. When you move forward in God’s will, you can be secure even with the uncertainty involved. You won’t always be safe, but you can step into God’s confidence. He will show you sights and sounds you wouldn’t have experienced without Him.