Perspectives on Spiritual, Intellectual and Pastoral Issues: Host – Lowell Qualls

Posts tagged ‘Love’

HOPE for 2013

[This article is from a sermon I preached on 12/30/12.  Many thanks to A. Todd Coget, whose sermon “What If? and Why Not?” (December 29, 2002) inspired me to go deeper into the subject of HOPE.]

hopeHere’s my personal list of what I believe are the Top Ten news events of 2012.  See if these prompt your memory banks, and if you agree with me about their importance or their impact.

  1. The reelection of President Obama was, by far, the biggest news event of the year for the United States.
  2. The internet continues to be one of the “drivers” of our culture.  From FaceBook going public to the death of Whitney Houston (the number 1 story “googled” this year), the internet continues to exercise its muscle and influence.
  3. Hurricane Sandy’s devastation, and the storm’s aftermath, is a reminder that we don’t have control over nature … and that sometimes the storms of life are literally storms!
  4. The uncertainty of gas prices, and the rise and fall of prices at the pump, continues to get our attention daily.
  5. The mass murders … what some now are calling “Spree Killings” … in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, Oikos University in Oakland, CA, the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and the horrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut!  The thing is, guns are being blamed, but Hollywood and the computer game industry continues to outspend the NRA.
  6. The Middle East continues to capture our attention every day – with the ongoing tensions associated with Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Israel, the phony elections in Egypt, and the murder of the US Ambassador in Libya.
  7. The “Fiscal Cliff,” and the inability of our government to get a handle on spending; the national debt, and the world’s economy.
  8. The London Olympics was the biggest distraction and emotional lift for our country this past summer.
  9. President Obama’s Supreme Court health care ruling (in his favor) was huge news with huge implications for our nation.
  10. The new tensions arising in the world because of Iran and North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

These stories, circumstances, and influences have, and will continue to have, an impact on our times and our individual lives.  What happens in the Middle East and North Korea will impact your life, as will decisions that follow Sandy Hook, Hurricane Sandy, and our government’s spending.

We are standing on the threshold of a New Year … 2013.  The world didn’t end on 12/21/12!  We have a future!  But do you have HOPE!

There is a reason the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to include HOPE as one of the “big 3” … one of the THREE THINGS THAT WILL LAST FOREVER!  

Screen Shot 2013-01-02 at 4.19.45 PM

Paul wrote, “And now these three remain: faith, HOPE and love.  But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13 NIV)  Or, as the New Living Translation reads, “Three things will last forever — faith, HOPE, and love …”

Let me tell you something:  If you feel HOPEless, you won’t love or exercise faith.  HOPE is critically important to life, and life in God!

HOPE is “confident assurance.”

Look with me at Hebrews 11:1 and 6 –

“Now faith is confidence in what we HOPE for and assurance about what we do not see …And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” (NIV)

“Faith is the confidence that what we HOPE for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see … And

it is impossible to please God without faith.  Anyone who wants to come to Him must believe that God exists and that He rewards those who sincerely seek Him.”  (NLT)

  • We talk much about love, and we should, because it’s the greatest of the Big 3.
  • And we talk a lot about faith, and we should, because without faith it’s impossible to please God.
  • BUT what about HOPE?!  Do you have HOPE?

But not just ANY HOPE?  Do you have HEAVENLY HOPE??

LUKE 24

13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem.  14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened.  15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus Himself suddenly came and began walking with them.  16 But God kept them from recognizing Him.

17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”

They stopped short, sadness written across their faces.  18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

19 “What things?” Jesus asked.

“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said.  “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and He was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people.  20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed Him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified Him.  21 We had HOPED He was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel.  This all happened three days ago.

There is nothing so devastating as having lost HOPE.  For these men, their HOPE was gone.  The one they had HOPED to be the redeemer of Israel, was, in their mind, dead.  Along with the death of Jesus, came the death of their HOPE.

If you’ve lived beyond childhood, you have lost HOPE in some sense, at some point in your life.  When we lose HOPE we are overcome with feelings of senselessness, purposelessness, and despair, discouragement, depression.  The energy is just sucked right out of our lives.  Lack of HOPE can actually destroy our very lives.

  • Maybe you have a memory of driving away from the only friends you’ve ever had to move to a new town, a new school, and a totally new life … one NOT of your choosing.
  • Maybe it was when your favorite sports team got so far behind in points that there was no HOPE of them winning.
  • Maybe it was a little more serious …. Maybe there was time when you were without a job, and you had no money.
  • Maybe it was a health issue … where you thought there was no HOPE for you or your loved one.

During those times perhaps you were tempted to take the advice of Job’s wife, who told Job to “Curse God and die.”

But let me interrupt that thought process with this truth:  for the Christian, life is essentially a life of HOPE.  And that is what I want to talk about today.  The HOPE we have as children of God.

Ephesians 2:12 and 13 says, “Once you lived in this world without God and without HOPE.  But now you have been united with Christ.  Once you were far away from God, but NOW you have been brought near to Him through the blood of Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13 – “And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no HOPE.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – “That is why we never give up.  Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  So we don’t look at the troubles we see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.  For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we 

cannot see will last forever.”

HOPE is to the human spirit what oxygen is to the physical body.  

The word HOPE occurs some 52 times in the New Testament alone. And if you take the time to look up those 52 passages you will find that it ALWAYS is connected in some way to God.

God is the author of HOPE, Romans 15:13 tells us, “I pray that God, the source of HOPE, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him.  Then you will overflow with confident HOPE through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

FOUR things to observe:

  1. God is the source of HOPE
  2. When you have God’s HOPE, you will be filled with joy and peace
  3. That joy and peace will be a result of TRUSTING in Him.
  4. If you learn to trust Him, confident HOPE will overflow in your life through the power of the Holy Spirit.

HOPE connects us with the future just as memories connect us with the past.

We reflect on our past through our memories … we think back on what happened.  Through our memories we en-vision our past.

HOPE helps us envision our future.   How do we know what will happen in the future?  We have HOPE, which is placed in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Sure there might be valleys in our future, just as there were valleys in our past.  But the HOPE we have in Christ Jesus should make us realize that some day we will stand on the Holy Mountain of God, reigning with Christ, beautifully adorned as bride for the bridegroom.  Worshiping God, praising God, dwelling with God.  That is what HOPE does for us.

One of the definitions I read for HOPE stated, “HOPE is desire, with the expectation of getting what is desired.  One cannot HOPE for that which he neither desires or expects to receive.”

Sometimes HOPE can be misplaced.  David wrote:  “Some nations boast in their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the LORD our God.  Those nations will fall down and collapse, but we will rise up and stand firm.”  (Psalm 20:7-8)

  • There are those who HOPE to receive eternal life in heaven without acknowledging Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.
  • There are those who HOPE to grow in Christ without reading His word or going to God in prayer on a regular basis.
  • There are those who HOPE to live happy lives even though they are in rebellion to God.
  • All these are misplaced HOPEs, false HOPEs, HOPEs that our not founded and based in God.
  • Life can be difficult and harsh, and there are times we may think that it will not get better.  But there is HOPE, true HOPE in Christ, and there is true HOPE no where else.

Screen Shot 2013-01-02 at 4.16.05 PMNo matter what our situation, HOPE is there, that HOPE that is Jesus Christ.  The angel Gabriel gave this HOPEful assurance to Mary in Luke 1:37:

  • “For no word from God will ever fail.”  (NIV)
  • “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”  (KJV)
  • “For God can do all things.”  (New Life Version)
  • “For nothing is impossible with God.”  (NLT)
  • “ … every word shall not be impossible with God.”  (Wycliffe)
  • “But God can do anything.”  (Worldwide English NT)
  • “For no promise of God can fail to be fulfilled.” (Phillips Translation)
  • “God can do anything!”  (Easy-To-Read Bible)
  • “For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment.” (Amplified Version)

I “CAN” Do All Things

Recently a friend sent a video to me with this note:  

 ”A son asked his father, ‘Dad, will you take part in a marathon with me?’  The father who, despite having a heart condition, says ‘Yes.’  They went on to complete the marathon together.  Father and son went on to join other marathons, the father always saying ‘Yes’ to his son’s request of going through the race together.  One day, the son asked his father, ‘Dad, let’s join the Ironman together.’  To which, his father said ‘Yes,’ too.  (For those who don’t know, The Ironman is the toughest triathlon ever.  The race encompasses three endurance events:  a 2.4 mile (3.86 kilometer) ocean swim, followed by a 112 mile (180.2 kilometer) bike ride, and ending with a 26.2 mile (42.195 kilometer) marathon along the coast of the Big Island of Hawaii.)  Father and son completed the race together.  Before you view a video of their race better grabfew tissues first!    

I was so fascinated with the video of Dick and Ricky Hoyt that I am making the “story” video available for viewing below, along with the Spanish version of the video.  

Pass it on … AND THINK ABOUT IT!

Calling All Atheists and Theists

Where does love come from?

This is a real question, and not some gimmick.  I want to know where this particular part of the human experience comes from.  What generates it?  What is its origin?

Part 3 – Trust and Disappointment

Again, if you’re reading this article without reading parts one and two, you won’t understand the context of this exchange.  Please take time to read the previous postings.

After I wrote the long letter empathizing with Ellie, she sent me this sweet response.

hey Lowell…

     i wanted to thank you for your words of real empathy and encouragement… it helps to know that you have experienced the depth of despair that drives one to long for (and seriously consider or attempt) what seems like the only escape in death, and not only survived, but are stronger… and it seems, have gained a closer relationship with god as a result. that is honestly what my heart desires, what i trying to accomplish, and on a good day, what i seem to have a tiny taste of.

    “it was the hardest thing to do – because of the guilt and the pride and the fear of disappointment …. again. I had to trust God. I had to let go”…  yes, this seems to one of my biggest sticking points as well. especially the trust issue. when i am completely honest, at my core, i do not trust god. i do not trust him to protect me, not to hurt me, to love me… and i know much of this distrust is a result of the abuse in my past. and in acknowledging, and seeking to overcome that lack of trust, you would think that eventually, it would be a barrier i would have conquered. no such luck as of yet… still working on that one. but i do know that this is the key to true freedom in my life.

    it seems, for me, such a difficult task to cry out to god with anything more than a desperate “please lord, just make it stop… quiet my head, my heart, my past” in those moments, and while i know this is simply what i am feeling on a heart level, and what i yearn for… i do so wish that he would answer. at least in some way that “didn’t come from my “self-talk.” It was other-world.”

    i do not want to waste my life (as John Piper so eloquently warns against)… in suicide, or in simply existing, chained to my pain and my past, allowing my fetters to prevent me from having that promised abundant life, and bringing glory to god in living that life. i just want torment to end… and sadly, cashing in my chips so often seems to be the best and only option.

    Lowell… i believe in your sincerity and honesty, and i deeply appreciate your transparency and willingness to share some of your story with me. i am going to keep listening for his voice…

thanks for your prayers,

ellie

Then, just a few hours later, she sent this post script:

here is my P.S. note … how would you suggest that i pursue conquering the “trust in god” issue?

Ellie

I felt like a fire was lit under me!  I did my best to explain how I’ve approached trust issues in my life, and some conclusions I have arrived at.

Dear Ellie,

I’ve tried to wrap my mind around the question you asked, “how would you suggest that i pursue conquering the “trust in god” issue?”   I’ve been trying to do that for years now, and I’ve got some opinions.  Here are a few:

I believe to understand “trust” one must understand “disappointment.”  (I’m speaking of trusting people, God, etc., versus being disappointed in or by people, God, etc.)  That is, in your case and mine, because we’ve been so hurt, to understand the positive (trust) one must try to understand the negative first (disappointment).  In my search for answers I went to “disappointment” first because I believed, and still believe, that trust is destroyed/damaged/weakened when we are disappointed, so … how can I ever trust if I don’t know how trust was broken in the first place.

Let me explain disappointment this way, and I think you’ll get where I’m coming from.  To me, disappointment comes from unmet expectations.  If I have an expectation of God, or any other person for that matter, and He/they do not meet my expectation(s), I will be disappointed.  And to guard my heart from the pain of repeated disappointments I will not trust.  I won’t be vulnerable again to that person.

I’m trying to do these word gymnastics  (God, people), so for my sake and yours I’ll just go with the “trusting God” thing.

In our minds (young and old) we have a picture of how God should behave.  When we’re children we have a finite understanding of just how big God is, but we get the part that says, “He can do anything because He’s super-powerful … and He is the most loving Person in the Universe … etc.”  When we’re older, we tend to limit God.  We’re more successful putting Him in a much smaller box, i.e., “He might not be able to do everything, and He may not be the most loving Person in the Universe.”  That “adult” point of view comes from repeated disappointments in our life experiences:  that is, we were not protected when we thought He (God) would protect us; He did not “love” me by giving me what I wanted, when I wanted it.  You know what I mean.

So … when a young girl such as yourself experiences abuse, you would naturally think, “If God is all-powerful, and the most loving Person in the Universe, how could He have let this awful thing happen to me.”  Right?  We are disappointed.  Our disappointment comes from our understanding of how God works, or how we think He should work/behave.  And He did not meet our expectations.

The fascinating thing is – Yes, God is all powerful … and He is the most loving Person in the Universe … and because He is both of those things, He’s a gift giver.  If He can’t give His enormous love away, He can’t be a Lover!  Some people think – “UNFORTUNATELY, God gave the gift of choice to mankind … and because He stupidly gave that gift to us, selfish people use that gift to satisfy their lust(s) for money, aberrant sex, etc., and because God gave away CONTROL when He gave mankind choice, I have been hurt, injured, damaged.  Stupid God!  How could He have been so unloving, as to give people the power to inflict pain upon me????”

Hang with me.  I’m going somewhere with this … I’m just getting real wordy.

God’s dilemma?  How does the consummate Lover give and receive love?  God gives love when He gives us the “power” to make a choice to return love to Him.  The risk?  That the loved one (that’s you and me and the whole world) might choose to love our selves more than Him, and do our own thing, and in turn do our own thing to innocent little girls like you.  God could have created mankind as little playthings.  He could have created a perfect world (He did) and then controlled every aspect of life in that world (He did NOT).  Instead of creating a cosmic doll house, and spending His time moving furniture from one room to the next, and move little puppet people around, God breathed LIFE into man, and said, “I love you, and I want you to love Me.  I won’t make you love Me.  I want you to choose to do it of your own free will.  You are not puppets or robots.  You are like the angels.  You can worship me or not.  Your choice.”

NOTE:  You and I can relate to God’s desire for love returned from a person with a free will because that’s what we long for.  We don’t want anyone to love us because they have to, but because they want to.

As I delved deeper into why God made the world the way He did, and then gave us human beings the gift of choice, it dawned on me, “God risked not being loved.”  Wow!  The most powerful being in the Universe exercised His awesome power to choose by LIMITING His power over us.  He decided not to make us love Him, but to let us love Him if we wanted to.  He limited His control.

And I love Him for it most of the time.  But from time to time I have hated Him for giving mankind that gift.  We are so selfish, we choose to go to war rather than go to the peace conference.  We are so selfish, we choose to abuse little girls rather than value them by saying NO to our immoral desires.  Sometimes I’m ashamed to be a man because so many men use their power to choose to do what’s been done to you.  I hope you will forgive me for being “one of those!”  One of those monsters – those evil, selfish, sexually deviant types.  And sometimes I’m ashamed to be a human being – because we humans are so … so … inhumane.  Ellie, please forgive me.  Please forgive us.

When I look at the Cross where Jesus died, what I see there is the epitome of wicked, inhumane behavior, and I pray, “Oh, God … we chose to KILL You rather than embrace You.  And we didn’t just choose to put a gun to Your head and pull the trigger so You would instantly die.  We chose to torture You to death … to make Your dying last as long as possible so that our hatred for You could be more fully expressed.  At the Cross we chose ‘freedom’ from Your Lordship over our lives so that we could do whatever we wanted to do, whenever we wanted to do it.  God, forgive us.  God … forgive me.”

Dear Ellie, in order for me to trust God, I had to go where I just took you.  It was a painful process … and it took a while.  I had to address my disappointment in God.  I had to identify my expectations, and decide if they were based on truth or fiction, God’s word or my best guess.  It was a humiliating process, but I finally came to the following conclusions, and if my pain-filled life experiences can help you, then I have a greater appreciation for all the shit I’ve been through.  Oh, and let me say, right now I’m living a wonderful life.  It’s based on truth, not fantasy.  I’ve come to grips with my childish thoughts, and rather than keep God in a small box, I’ve let Him out to be GOD!

Conclusions for Lowell:

1.  God so loved the world … you and me and the billions … that He wanted to give gifts (a lover wants to love and be loved, and a giver wants to give), and God’s gifts included the gift of life, the gift of this planet, the gift of others (so we wouldnt’ be alone), the gift of sex, the gift of choice, and the gift of His Son, Jesus.

2.  We selfish human beings have taken all of His gifts, and for the most part we have used them to satisfy our desires.  (There are notable exceptions – Mother Teresa comes to mind immediately!)

3.  FACT:  It was NEVER God’s intention for mankind to abuse His gifts, His love, or each other.  He said so many times and in many ways.  One way was to give us the Ten Commandments.  They were limitations God put on selfish behavior.  His desire was always that we would choose Him, and that we would choose to love others like He loves us … to not hurt other people.  Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God, and the second would follow … we would love our neighbors.

4.  So … while it may be hard to trust people (and it has been) because “they” are self centered, I can trust God because He is actually “ME centered” – that is, He has decided that I’m worth ALL He’s ever given.  And He never wanted me hurt.  He always wanted me to enjoy all He has to offer.  (I put “they” in quotes because “I” am never selfish.  Ha!)

5.  And so … to trust Him requires that I changed my view of God.  That’s hard.  That’s the hardest part.  You may have a view of God so entrenched in your mind that you may have to have a transplant.  (Paul said in Romans 12 that we needed a transformation.)  We’ve got to deal with ideas like “God doesn’t care that I’ve been hurt”  and other real disappointments based on unrealistic expectations that we might have.  We need to understand that we live on a fallen planet.)

Just how do you view God?  And what is that view based upon?  Is your view The Truth?  Have you believed any lies about God?

Sorry!  I got a little preachy there.  I’ve shared a lot of my “journey,” and I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you.  Personally, I think you probably “know” everything I’ve told you at an intellectual level … but for me anyway, until all this stuff went from my head to my heart (the core of my being), I didn’t experience any change that brought freedom from my past and my pain.

Just after I press the “send” button I’m going to get down on my knees and thank God again for His wonderful gifts.  I’m going to worship Him for who He really is, and for all that He has done for me.  And I’m going to lift your name up to Him, and ask Him to smother you with kisses, and warm your heart with His presence.  My wife and I will continue to pray for you.  Live, Ellie!  You have a story to tell and a life to live that will have meaning beyond your imagination.  And don’t take my word for it.  Take His.  In Jeremiah 29, I think it’s verses 11-14 … “I know the plans I have for you (Ellie) … plans to give you a hope and a future.”  Amen!

Blessings, and Aloha!

Lowell

Loving You … and More

img_1302.jpgThe greatest thing we can do in life is love.  There are three qualities of life that make living wonderful and human – faith, hope and love … but “the greatest of these is love.”  Faith allows us to live above the normal tenors and tones; hope is the stuff of confident and believable dreams.  But love ties us to other time travelers with cords of immeasurable strength, deeper emotion, and superior thought.

Can love be commanded, or demanded of us?  Some think not.  Maybe most think not …  And so, if someone were to command love, or command anything, there are those who would resist loving, or whatever, just to retain control of their life.  But, arguably, the greatest Man to ever live said that we are commanded to love – and we are to do it in ways that bring love its fullest expression and fulfillment.

That  Man, Jesus Christ, was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?” and He replied that the greatest commandment was to love God.  He then volunteered the second greatest commandment:  to love our neighbors.  He concluded that all the commandments (to not steal, murder, lie, covet, etc.) hung on these two – loving God and loving our neighbors.

Some people think Jesus actually suggested a third commandment when He said that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  The actual quote is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

But Jesus was not saying, or commanding, that we should love our selves.  He was just pointing out that we should love our neighbors … anyone who crosses our path in life … to the same degree that we love ourselves because He knew that no human being (generally speaking) would have a problem loving themselves. 

I really want to explore what it means to “love” God, and I’ll do that in another column, but today I want to write about loving others.

We humans long to be loved, and give love.  Like a puzzle lacking its most significant piece, we have a hole in our hearts that is shaped for love.  We have it in our DNA – to be loved by someone, and to express love to someone.  Like boiling water in a tea kettle on a hot stove, we want – we must release this pent up something … this emotion that is in us and of us.  And we want to have love returned to us in a genuine way.  And that is a key thought, too, don’t you think?  Don’t we all want to be genuinely loved and authentically love someone else?

That said, you might think that loving others comes naturally. … but it doesn’t.  Loving is an acquired taste.  But once it is delightfully experienced, it’s addictive.  Loving others is a learned skill.  So, I suggest that if it wasn’t commanded, we might only drink in love, hoping not to spill a precious drop.  (For example, if parents don’t model it, children won’t do it naturally, because it’s MORE natural to be self-centered and selfish.  With our first infancy cry, we demand to be taken care of.  From birth WE COMMAND others to love us, and we do so with our incessant grasping and howling.)  Loving, like sharing, must be taught.

My Mom and Dad, Retha and Claude, loved each other, and in so doing created an atmosphere in our home that encouraged loving.  We saw their love, felt their love, and then wanted what they had.  That’s when they began the teaching process.  Mom and Dad taught us to love.

Got a question for you.  In all our talking about love, are we first loving?

Think about it.

(pictured above – Brandon, April 1, 2008) 

St. Bernard Ain’t No Dog!

st-bernard.jpgBernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), the charismatic Catholic abbot of 12th Century France, is credited with inspiring the domestication of a breed of dog that would emulate his loving personality – the St. Bernard.  The abbot was such a lover of men and God that his influence on human history is considered extraordinary.  He wasn’t perfect by any means, confessing later in life that he was immeasurably wrong in preaching the necessity of the Second Crusade – a war that had disastrous consequences still being felt today, but such was his influence.

 

John Michael Talbot, in The Way of the Mystics (with Steve Rabey; San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2005), wrote that Bernard often “condemned churches that were too big, too wealthy, and decorated too elaborately.”  On one occasion the abbot wrote:  “I will overlook the immense heights of places of prayer, their immoderate lengths, their superfluous widths, the costly refinements, and the painstaking representations which deflect the attention … and thus hinder devotion … I, however, say, ‘Tell me, poor man, if indeed you are poor men, what is gold doing in the holy place.’”

If Bernard had lived in my day, he would have fit right in with the rest of us living out the “Jesus Movement” of the late 60s and early 70s.  He would have been a hero.

I would want to be known and then remembered as a man who loved men and God.  I would rather be known as a lover than a preacher or a holy man.  I would rather share the sweet honey of God’s love than the vinegar so many associate with the purveyors of “the good news” (which sounds more like bad news in the ears of many).

St. Bernard wrote on another occasion about “spiritual maturity” (and again I quote Talbot), that quality of life that we Christ-followers are supposed to be aspiring to.  He was describing spiritual maturity by contrasting reservoirs and canals.  He said it “would be best if people resembled reservoirs, opening their souls to be filled with God’s spirit and then allowing the overflow to empower their ministry to others.  But instead, too many people resemble canals.  The water of the Holy Spirit flows through their lives, but it disappears as soon as it arrives.  ‘The want to pour it forth before they have been filled.  They are more ready to speak than to listen, impatient to teach what they have not grasped, and full of presumption to govern others while they know not how to govern themselves.’”

“And unlike vinegar-stlyle preachers who try to keep people in line with threats of fire and brimstone, Bernard believed divine love could inspire ever-deeper devotion.”

I don’t think LOVE is so weak, so non-confrontational, or so flexible or adaptable that the lover holds nothing precious, and avoids holding to principles that might offend some.  I say that because Jesus was the consummate Lover, and yet He never shied away from sharing His thoughts about politics and politicians (see His reference to Herod, “that fox”), or religious bigots (the “hypocrites” and “snakes” that consistently opposed His ministry to those they thought unworthy of God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness).  On the contrary, I believe that LOVE is, first and foremost, when it is its most powerful and most influential, having as its object God, and then Man.  And because the Lover of God loves God’s ways, His thoughts and His take on life, such a Lover will take a stand for God.

But, here’s the rub.  Many (and some most of the) times, God’s ways/thoughts/etc., are opposed to our ways, thoughts, etc.  Hmmm.  What’s a Lover to do?  Be quiet?  Be sarcastic and vinegary?  Or be brave, wise, and always LOVING of humankind, those wonderful creatures made in “God’s Image?”

Think about it.