Monthly Archives: May 2010

Looking at Love

1 Corinthians 13:4-8
A few years ago I adapted several studies on this passage for a class I taught on dating and marriage. The ideas was not new at all, but it seemed to be helpful. We took the biblical statement of love’s activity, added some practical application and compared it with that which pretends to be love. The bullet points:

Pretender Love

Love is …

Genuine Love (AGAPE)

  • Wants the fruit of deep relationship without roots.
  • Hurries toward deeper involvement without taking time to build.
  • Pushy! Reactive.

v. 4 is patient

  • Takes time to know people, accepts that deep relationship is built gradually.
  • Doesn’t push…willing to wait for the one loved to grow.
  • Willing to wait for the best.
     
  • Often insensitive
  • Hurtful
  • Uncaring
  • Selfish – “what’s in it for me” drives their choices and actions

v.4 is kind

  • Consistent courtesy and doing of kind deeds unselfishly. Manners.
  • Willing to do things you don’t really enjoy because the one you love likes doing them!
  • Honors the other
  • Tender & Forgiving
     
  • Possessive, insecure, may want to monopolize time together.
  • Doesn’t like to be “compared” to others. Immature
  • Easily threatened, often hostile
  • Demonstrates controlling behavior

v. 4 is not jealous

  • Trust at the core. Allows supportive freedom for partner to develop apart from you.
  • Non-controlling. Allows the relationship to be freely chosen without manipulation
  • Rejoices in the good that happens to a partner.
     
  • Anxious to impress others (not God?) through words or immature “showing off.”
  • Selfish. Slants everything to make self look good.
  • Related to “sloth”—i.e., talks the talk, but doesn’t walk the walk!

v. 4 does not brag (lit. extolling self)

  • Quiet about self. Lets others talk about them.
  • Affirmation of others rather than self.
  • Lets actions speak more than words
     
  • Attitude of selfish pride and improper sense of importance.
  • “I don’t need you…or anybody”
  • Denigrates others, showing off with an edge of contempt – “I’m better than you”
  • Unteachable, will not listen.
  • Blames others for failure.
  • Tends to hide real issues.

v. 4 is not arrogant (Greek, sense of “blowing”, i.e., puffed up, proud.)

  • Humble, Philippians 2:1-5 attitude that others are more important than myself.
  • Confident, but not selfishly proud. Is proud of the accomplishments of the one loved.
  • Shows servanthood.
  • Transparent and authentic.
     
  • Insensitive to those around you
  • Selfish with addition of rude…
  • Inappropriate behavior or expressions of emotion.
  • Sexually demanding.

v. 5 does not act unbecomingly

  • Shows respect and consideration for others.
  • Gracious.
  • Manners. Courteous. Honors another’s feelings.
  • Sense of appropriateness.
     
  • “I love me and I want you!”
  • Selfish and demanding of his own way.
  • “If” or “Because” love
  • May play the martyr to get his way.

v. 5 does not seek his own

  • Seeks to make the other a better person.
  • Protects the rights and dignity of another person…wife, kids, etc.
  • Gives.
  • “anyhow” love.
     
  • Touchy, fretful, resentful, easily upset
  • Others feel like they are “walking on eggshells.”
  • Anger may be diffused or diminished but shows up in “pouting, sulking, or silence”.
  • “nothing” is wrong when asked, but smolders under the surface.
  • Contemptuous attitude – may make everything a “joke.”

v. 5 is not provoked

  • Honestly faces weaknesses together.
  • Acceptance of circumstances and other people.
  • Able to understand and direct anger into productive discussion or activity.
  • Realizes that not everything is “about me.”
     
  • Holds grudges … has a bag of wrongs (even if they have been “forgiven”).
  • Usually demonstrates an ongoing critical spirit.

v. doesn’t take into account a wrong suffered (lit. doesn’t ledger life”

  • Forgives quickly and there is no “bookkeeping”
     
  • Allows sinfulness to creep in – especially if it leads to getting what we want.
  • Sexual immorality becomes tolerated and toyed with.
  • Leaves God out…especially if He “gets in the way” of personal happiness.

v. 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices with the truth.

  • Seeks to do right, to be just, to do good.
  • Avoids sinful situations or practice
  • Seeks God.
     
  • Exposes the weakness of others, usually to make self look good.

v. 7 bears all things (in Greek, more like “covers”)

  • 1 Peter 4:8 – “love covers a multitude of sins.”
  • Protective of the dignity of fellow-sinners.
     
  • Pessimistic.
  • Expects others to fail. Almost relishes in it – especially if he looks good in comparison.
  • Suspicious.

v. 7 hopes all things

  • Optimistic, especially about the one loved!
  • Sees the best in others and trusts them – especially considering God’s renewing work in our hearts and lives.
  • Expects the best, (and “bears” otherwise).
     
  • Suspicious without reason.
  • Untrusting
  • “Sees” lies and questions motives without reason.

v. 7 believes all things

  • Supportive, trusting.
  • When motive is unclear, thinks the best.
  • Implied: Willing to be hurt.
     
  • When the going gets tough they get out.
  • Tries to prevent change.
  • Will not accept flaws or weaknesses of partner.
  • Intolerant of moods.
  • Critical.

v. 7 endures all things

  • Stays in through the hard times – inconveniences & misunderstandings –the stuff of life.
  • Accepts change in a partner with graciousness (aging, etc.)
  • “In spite of” love.
  • Tolerates wrongs done.
  • Accepts the humanness of others.
     
  • Packs up when the romance is gone. Feelings oriented, subjective.
  • Will not stand the test of time.
  • Commitment is lacking.

v. 8 never fails (lit. “doesn’t fall down”)

  • Total commitment – the “till death do us part” clause of marriage vows.
  • Objective as well as subjective. More than feelings.
  • Stands during the test of adversity.
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Interesting Links

A few interesting links I’ve come across in the past few weeks:


Ministry Success – Man or the Method – Part 4

Paul (and his team) give us a model for ministry in his first letter to the Thessalonians, providing a practical look at the manner of the ministry. I think it is interesting that as Paul gives us a rare look into his minister’s heart we find the motives that underlie his methodology; and noteworthy that we hear so little about that methodology.

We must remember that God uses godly people. Methods and programs are secondary. A Godly person can be used in any setting.

I Thessalonians 2:1-12 (ESV)
“For you yourselves know, brothers, that our coming to you was not in vain. But though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had boldness in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the midst of much conflict. For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness. Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how holy and righteous and blameless was our conduct toward you believers. For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. ”

Some initial simple thoughts I’ve considered as I seek to understand what Paul writes about doing the ministry:

  • No error, deceit, or impurity in their message – they took care to be honest in every way.
  • They were not men-pleasers – God’s pleasure rather than man’s accolades or acceptance is most important.
  • Integrity marks the ministry – everything
  • Humility
  • Gentleness – the kind demonstrated by a new mother, nursing her child.
  • A fond affection for those he serves, not merely doing his job.
  • The Gospel is the core of their message.
  • They gave themselves, not just their words.
  • The ministry was marked by hard work, they labored in doing it.
  • They were completely above reproach in their conduct – holy, righteous, and blameless.
  • They acted with the fondness of a father for his children – exhorting them, encouraging them, charging them to live for God.
  • They had a pure goal – that the flock would walk worthy of God.

What would you add?


Ministry Success – Man or the Method – Part 3

(Colossians 1:24–29, ESV)
Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

The man or woman that God uses is first of all holy. Second, he or she must be totally dependent on God. Third, the man or woman that God uses is fully willing to work hard in His power. 

Note that the words used here indicate hard work – “toil” and “struggle” and note as well, that this hard work is done according to His power. The work is difficult and can only be done as we submit to Him in faith which is a point of "tension" in ministry – God and I work together to accomplish the task before us; and even though God is working with me and in me, it is tough and tiresome. There is no place for "kicking back" and taking it easy. God will give us rest at the appropriate times, yet when we are doing His work it will take physical, emotional and spiritual energy. Success God’s way will take time and involve sacrifice, and all the methods in the world will not overcome weaknesses in leadership character. That includes being one who works with diligence; who toils and labors in carrying out the hard and soft tasks of the ministry.


Ministry Success – Man or the Method – Part 2

In my last post I began a musing on the nature of the man that God uses, with the understanding that God can, and does, use many different programs to reach and grow people in the church; yet none of these programs will be truly effective without  qualified leaders. Foremost in character, the man or woman that God uses is Holy.

Second, The man or woman God uses is totally dependent, reliant, and trusting in God for it is His ministry.

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (NASB95)
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good

This passage plainly makes clear that every ministry that we might accomplish is of the triune God:

  • our spiritual gifts are from the Holy Spirit,
  • our ministry in which the gifts are used is from Christ, and even
  • the effects of that giftedness, in that ministry, are from the Father.

We must serve God with the understanding that every aspect of ministry from gifts, to effects, are His work. We must completely trust Him to do it through us. And since it is His work we must be careful not to become proud or arrogant as if the results were due to our strategies, programs or great ministry skills.

Psalm 127:1 (NASB95)
Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.

 

Unless the Lord is at work in our ministry (the church) we are laboring in vain to build anything. If He is not the center of all that we do and the core of all of our ministry, then it won’t last.

Colossians 1:24-29 (NASB95)
24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions. 25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, 26 that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, 27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ. 29 For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.

Those in leadership ministry should sense that God has called them to do this work. We are made ministers of His Gospel and we are accountable to Him to be faithful with His work. We are to be laboring for His Kingdom using His plan, realizing that we are called of Him to do His Work in His way. That means we are, in every way, completely and totally dependent up Him – not upon our skill or technique.


Ministry Success – Man or the Method – Part 1

It is quite tempting to begin a ministry by looking for the program or method that will be effective in changing people’s lives. We can easily fall prey to looking for the system that will bring success. I know that I can. Ultimately, each one who seeks to be successful in God’s way, will find that programs and methods are merely tools, and that they will only be as effective as the ones who use them. God can, and does, use many different programs to reach and grow people in the church. Yet none of these programs will be truly effective without qualified leaders involved. While God never promised to bless any particular program, He has promised to bless men and women of proven character who follow the principles of ministry laid down in Scripture.

I thought that I do some musing about some of the keys to being a person that God can use effectively.

clip_image001First and foremost: The man or woman God uses is Holy.

We must be right with God first. Then we can be right with men — including those we minister to.

 Isaiah 6:1-8 (NASB95)
1 In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2 Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.” 4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” 8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Note that the vision of God first brings a desire to be pure; to be holy. Then comes a call to service.

1 Peter 1:13-16 (NASB95)
13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; 16 because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Holiness is the standard for all Christians because God Himself is holy. In preparing for action, programming, for doing the work of God we must be committed to obedience first.

2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NASB95)
20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. 21 Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.

God uses the clean vessels whether they are "fine china" or just "everyday" dishes. The issue is purity.

Holy men and women will be used of God no matter what the program.

Jerry Bridges made it perfectly clear when speaking at our church’s Men’s Retreat: “The death of many very good ministries has been brought about by one recurring ‘virus’ — the lack of holiness among its leaders." Those seeking to do God’s work, God’s way must watch and evaluate every thought, word, and action in maintaining holiness in complete and total dependence on the finished work of Christ.

Bridges in his message to our men made it clear that each one of us as must be involved in a passionate pursuit of holiness rather than a merely a pursuit new programs or strategies. There is nothing more important.


On Sacrifice

I wrote in my journal almost 24 years ago:

When we call American Christians to sacrifice for Christ in these days we may need to clarify what we mean. Most will not be required to give up their lives, nor even much of their wealth relatively speaking. They may however have to give up a life organized around their convenience. God’s plans don’t always allow us to dictate the schedule.

I’m sure it is still true – maybe more so. I think that many Christians are willing to sacrifice for Christ’s sake if required, but only if it will fit into their plans, and won’t be too inconvenient, or mess up their comfort too much. I know I wrestle with it. I know, too convicting.

I also wrote that “most Christians today seem to desire sentimentality rather than sacrifice” which came from some article in the October ‘86 edition of the scandalous Wittenburg Door magazine.

I was 9 months into a new ministry with students at that time. I was being encouraged by parents to challenge “our kids to be good Christians” by which they meant “make them good children that good grades, obey their parents, go to a good college, make lots of money, and get good jobs.” The discomfort was palpable when I mentioned that I really hoped that some of their children would become missionaries or pastors! One mom actually said that it would really be hard on their family if their daughter pursued life as a missionary. You know, I really like the idea of missionaries, I just don’t want my kid to be one – I don’t think I could take it if they couldn’t be here for holidays. I think I said something about it being my job to ruin kids (according to American culture) for Christ’s sake. (Yes, I know that one shouldn’t say things like that to an Elder’s wife; and yes, I probably ripped it off from something Mike Yaconelli said).

Ironically, one of my daughters is a missionary in Scotland. I’m glad she was “ruined.”