1 Corinthians 13 Love

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, ‘Jump,’ and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always ‘me first,’
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

 We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love” (1 Corinthians 13, The Message).

This isn’t warm and fuzzy, Nicholas Sparks romantic love. This is agape unconditional love that’s impossible by strictly human standards.

It’s the love that Christ loved us with when He laid down His life for us when we were yet sinners.

It’s the “not I, but Christ in me” love that fills us up to overflowing and spills out to those around us.

It’s still the only love that can change the world.

I want that kind of love. I want to be that kind of love.

At the Right Time

“But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance” (Galatians 4:4-7, The Message).

In this Advent time, it’s good to remember that for thousands of years people were looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. Many trusted in faith and died without seeing what they hoped for fulfilled, yet they still believed.

We are on the other side of history, looking back toward that blessed event. How much more should our faith increase at this time of year, knowing that the promised Messiah has come and the Kingdom He spoke of is here?

Still, for many of us, this is a difficult season. For some, it’s a reminder of lost loved ones. For others, it’s a season where life goes from busy to insanity.

Still, this is the season where we are reminded of Emmanuel– God with us. Advent means that God is still here with us and won’t ever leave us. Ever.



Living Out the Gospel

“Everything in the world is about to be wrapped up, so take nothing for granted. Stay wide-awake in prayer. Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything. Be quick to give a meal to the hungry, a bed to the homeless—cheerfully. Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help. That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time. Oh, yes!” (1 Peter 4:7-11, The Message)

The Message translation is hit-or-miss in my book. Sometimes, it misses the mark in capturing the original intent of the author and gets too loose with its paraphrasing. But when it’s on, it’s dead on. Like this passage form 1 Peter 4.

That’s the gist of the gospel right there, spelled out in black and white. Faith isn’t genuine unless it shows itself in good works. Love isn’t genuine unless it goes beyond mere words and takes hands and feet toward the less fortunate in very tangible ways.

It’s not just social justice without addressing the spiritual need for salvation, and it’s not just a call for repentance without meeting their physical needs. It’s both.

Most of all, it’s about loving people in the same way that God in Jesus loved you. Of course, that’s impossible by merely human standards. It only becomes possible when you serve out of the overflow of God’s love.

As my favorite pastor put it, when you receive God’s love, it’s like trying to contain the ocean in a thimble. When that love of God spills out onto those around you, that’s the basis on which you’re loving people with God’s love and serving them from the overflow and not from your own resources.


A Brisk Evening

“God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left” (Lamentations 3:22-24, The Message).

I trekked once more over to downtown Franklin for Pumpkinfest 2017. I had the incredibly bright idea to park at the Factory and walk the rest of the way.

It was cold.

Halfway there, I began rethinking the brilliance of said idea. But I also had the thought of how much I’d like to be at a bonfire right about now.

I still think that fall is my favorite season, especially when the temperatures dip into the 40’s and I finally get to pull all that flannel out of the closet and start wearing it.

I’m thinking right now that for me, the best day ever is still today, because that’s the day full of new mercies and fresh grace. That’s the day where you find God speaking to you. Not in yesterday or tomorrow, but today.

I didn’t quite calculate my arrival at Pumpkinfest just right. When I arrived, most of the booths were tearing down and there were few people still around. I still managed to have a spectacular Greek salad from Taziki’s and some stellar hot chocolate from Frothy Monkey. And I got my 10,000 steps in.

Speaking of flannel, I have my flannel shirt hanging on my closet door, ready for me to put on in the morning when my brain is in pre-coffee mode and needs all the help it can get. It’s really sad.

Still, tomorrow will have those new mercies and fresh grace that I’m so fond of. I can’t wait to see how God will show up at The Church at Avenue South (and later on in my Life Group).

A good time will be had be all.

Prayer and the Pray-er

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good” (Romans 8:26-28, The Message).

Sometimes I feel like I should be a much better pray-er by now. I’ve had enough practice and amassed all this spiritual knowledge, yet when I actually take the time to pray in private, I get distracted and my mind wanders and I occasionally fall asleep.

I read about all these spiritual giants who would spend hours upon hours in prayer, yet for me even five minutes in dedicated prayer seems like an eternity.

Tonight, I was reminded that sometimes the truest prayers look and sound a lot like sighs and groans. Sometimes, the most spiritual kind of prayer is to confess your complete and utter helplessness to express what’s in your heart, knowing the Holy Spirit is able to translate those inaudible (and sometimes audible) yearnings into prayers that the Father hears.

I’ve mentioned before that sometimes the three best prayers are “Help,” “Thanks,” and “Wow.” Anne Lamott wrote an entire book about those prayers and I confess at times, those are the only words I can muster to express what’s in my heart.

It’s not my great faith in God that sustains me but rather my faith in a great big God that has carried me through seasons of so-called self-sufficiency and seasons of complete God-dependence.

On a side note: today is the seventh anniversary of my very first blog post all the way back in 2010. On another side note, I originally wrote that it was the sixth anniversary before my internal editor caught the mistake.

Thank you, God, that you are more faithful to me than I am to you, and that my destiny isn’t based on my faith in You but in Your faith in me.


At the End of the Day

At the end of the day, I’m well spent.

I’m still a little heart-sore over my little departed fur baby Lucy. It’s an ache that I know will never fully go away, but it comes with lots of memories that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

I’m worn out from hoofing it all over downtown Franklin after a full day of work. I’m especially looking forward to sleeping in tomorrow with no 5 am wake-up call to interrupt my dreams.

Overall, I’m still blessed. I’m even thankful for the rain for making me appreciate sunshine all the more.

“At day’s end I’m ready for sound sleep,
For you, God, have put my life back together” (Psalm 4:8, The Message).

What You’re For

I’m remembering something Uncle Mike (known to the non-Kairos folks as Dr. Mike Glenn, pastor of Brentwood Baptist Church) said a few years back.

He said that it seems lately that Christians are known for what they are against. You name it, they’re against it. He went on to say that at his old church, they’d get together and celebrate the fact that they hadn’t done anything that week.

It’s good to have convictions and standards. It’s good to speak up for what you believe in. To be silent about the things that matter to you is to give consent.

But I wonder if we haven’t fallen into that old trap again about being known more for what we’re against rather than what we’re for.

Here’s a few suggestions of what we can loudly proclaim that we’re for:

  1. Grace. No one deserves it, but grace is open and available to anyone. Even the Donald Trumps of the world? Yes. Even to the Hillary Clintons? Yes. Jesus died for these and for all.
  2. Life. Not just the unborn and not just Americans. All life matters because all life is sacred and every human being bears the Imago Dei, the image of God, whether Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, Christian or Muslim.
  3. Love. Not just for those who treat you right and who always agree with you. Jesus said to love your enemies, even those on the opposite end of the political spectrum.
  4. God. There is still no one too lost or too far gone or too past hope for God to reach down and redeem and save to the uttermost. Not even you.

As always, speak the truth but speak it in love and never in an insulting or demeaning way. The people who disagree with us are not our enemies– the battle isn’t against flesh and blood but against those spiritual forces that Paul talked about. Abba’s children should never stoop to mocking or belittling others.

“We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love” (1 Corinthians 13:12-13, The Message).

Living Letters

“Does it sound like we’re patting ourselves on the back, insisting on our credentials, asserting our authority? Well, we’re not. Neither do we need letters of endorsement, either to you or from you. You yourselves are all the endorsement we need. Your very lives are a letter that anyone can read by just looking at you. Christ himself wrote it—not with ink, but with God’s living Spirit; not chiseled into stone, but carved into human lives—and we publish it.

We couldn’t be more sure of ourselves in this—that you, written by Christ himself for God, are our letter of recommendation. We wouldn’t think of writing this kind of letter about ourselves. Only God can write such a letter. His letter authorizes us to help carry out this new plan of action. The plan wasn’t written out with ink on paper, with pages and pages of legal footnotes, killing your spirit. It’s written with Spirit on spirit, his life on our lives!” (2 Corinthians 3:1-6, The Message).

Two questions continue to haunt me from this morning’s sermon by Sean MacNally at The Church at Avenue South: 1) What kind of letter are you? 2) Who is reading you?

I can only hope that my letter is a letter full of both grace and truth. I hope that people who read my life will know that their stories don’t have to end with ashes and tears but that there is hope for a new start and a better ending.

As for the second question, I believe that there’s always someone watching you. Someone out there hears you say that you’re a Christian and pays attention to see if your lifestyle matches your testimony. What are they seeing?

I still love what Dwight Moody said. For every one person who picks up and reads a Bible, there will be ten who will read the Christian. What kind of gospel will they find? What will they learn about the Jesus– not the Jesus you talk about but the Jesus you emulate by your daily words and actions?

These are questions that I hope linger in my mind for a while. May they be more than nice sentiments but the keys to real and lasting transformation.


Finding Rest for Your Souls

“We overvalue nonessentials like a nicer car or house, or even intangibles like the number of our followers on Twitter or the way we look in our Facebook photos. As a result, we neglect activities that are truly essential, like spending time with our loved ones, or nurturing our spirit, or taking care of our health” (Greg McKeownEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less).

Tonight’s topic at Kairos was keeping the Sabbath.

It was not the usual guilt trip about how you shouldn’t go to Wal-Mart on Sunday or how if you skip church you must be a heathen pagan.

It was more about how God designed the seventh day for rest. Not merely sleeping in one day a week (though that is a good thing in my opinion) but truly resting in body, mind, and spirit.

Chris Brooks, the Kairos pastor, pointed out that we don’t rest from our work as much as we work from our rest. Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word for work can also be translated as worship, so even our labors can have an element of rest in them if we view our jobs as offerings of worship rather than just tasks and to-do-lists.

I still love what Macrina Wiederkehr said: “Work is love made visible.” When we see that our job isn’t something we endure to get to Friday, but an act of worship and a demonstration of love, then it becomes less of an ordeal and more of a joy.

In a world where busyness is glorified and justified and promoted, God says to rest. God says that you can get more done in six days with a day set aside for rest than you can by charging ahead full speed for seven days without a break.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30, The Message).

Keep Your Eyes on Jesus

“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Hebrews 12:1-3, The Message).

Keep your eyes on Jesus. That’s the key.

For me, if I look around me and compare myself with others, I either get despondent and envious or I get self-righteous with a false sense of superiority. It doesn’t end well.

If I look at my circumstances, I get overwhelmed. I don’t have a good enough perspective on the big picture to understand my present situation.

I feel like Bilbo from The Hobbit sometimes. In one scene, the dwarves ask him to climb a tree to see how near they are to the edge of the forest. Bilbo obliges, only to see an endless sea of trees. If he had only found a taller tree to climb, he might have found that they were much closer to the end than they imagined.

Keeping your eyes on Jesus is seeing your life from the absolute best vantage point. You realize that it’s not really about you after all but that you get to be a part of what Jesus is doing, and that’s huge. Remember, you may not feel like much of anything, but Jesus still chose you to be not just on His side but to be the very means He uses to turn the upside down world right side up again.

Keep your eyes on Jesus.