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Archive for December, 2019

by Rocky Glenn

To be completely honest, the title of this series does not agree with me.  It makes no sense to think of love as a skill.  To think of love in such a manner takes the mystery out of it and seems to reduce it to nothing more than a learned trait or ability.  We romanticize love as something spontaneous which just happens and is uncontrollable, but maybe our idealization of love is why we experience a lack thereof.  By definition, a skill is the ability to do something well, based upon one’s knowledge and practice.  According to the Oxford dictionary, to practice is to perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to acquire, improve or maintain proficiency in it.  Could it be because we haven’t been taught to practice the eight characteristics of love listed by Paul that we see so little of it in action in our everyday lives?    

As I shared previously, the study of leadership and love based upon James C. Hunter’s The World’s Greatest Leadership Principle: How To Become A Servant Leader has provided a more practical application of Paul’s components of love than I have previously encountered.  Hunter’s description of each of the eight characteristics have provided more of a mirror than I imagined into my own personal thoughts, motivations, and behaviors.  Remember, Hunter defines love as the act of extending yourself for others by identifying and meeting their legitimate needs and seeking their great good.  Defining love as an act indicates love is a verb and takes action.  In short, love does.  Love is not a feeling and not based on our feelings but is a choice we make and exhibit through our behaviors.  In this post, I begin sharing each of those traits in more detail as explained by Hunter.

Patience

Patience is typically defined as displaying self-control and most commonly thought of as being seen in times of waiting.  Hunter puts a different spin on patience by defining it more clearly as impulse control.  An impulse is a strong desire or urge to act suddenly and reactively.  Impulses are knee-jerk reactions displayed with little to no consideration of consequence to such reactions.  Those given to impulses will generally offer excuses such as “This is just the way I am,” or “You know how I am” to excuse their out of control behavior when losing their temper or flying off the handle.  To rely on such an excuse is a refusal to extend oneself for others.  Practicing impulse control teaches us to respond not according to what we feel but according to what is the right thing to do.  Patience makes us consistent and predictable in both mood and actions and causes us to be easy to be with and approachable.  Paul describes this as forbearance and moderation in his letter to the Philippians and states this quality of our lives should be evident to all.

To gaze into the mirror of patience is to consider the memories of blowing it, losing your cool, and erupting in angry, volcanic outbursts.  Even if the emotions behind the outbursts are truthful, justified, and legitimate, would you have responded in like fashion had you taken pause to understand and consider the damage such a reaction could cause to those on the receiving end?  What if the recipient of your lack of patience were a VIP, dignitary, or someone whom you wished to impress?  Would your response have been the same or would you have magically been able to control yourself and your impulses?

Kindness

The common definition of kindness is the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.  Kindness requires us to reach out and extend ourselves by being courteous and listening well even to people we may not be particularly fond of.   Hunter defines kindness as displaying common courtesy to others.  By dubbing kindness the WD40 of relationships, he explains common courtesies are the little things that help relationships flow smoothly.  Little things most of us would simply refer to as manners like saying “Please”, “Thank you”, “I’m sorry”, “I was wrong”, or even “Good morning!”

Kindness is also about showing appreciation and encouragement to others.  Hunter reminds us of the famous words of Mother Teresa, “People crave appreciation more than they crave bread.”  Everyone wants to know they matter and are valued.  Kind people are listening people.  We’ve all been cut short in conversation and interrupted by others who simply can’t wait for us to stop speaking so they can say what’s on their mind.  It’s obvious they aren’t listening as they nearly trip over the words they can’t wait to say.  Taking a moment to pause and consider how devalued and under appreciated you feel in such circumstances will help lead you on the path to kindness towards others.

If love is truly the act of extending yourself and seeking someone’s greater good, patience and kindness must be the first steps of extension as they allow others to feel safe around us.  It’s written perfect love drives out all fear.  As we become known for our generosity and approachability, the fear of rejection will disappear.  It will not always be easy or convenient to practice patience and kindness, but, just as athletes train for competition and musicians rehearse for a performance, the more we practice each of these skills, the more proficient we become.

Rocky

 

 

 

 

 

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by Jim Gordon

After having a discussion with some friends on the topic of the Spirit within and hearing his voice, I thought it appropriate to repost an article from a couple years ago on the subject.

Growing up in the organized church, we were told that the Holy Spirit came to reside within us once we accepted Christ. We were also told that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we have no need that any man should teach us. Yet when it came to really emphasizing what that meant and how to hear the Spirit, the church seemed to have dropped the ball in that area.

We do not seem to hear a lot of teaching on what it means for the Spirit to live within us. We are not told how to listen for the Spirit and what are we actually supposed to be listening for. Jesus said that his sheep hear his voice, yet most of us were taught that his voice is really the words written in the bible or spoken by the pastor.

We have heard it said that if it is not in the bible it is not of God. We are told God only speaks through the written word, yet there are so many interpretations, various doctrines and so many verses that were written to a specific person or group of persons. These writings were often for a specific time period that no longer relates directly to us except as an example to learn about the nature of God.

I feel so much has been lost over the years from when the original writings were done. So many of the translations have changed the original meanings because of changes in times, word meanings, traditions and such. Without the Spirit bringing to life the words we read, and through confirmation through his voice within we are really left to our personal views and opinions and what others have told us the written word means.

The bible is not God and it is not a god. The bible was inspired by an infallible God yet written by very fallible men, men who were inspired yet wrote with their personal views and ways of writing. The bible is about people trying to find, follow and fellowship with God and teaches us ways to do that. The written word leads us to the Living Word, who is Jesus.

The bible tells us that the Spirit now lives within us. Yet so often, even though we say it we do not act like we really believe it. Time and time again the bible mentions we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, we have the mind of Christ, the Spirit and the Kingdom are within you. And time and time again we seem to go right on thinking God is far away from us and all we can do is read from his word or have some pastor tell us what God is saying.

There are many people who say they speak for God but are nowhere close to being a godly example. It is easy to say God told me this or that, or say God told me to tell you something yet the person saying such things is only going on their personal feelings and interpretations. Anyone can say God told them this or that and expect us to do what they say, but we need to listen to the Spirit for ourselves and listen for the confirmation from within as to what is of God and what is not.

I believe if God says the Spirit lives within us and we can hear his voice, then it is something not to be taken lightly. As followers of Christ we can rely on the Spirit within us to teach us and guide us into his truth. We have to be listening and open to God to know his voice, but we can hear it and know it is from God. To say that we can only hear from God through the written word is to miss a more intimate fellowship with God.

Is the bible to be ignored? Are we to stop reading the written word and only follow what we feel is the voice of the Spirit? No, both the written word and the Living Word that lives within us are important. The written word is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. Yet without the Living Word bringing those words to life, it is just a book about humans trying to find God. We need to be listening for the quiet voice of the Spirit of Christ who actually lives within us for truth and guidance. Sometimes he will speak directly in our spirits, sometimes he will speak through his written word and sometimes through others.

Also remember that God is alive and his Spirit is within us. Do not think that He can only speak through one particular means. Yet do not jump at every voice you hear, make sure it is the voice of His Spirit. Although the bible says we have the mind of Christ we also have the mind of Jim, or Mike or Betty. We are still human and need to be sure we are hearing from the Spirit of Christ and not our natural spirit. Still, Jesus said His sheep hear his voice, which to me says we can hear and know it is from God.

We also know that the Spirit can speak to one person one way and another person in a different way. Just because the Spirit is speaking to me does not mean he is telling you the same thing. Just because I hear the Spirit say something to me does not mean it is something that has to be announced to everyone. It may be that he is speaking to me for something I need to do or learn and it is not meant for others to hear.

My friend Michael Clark wrote about this topic and said in his article: “Jesus is the Word of God! He speaks to those who are His sheep. They know His voice and will not follow the voices of strangers (read John Ch. 10). Yet, so many Christians have said to me, “How can I know when Jesus is speaking to me?” To many of them the answer is, “Unplug! You are listening to and reading too many teachers. Break this habit of heaping to yourself teachers who tickle your ears. Get alone with God for a few months until you start hearing His whispered voice. Talk with Him and let Him be your friend above all friends.”

Just as we think of the church as a building with an organized program, it is so much more than that. The Church is a community of people daily following the Spirit and living in the kingdom of God during our life now. We also think of the word of God as a book, yet the true and living Word of God is so much more than that. Jesus is the Living Word of God and we can hear the voice of the Spirit which is within us. We can hear his voice through the written word, but keep in mind that God speaks in more ways than one.

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By Mike Edwards

A God who bothers to creates surely wants us to know what God is like. Atheists and believers agree. The only kind of God worth believing in is a perfect God. A Book can’t be the only way to know God because even scholars, who respect the authority of Scriptures, don’t agree on whether Hell really exist or God condemns gays. Most believe we ought to treat others like we want to be treated. We can only know what such love is through our own moral notions.

God and human perfect must be the same.

If God exist most would agree with the Bible’s exhortation that we should strive to: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). It is intuitive that human and godly perfection are one in the same. We may not always know what perfect love entails but at least we always know the question we ought to ask ourselves – am I loving others perfectly? It is only natural to think a Creator would love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others.

We cannot know definitively what God’s perfect love is according to the Bible.

Literature always requires interpretation, thus why scholars disagree on the meaning of the same biblical passages. You are currently interpreting whether I am saying none of the Bible is inspired or that every word of the Bible may not be inspired by God. It is normal to question interpretations. Interpretations that don’t seemingly lead to loving your neighbor more may be amiss because they are contrary to our moral intuitions and understandings of perfection. We cannot avoid using our moral brains when reading ancient literature. 

We cannot know definitely what God is like according to Jesus.  

It is argued, because of the challenges understanding God and violence in the Old Testament, that Jesus is our final destination for fully understanding God. Jesus claimed to be God and His moral legacy seems undeniable. God-followers though don’t always agree what Jesus taught because of transmission, translation, and interpretation. People who love Jesus with all their heart don’t agree if Jesus’ teachings allow or rule out war when evil is rampant and victims can be saved. It is an illusion to claim we can know God would do because the Bible or Jesus says so.

Uncertainty can be a good thing.

Even if God is Truth we still have to discern what is Truth. Many leave the institutional church because of the lack of honest, open dialogue. Certainty has led to forcing “supposed” truths onto others. But c’mon! We don’t have to make laws against murder, sexual abuse, etc. Admitting uncertainty, unless beheading people for beliefs, allows different opinions to stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. Problems often begin when we stray from common moral sense and insist on our understanding from a Book.

God surely is not a mystery but understandable.  

The idea of a mysterious God may only come from one’s understanding of a Book about God. Biblical interpreters will often play the mystery card when their view suggests God’s morals are not the same as human morals. They understand some rationalization is needed when views of God are incompatible with human ideas of a loving God. If God isn’t understandable, why does the Bible ask us to imitate God (Eph. 5:1)? We may not be able to comprehend all plausible moral reasons how suffering and a good God can co-exist, but that doesn’t make God a mystery.

God surely isn’t a moral hypocrite humanly-speaking.  

An evil God isn’t worth believing in. Language breaks down if we say God’s evil sometimes is mysteriously good. The Bible encourages us to be perfect like God, but we can’t be like God if God’s love isn’t what we know love to be. A Creator surely loves us and others how we were seemingly created to love others. God is neither mysterious or a moral hypocrite humanly-speaking. 

So, for example how does God really feel about gays?  

Many only condemn gays because they are convinced the Bible does. I have written here to please reconsider that the Bible doesn’t condemn gays, even if you believe every word is inspired by God. Some condemn gays because it doesn’t seem natural to them. Why would God condemn gays when they can no more choose who they are attracted to than straights can? We know the psychological harm done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. Loving others like you want to be loved is true, human, godly love! See Here

Human perfection is our best starting point for knowing what God is truly like.

We often think of God according to what we have been taught. We may imagine God, most often referred to Father, is like our earthly father or parent. We may think God is like what is claimed by others according to the Bible. Our understandings about God shape our attitudes toward God. The more you respect your earthly parents or God, the closer you are to them. We can’t claim with certainty, which may not be a bad thing, what God would do in every situation but human perfection is our best starting point for discussion.

 

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