Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Making the best from working from home?

While most of us are in quarantine and maintaining social distancing, many who still have jobs are working from home. Working from home has both positive and negative issues. It is a great opportunity to grow professionally and relationally, if you do it right.

Twenty-seven years ago, I began working from home and continue to this day.  As a home office veteran, I would like to share some of the things I have learned. It is great to have the freedom to set your own hours, take a break when you want, and not having the boss breathing down your neck. And you can be home with your family to share parenting duties with the “stay at home parent.”

Family dynamics:

After the first few months of working out of my home, I was curtly informed that my wife married me for better or worse, but not for lunch.

With children or without, the family dynamics change when you are home all of the time. Children and spouses have established daily rhythms and your presence in the house will disrupt that rhythm. This is a fact that you will have to understand and accept. There will be conflict over this issue. Be ready for it.

Discipline:

It is very easy to get distracted by family members going about their daily activities, cleaning, taking care of kids, and talking on the phone. You may be interested in what is going on and want to be a part of what they are doing and be distracted. It will take great discipline to avoid these distractions and focus on your work.

Environment:

Our homes have been places of refuge, places where we can forget work, and a place to kick back and relax in our own comfort space. Now that comfortable place has purposely been converted to the workplace.

Develop a Business Mindset

The first step is to reprogram your mind to believe that you are no longer in your home’s comfort space, but that you are actually at work. When I first began working from home, my home office was in a shed behind the house which made it easier to feel like a business office. But still, it was too close to the house.

In an effort to reorient myself into the business mode, I began to commute to the office. I would get up at the same time I would when I went to a real office, get dressed, eat breakfast, get in my car, drive to the post office to pick up the mail, drive back home and go directly into my office. This set my mind into the business mindset. After years of practice, when I walk into my home office I am in “business mode.”

Establish a place

It is important to set aside a specific place for you to work. If you do not have a room you can set aside for your workspace, you can use a corner of a room.
Make sure that that space is to be used exclusively for business purposes. That is not only important for your mindset, but also for the IRS when you claim a home office deduction.

Keep it clear of personal stuff that may cause a distraction.
Keep your workplace neat.

Set working hours

Set for yourself specific hours to work. While at home, you may have the luxury
of setting your own schedule but make sure that it is consistent day-to-day. You will have the freedom to make adjustments when there are important things that you will want to do. But do not let them permanently interfere with your set schedule. It is easy to let extraneous things, destroy your schedule.

Explain to family

You must explain to your family that just because you are in the house, you are not available for interruptions unless there is an emergency.

Enjoy the benefits of working at home.

Make sure that you treat this time of working from home as a benefit. Enjoy the freedom it gives to you. Enjoy the fact that you are close to your family. Be grateful that you can set your own schedule.

Most of all thank God and your organization, that you still have a job while others are being laid off or furloughed.




Saturday, March 14, 2020

Peace in the Midst of COVID-19


Why is there no toilet paper in the stores. Placed a pickup order with Walmart that included a modest two packages of TP and they were out. In the Super Wally World, there is no TP. Smart me, I went to Amazon, figured with Prime I could have some in two days. They were “out of stock.” I went to place a delivery order with Whole Foods, for two bundles of TP – they took the order, then texted me to ask if I would take a substitute. I figured they were out of my brand so told them to substitute. They delivered the order – no TP, they had substituted two roles of paper towels.

Where is the world’s supply of TP? Because of the Corona Virus panic some have become hoarders. They are acting like this is worse than Y2K, Swine Flu, E-Bola, Smallpox, Infantile paralysis, and other major epidemics.

And it appears that diarrhea is not even a symptom of the Corona Virus.

Wall Street is in a panic with the stock market falling at unprecedented rates.

If I had the money, I would be buying stocks now rather than selling. Somewhere I heard that to get rich you must buy low and sell high.

I guess I don’t understand the situation!

Or maybe I do. Yes, I realize that there is a pandemic – worse than an epidemic – but it is not the end of the world. The governments are imposing restrictions in an effort to control the spread of the virus, which will run its course in time, medical science will develop a cure, and there will be a vaccine.

Meanwhile, it seems that the effects of the virus are less intense than many previous health scares with the elderly and infirmed being the most at risk.

By the way, I am centered in that category. So why am I not in a panic?

The first half of my life was spent chasing objectives. Success was achieving the goal. Everything else, relationships, people, and personal health became secondary to the end.

Then, when it would seem that there was nothing more to strive for, I was faced with the realization that I was not in control of my life. Through a series of incidents - temporary loss of my eyesight, a bomb on the plane on which I was a passenger, and dreams of being in an airline crash – I realized how fragile our existence in this life can be.

As a result of this and other circumstances, I came to the realization that there was something more important than me. There is a God, who I am trying to serve, there is my family that I must care for, and there is the church to which I am committed.

This is not to say that I believe that I am immune from the virus or that God will protect me from catching it. I intend to do everything in my power to avoid catching the virus. We are hunkering down in our house, washing our hands,  careful to avoid crowds and being prudent. Our grandson dropped off enough TP to last until Walmart is restocked - which should not take too many days.

We are doing all that we know to do to protect ourselves and others, but we are not in control of the spread of the virus, nor are we totally in control of whether or not we contract it. We have to put our faith in the One who is in control – our Creator and Lord.

By the way, the quote we started with has been wrongfully attributed to Rudyard Kipling. What Kipling really wrote was the poem “If” which I want to share now. It reflects how we should truly live. It is worth the read, all the way to the end.

If[1]
If you can keep your head when all about you
   Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
   But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
   Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
   And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
   If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
   And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
   Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
   And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
   And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
   And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
   To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
   Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
   Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;

   If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds' worth of distance run—
   Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And—which is more—you'll be a Man, my son!




[1] “If” a poem by Rudyard Kipling 1865 - 1936

Monday, February 24, 2020

Let's Get Wild!


And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, 
with all your soul, with all your mind, 
and with all your strength.
[Mark 12:30 (NKJV)]

 What does it mean to "Love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength?

Some have tried to define it as obeying. Obedience is surely part of loving God.[John 14:23-24; John 15:9-10] However, obedience is not loving God with all your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength. You can obey someone - a superior officer, employer, or ruler - without loving them. Obeying God without a passion for Him is not love but discipline.  If discipline is all we have, it will fail in the end, while a man or woman in love will never give up. 

Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to Love God with passion, prayer, intelligence, and energy. A lukewarm, loveless version of Christianity may succeed in propagating a little religion here and there, but it will never capture the heart of a dying world.

A.W Tozer writes,
“God dwells in a state of perpetual enthusiasm. He is delighted with all that is good and lovingly concerned about all that is wrong. He pursues His labors always in a fullness of holy zeal. No wonder the Spirit came at Pentecost as a sound of a rushing wind and sat in tongues of fire on every forehead… Whatever else happened at Pentecost, one thing that cannot be missed by the most casual observer was the sudden upsurging of moral enthusiasm. Those first disciples burned with a steady, inward fire. They were enthusiastic to the point of complete abandon."

In a vision, Jesus told John to write a letter to the Church at Laodicea and tell them:
'I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm--neither hot nor cold--I am about to spit you out of my mouth." [Rev. 3:15-16]

Why is it that most Christians have lost their passion and have become lukewarm? Maybe because it's not cool! So often we are too cool to be passionate. It may be the result of rationalism and modernism. Many of the early reformers worked hard to take emotionalism out of Christianity and make religion rational.

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, everyone had to have a nickname. Mine was “Wild Bill,” because I would try anything once. In the 4th Grade, Suzanne Schmitz’s mother would not let her play with me because I was too “Wild.” She was the first non-relative I ever kissed. 

Down the street from our house were three tall elm trees spaced about twenty feet apart. They were great climbing trees. We watched squirrels playing follow the leader as they went out on a branch of one tree and jumped across to a branch on an adjacent tree. The thought came to me, "That looks like fun, I’ll bet I can do that." 

There was a large branch that could hold my weight, the limb was strong enough for me to walk out and get within eight feet of a substantial limb on the next tree. So I shinnied up the first tree, stepped gingerly out on the limb. The limb was strong and supporting me. This was going to be easier than I originally thought. The branch in the opposite tree was there waiting - just a short leap away. I lept but had made a serious miscalculation and fell. As I grabbed for a large limb, all I caught were leaves and skinny branches. Holding on for dear life, I quickly fell twenty feet to the ground landing hard and breaking my tail bone. In my mind I will always want to make that leap and prove that I can do it, but the memory of the pain in my butt keeps me from making another attempt.


When we get hurt we tend to be more careful. Getting hurt makes us more cautious. If we get hurt often enough, we give up because we don't want to become vulnerable. That’s the way it is with love. When we love someone with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength we become vulnerable to the object of our love who then has the ability to hurt us. When a human being hurts us, we often transfer our distrust to God.


The Early Church was  wild, they lived in wild abandon trusting God for all their needs. They expected God to act on their behalf. They prayed and saw people healed. They raised people from the dead on a regular basis. Andrew the brother of Peter was strolling along the seashore and came upon as tragic shipwreck. The dead bodies of the sailors had washed up on the shore. Overcome with sadness and compassion, Andrew prayed and asked God to raise them from the dead. God obliged.

This wild abandonment for God lasted for a few hundred years. Then the church became more respectable as Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion. As Christianity became “Safe,” the wild ones moved out to the deserts of Egypt and Arabia. 

Much of the Church has become “Functional Atheists” A “Functional Atheist” is someone who says he believes in God, but lives his life as if God did not exist. A functional atheist is afraid to commit his life to God’s leadership. He attends church but does not expect God to show up. He believes God can heal but doesn’t expect Him to act. He may have God as his co-pilot, but never allows Him to take the controls. He relies on his own logic rather than the Holy Spirit. 

These are Christians in name only. They try to live the Christian life, but their life is dull and without fire or power;

“… if the Holy Spirit were completely removed from the world today, 90% of the work of the church would go on as if nothing at all had happened.”  - [R.T. Kendell]

Every generation has a group of wild ones in the church.

My fear is not that our great movement, known as the Methodists, will eventually cease to exist or one day die from the earth. My fear is that our people will become content to live without the fire, the power, the excitement, the supernatural element that makes us great. [John Wesley]

“The great sin of church is not that we’ve lost the power of God, but that we’ve become content to live without it.”   - [Charles Finney]

OUR nation was founded by “Wild Ones.” Now we are apologizing for believing in the one true God.

WOULDN'T YOU LOVE TO BE FREE TO BE WILD AGAIN?

iT STARTS BY LOVING GOD WITH ALL OF YOUR HEART, SOUL MIND AND STRENGTH!

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

What do you want for Christmas?


What do you want for Christmas?

We spend most of the Christmas season searching for that perfect gift, the best bargain, the right decorations, and a parking space at the mall.

This year when the family all gets together, everybody will bring only one wrapped gift. It will be placed on the table for all to inspect -still wrapped. After we have gorged ourselves with turkey, dressing, dumplings, green bean casserole, and pecan pie we will draw numbers to determine the gift selection order realizing that that gift we select may be stolen by the next person in line if they take a liking to it. We have seen grown men cry when their favorite gift is taken from them.


 We are so busy that we miss the season’s true meaning. It was the same at that first Christmas in Bethlehem. Almost everyone missed it. They were too busy looking for other things. The politicians missed the first Christmas. The business community missed the first Christmas. The innkeeper missed the first Christmas. In fact, even the religious establishment missed the first Christmas, because they were looking at other things. The only people who enjoyed that very first Christmas were the people who were looking for it. 

The Angel told the shepherds "You'll find the baby ... lying in a manger."


The Shepherds said: "Let's go and see!" They found Jesus because they were searching. They were seeking Him.

Later on another group, the wise men found Jesus because they were seeking Him.

Now let me ask you, what are you going to find this Christmas?

I'll tell you what you're going to find: You will find whatever you are looking for. In our society today there's a renewed emphasis on seeking spiritual truth. Sometime back Newsweek magazine had an article titled, "The Search for the Sacred." In it the writer commented;

"Maybe it's just a critical mass of Baby Boomers in the contemplative afternoon of life. Or maybe it's anxiety over the coming millennium, or maybe it's a general dissatisfaction with the materialism of the modern world. For these reasons and more, millions of Americans are' embarking on a search for the sacred in their lives."

The bottom line of this article is that people are asking, "Is there any meaning to my life? Does my life count? Is there a God? And if there is a God, can I get to know Him?"

That's what Christmas is all about, folks! The article continued,

" A lot has changed in the past century. We've stripped away what once our ancestors saw as essential, the importance of religion in the family, and people feel they want something they've lost; they just don't remember what it is they've lost."

The loss of a faith leaves a gaping hole and that, in essence, is a seeker's quest - to fill the hole with a new source of meaning. Why are we here? What is the purpose of our existence?

Now, if you're honest with yourself, at least sometime this past year, when you slowed down long enough, you probably asked yourself these same questions. 

"Why am I here? What am I here for? Why do I exist?”

Now, where do you think those questions coming from? It is God Who is putting those questions in your mind! He is creating in you a desire and thirst to know Him. God knows all about you; He wants you to know Him.

And there's no better time than Christmas to become a seeker like the wise men were. Wise men, women, and children still seek God.

Whatever it is you are Looking for, That Is What You will Find.





Wednesday, October 30, 2019

So, you want to make disciples - Count the cost!


The Great Commission

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. [Matthew 28:18-20 (NKJV)]

Effectively fulfilling the Great Commission is no simple task as you have probably discovered if you have been in ministry for any length of time. Most of us - with good intentions - have been doing it wrong. The problem is in understanding what we are called to do.

Please forgive my suggested books which address the area of discipleship. They do provide help for your discipleship program if you are interested.

Go!

Step one of the Great Commission is, "To go." When we go out of the church and share God's love, God shows up and does wonderful things. St. Patrick was at home in England when a band of Irish marauders kidnapped him, took him to Ireland, and sold him into slavery. Six years later he escaped and fled on a boat back to England.  A few years later, young Patrick had a vision calling him back to Ireland. Talk about getting out of his comfort zone. 
Obeying God, he went back to the nation that had enslaved him. But this time he took the message of God's love. He baptized thousands of people including some wealthy women and the sons of kings. Every day he faced imprisonment and death.

"To go," means to leave your comfort zone, to get out of the church and interact with people who are not like you. It is a mission for the Lord. Leaving our comfort zone can be very scary, but that's where we will see God in action. 

Sharing the love of God with a stranger is not easy for most people. It is especially difficult when people are radically different from us. But Jesus calls us to GO. And as we go He can work through us. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, "A small rudder can turn a big boat as long as the boat is moving. But when it is sitting still the rudder has no effect."

In the Gospel of John, Jesus was on His way from Jerusalem to Galilee. Tired and needing rest, He stopped at Jacob's well while His disciples went into Schecham to fetch food and drink. You know the story. A Samaritan woman comes along, Jesus asks her for a drink, and they dialogue for a while. Jesus knows her heart and shares the "Good News" with her in an interesting way. She believes and GOES into town to tell her story to everyone there. She left her comfort zone. The townspeople came out to meet this Jesus, and they also believe.

Make "Disciples"

Make disciples is a faulty translation of this passage. A better translation would be to "disciple all nations." So we do not make disciples, we disciple people. The word that is translated "disciple" is the Greek word "Mathetes." In ancient Greece, it was an individual that attached himself to master craftsman, teacher, or leader in order to be mentored by them. In our present world we might use the term "apprentice," the way in which electricians, plumbers, etc are accredited. 

Since becoming a disciple is a purely voluntary act it cannot be forced upon someone or made it a requirement. Postmoderns rebel at coercion. This could be the cause of the church losing its young people as soon as they get outside the influence of the church and home.

The implications of voluntary discipleship are far-reaching. First discipleship, is not programmatic, it is relational. The discipler, must have something significant that the potential disciple wants to become. 

The relationship between the discipler and disciple must be close. It must be so important that the disciple gives up other desires and reaches out to enter into the relationship.  On the other side, the discipler must be perceived as worthy of the relationship. We great resource for becoming the leader others want to follow

Second, if discipleship is voluntary, the discipler must present discipleship as important to the disciple. In other words, he must provide a solid justification and present the benefits of discipleship. 

Lastly, since discipleship is relational, it should be obvious that it is an interpersonal activity between the discipler and the disciple. The discipler has a responsibility to the relationship. If he is not willing to spend the time necessary to maintain the relationship, he will not be an effective discipler. 

Baptize

Romans 6:4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

The Christian church has a variety of understandings and practices of baptism, but Baptism is the entry into the body of Christ. In Baptism you are baptized into the community of Jesus Christ. The church proclaims that you are loved and wanted and a child of God in baptism.

Water is a symbol of purification. It is used to mark the beginning of a new life. In water baptism we are transformed from death to life, rising as a new person, born anew. Satan no longer has a hold on us. The early church included an exorcism in their baptismal rite which is continued in Orthodox Christian churches today. 

Teach

When teaching a disciple, the discipler has the responsibility to help the disciple learn. As teachers we all have our own style of teaching. However, discipling is more relational than the transfer of knowledge. Therefore it is incumbent upon the discipler to understand that people do not all learn the same way. The discipler must make allowances for the disciples learning style.


Jesus' methods of Discipling.

The first thing we notice about Jesus' methods of discipling is that He spent time
with the twelve. Each time He demonstrated something it became a teaching moment. He would use their questions about what just happened to teach a principle.

  1. Demonstrate: With the twelve standing by, Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, calmed the storms, raised the dead. Each miracle demonstrated His mission; to destroy the works of the enemy - Satan.
  2. Explain: After demonstrating His power, Jesus explained to His disciples why He was able to accomplish the task while they were not
  3. Instruct: Then He instructed them on how to go forth and minister to the needs around the country.
  4. Send: He sent them out two by two to heal the sick. He gave them an opportunity to minister without Him standing over their shoulders.
  5. Critique: When they returned He gave them a critique of how they did and cautioned them as to what was important.

Your Cost

If you choose to take on this vital role, you must count the cost in your time, your emotions, and your freedom. But there is nothing as rewarding as seeing your efforts come to fruition as new people step into leadership and expand the Kingdom of God.

  1. You can only disciple a few people at a time.
  2. You must invest time and resources into each one.
  3. Some will drop out and cause you much pain.
  4. Do you have the time?
  5. Do you have the Patience?
  6. If so, Go!




Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Are you happy with yourself?


Are you happy with yourself?

  • Do you wish that you were older or younger? 
  • Would you rather have been born in a different era? 
  • Do you wish you were born of a different sex? 
  • Do you wish that you had different parents? 
  • Do you wish that you had a different body?

As I pass the remarkable age (for me) of four and a quarter score, I wonder how I made it this far. In 1955 as a student at Georgia Tech, country singer Faron Young's hit song became a favorite of mine. 

"I want to live fast, love hard, die young,
and leave a beautiful memory.” 

That song became my battle cry! Thank God, the third item of my plan failed.

That leads me to an important personal insight. I have always been most happy to be the age that I was at the time. 
  • I guess in college, I was having so much fun - almost flunked out – that I was not looking forward to growing older. 
  • It was fun in my late twenties to be the Young Turk fighting to change the status quo in an institutionalized company that was dying. 
  • In a mid-life crisis, I was happy with a less stressful job and a supportive family. 
  • I am still happy at my present age even though my body is wearing out and I can’t do the things that earlier I thought I could not live without. Now there are exciting new things to do. 

Don't believe that you are too young or too old to do what you are called to do.
Just because I can no longer play golf it isn't the end of life.

Am I happy with myself?

No! I fall short of God’s target so often. A quick review of my past reveals any number of regrets, some as a direct result of the plan for my life - sung by Faron Young.

  • I wish that I had learned how to love at an earlier age. 
  • I wish that I had spent more time with my wife and children rather than chasing fame and fortune. 
  • I wish that I had learned to sing. 
  • I wish that I was better playing the guitar. 
But all in all, I am pretty content.

Getting back to the questions that started this issue, I am content with my age today with all of its pains and medical issues. 

My lifetime has seen tremendous progress:
  • from crystal sets to flat-screen TV’s - 
  • from Ford Tri-motors to supersonic intercontinental transports 
  • from 4th of July Roman Candles to ICBM's, landing men on the moon, and exploring the moons of Uranus 
  • from mechanical adding machines to microcomputers and the internet - 
  • advancements in medicine and medical devices which helped me live this long. 
Not only did I watch this progress but was actually able to participate in some.

What an era to be alive!


My parents were far from perfect, but I could not imagine having any others, they made me who I am today. 

While my body was never perfect, it has taken me where I needed to go, not as a professional athlete, but good enough to not embarrass myself on the golf course or bowling alley - that is until I got too old. I would never have made it as an underwear model, but my body has been good enough for what God has called me to be.

Are you happy with yourself?

Do you realize, that God created you the way you are?

  • He wanted you born in the era in which you were born. 
  • He created you as a male or female based on His plan for your life. 
  • He gave you the parents that you had. 
  • He gave you that body.

If you are unhappy with your present age, the era in which you were born, your sex, your parents, or your body, then your problem is with God. He created you for a purpose by putting you in this world in this place, with those parents, and gave you the body for a reason:

To fulfill His purpose in your life.

Do not rebel against  God’s plan for your life!





Friday, September 20, 2019

What is Love?


What is Love?

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. [1 John 4:7-8 (NKJV)]


What is Love? A simple four-letter word that confuses. Because of its misuse, it can result in conflict, heartbreak, and disaster when it should be ushering in peace and joy. The word love, itself, may be the most misunderstood word in the English language.  

What does it mean to you? 

It depends upon your experience. How do you explain a rainbow to a man blind from birth? The rainbow is more than a colorful arch in the sky. When you hear the word dog, what images come to mind? Some will imagine a cute puppy with
a wagging tail, while another might be stricken with fear as they imagine an angry vicious animal prepared to attack.

Words are merely symbols - elements of a language - that we use to communicate. Communications is a two-way street. One person - the sender - wishes to express an idea to another - the receiver. Each has a secret code ring. The sender encodes his idea or thought into words he feels express his thoughts accurately, but then the recipient must decode those words into his own thoughts. If the sender’s idea is to be interpreted accurately by the recipient, they must both be using the same code book. This seems like a simple process, but just look at the political climate in the world today.  Different people seldom use the same codebook. Codebooks are learned through experience and  personal history. A simple act of a gentleman opening the car door for a lady may become an utter disaster. While the gentleman believes that he is showing love by his actions, an emancipated woman may see it as an insulting stereotypical action of a male chauvinist.

So it is with the word love. We have attempted to define love in popular songs, motion pictures, and romantic fiction. But, if we are truly honest, most of us would define love in terms of getting our own needs met. Even generous acts of giving to others are often based upon an expectation of what we will receive in return. When someone offers us attention, significance, or pleasure, we eagerly give with the expectation that we will get what we so desperately need. But that is not love - that is selfish and manipulative. How can you understand love if you have never experienced it?

Early church monastic, St John Climacus, examines the means of ascending to the highest degree of religious perfection by a series of thirty steps, which recall the thirty years of the life of Christ, the most holy example of religious perfection. From step thirty we read;

"The angels know how to discuss love, but even they are only able to do this according to their level of understanding. God is love, so the one who desires to describe this, attempts with dim eyes to weigh the sand in the sea. Love, from its very essence, is the likeness of God. As much as it possible for humans, in its action it is intoxication of the soul, and through its unique characteristic it is a spring of faith, and abyss of long-suffering, an ocean of lowliness. Love is fundamentally the exile of all opposing thoughts, for love thinks nothing evil."[1]

In the Gospel of John,[2] Jesus reveals the Father's love as He encounters a Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well. Jesus asks the woman for a drink. Jewish religious leaders were not permitted to ever speak to women - especially women who were immoral. This particular woman had had five husbands and was living with a man that was not her husband. She had failed utterly in her search for love.

Jesus initiates a relationship with her for the purpose of showing her real love. He describes His loving presence as "Living Water" that will satisfy and become her spring of love welling up to eternal life. As they talk, Jesus reveals that He knows her sin. But more importantly he knows her hunger for love. He points out her five failed marriages, and her current live-in boyfriend, but does not use her sin and brokenness against her. He sees her as a person with a true and deep hunger for a love that won’t fail her. Jesus knows the true desires of her heart. He seeks to satisfy her desire with a love that comes from heaven. That love from heaven is more real and relevant to her needs than any human could provide.

Jesus declares, "I am the bread of life, he who comes to me will never be hungry, and He who believes in me will never be thirsty.

The Apostle, Paul, wrote letters of instruction, encouragement, and correction to the churches to which he had oversight. To the church at Corinth he wrote on love;

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails[3]

If you dare to assess your ability to give and receive love insert your name in place of “Love” and read this passage.

 _______ suffers long and is kind; ______ does not envy; ______ does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. _______ never fails.

A good definition of love is "Giving to someone beyond what one is getting in return." Love involves giving beyond oneself. It means putting another's needs ahead of our own. Love is "the freedom to see beyond oneself in order to see another." not to see them as an object to meet my personal need. Love sees another as a person worthy of love.

Growing up in a family with stoic Northern European ancestry, there was little outward manifestations of love. Showing emotion or affection, while not discouraged, was not modeled. The word “Love” itself was reserved for things like chocolate cake and ice cream. Acceptance was given when you worked hard, obeyed, and stayed out of trouble. You worked hard to gain acceptance. I do not recall hearing the words, “I love you.” addressed to me, and I don’t recall speaking them to someone else.

The first time I said, “I love you” was to my future wife. Recently on the occasion of our anniversary, my wife asked me if I remembered when I first told her I loved her. It would have been an outstanding event because it was the first time I said those words and meant them. But, I still had no idea what love really meant. 

How can you understand love if you have never experienced it?

If our idea of "love" is restricted to an unhappy, dysfunctional or abusive relationship, then the fact that "God is love!" presents a false image of God. However, understanding true love presents a more realistic vision of God. 

Jesus, as God, presents us the reality and true definition of love!  


[excerpted from my forthcoming book, "Love Like Jesus."]





[1] The Ladder of Devine Ascent, St John Climacus
[2] John 4:1-26
[3] 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NKJV)