Where would you be today without your team?

One of the things I’ve always loved about camping is the teamwork. Everyone has a job to do, and as much as possible (when we were younger) we were given jobs that matched our skills. I mean sometimes you just had to wash the coffee pot out, even if you didn’t drink coffee or didn’t like washing dishes. But it was your turn, and coffee pot needed to be cleaned. By doing your part, you helped the whole team.

Sometimes I think Christ-followers forget that we’re on the same team. We hurt each other by what we say or by what we don’t say. We misunderstand each other. We jump to hurtful conclusions. We take sides. We point fingers and exclaim that if the offender was a good enough Christian, he or she would know better than to behave like that. And we forget about grace and mercy and forgiveness, and that without them, we’re just like those who have no hope. And our little team falls apart.

21503D358DToday’s verses are Hebrews 10:23-25.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

The whole world doesn’t belong to the same family. We aren’t all children of God by birth. We become children of God when we choose to follow Jesus. When that happens, it doesn’t matter where you’re from or what you’ve done or where you’re going. You are immediately adopted into God’s family. And that means the Christian who’s sitting next to you in the church pew is your brother or sister, and you’re going to spend eternity with him or her.

That’s great news if you like the Christian sitting next to you. But what if you don’t like them?

Oh, unscrew that halo. There are plenty of Christians in your life that you don’t like. And you know what? That’s okay. It’s not a sin to dislike someone. But as a Christ-follower, you are called to love them. Period. There’s no discussion. And love means something a little different than our culture believes. Real Love takes a lot more focus and energy and sacrifice and endurance than what our culture calls love. Real Love is only possible with God’s help.

People fail. Even Christians fail. They will disappoint you. They will hurt you. They’ll reject you and betray you and falsely accuse you. And in the face of all that, you are to love them in return. You are to respond to their anger and hurt and misinformation with grace and peace and patience.

If you’re a Christ-follower, you shouldn’t respond with name calling or rumor spreading. You shouldn’t call names. You shouldn’t lash out with angry accusations. And you shouldn’t threaten. Please, please don’t threaten. Threats never help anyone, and they certainly never deepen a relationship. People who are on the same team should never threaten each other.

Instead of threatening, lashing out, trying to hurt your brother or sister in Christ, think of how to approach them with love. Try to consider how they feel. Think about where they are in their life and what might be causing them to act the way they are.

It’s so easy to misunderstand. Are you willing to destroy another person simply because you assume you know what he or she is feeling? Remember, we’re on the same team. Remember, Christ died for that person too. Remember you aren’t perfect, and you’ve probably made as many or more mistakes than the Christian you’re angry at. Where would you be now if the Christians in your life had just given up on you?

Maybe you’re hurting, but don’t hit back. Believe it or not, the whole situation probably isn’t about you anyway. Hurting people hurt people, and none of us are perfect. It’s up to you whether or not to be gracious.

Just know that God has enough of a sense of humor that if you don’t let it go, He’ll make you be next door neighbors in heaven for all eternity. Wouldn’t you rather sort things out down here before He comes back to get us?

We all need each other. So give teamwork a chance. God’s got us on the same team for a reason.

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Lots of apricots - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Love in spite of success

Life is backward. Have you noticed that? Not like Benjamin Button backwards, but so many times we think we know everything there is so know and we discover that we really know nothing at all. We think anger will solve a problem when we really need to be kind. We think our knowledge will solve an issue when we really need to trust someone else. We think we have reason to mourn when really we have reason to rejoice.

Lots of apricots - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Lots of apricots - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Romans 12:15

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.

The fact that Scripture has to tell us to do this is evidence of how screwed up the world is. You’d think this would be common sense, wouldn’t you? When someone is happy, be happy for them. When someone is sad, be sad with them. But so many times, this isn’t what we do.

I’ve seen people who are supposed to love each other fall apart because one of them succeeds and the other fails. I’ve watched friendships deteriorate over this. And I don’t understand. Because if we love each other, we should be happy for each other. We should rejoice when the people we love experience success or see their dreams come true.

But so many times, it doesn’t happen that way. When someone we love succeeds, we get jealous. We feel envious of our friends who we love because they have found something we haven’t yet. Or because they have achieved something we feel they don’t deserve, and we get angry because we feel like we do deserve it. And when friends can’t support each other, the friendship falls apart.

Why is that?

The whole chapter of Romans 12 is about how to live. And for me, the main verse is Romans 12:9.

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them.

If you really love someone, it doesn’t matter what happens between you, you will always love them. If you love someone with the kind of love that God has for us, it won’t matter if your friend fails or succeeds, you can’t love them more or less.

For me, this is one of the big tests of love. Because it’s easy to love someone when they fail. Maybe that’s just me speaking. But that’s the way it works for me. When someone stumbles or falls and they need help, it’s easy for me to love them. But what happens when they succeed? What happens when they achieve everything you wanted for yourself and you get left behind?

Can I love someone even if they get everything I wanted? Can I love someone when I’m struggling to make it from day-to-day and they get to move on to bigger and better things?

Rejoicing for a friend who has achieved your dreams while you have to stand still is difficult … unless you love them. And then you are so deliriously happy for them that you hardly even realize that the world is telling you to pout.

So how do you get that kind of love?

You choose it.

Love isn’t some flowery ethereal concept floating around in the void. It’s not a feeling that just swells within you. It’s a choice. And choices aren’t easy to make, but once you make them, you have something to stand on.

Sometimes that kind of love doesn’t make sense, but that’s the kind of love we are supposed to have. Not pretend love. Not fair-weather love. Not convenient love. Real love, that loves in spite of failures or successes.

Wasn’t there a massacre on Valentine’s Day once?

Apologies for the delay this morning. My office computer decided to be uncooperative; maybe it’s because it’s getting so warm outside. The weather folks are saying it should be 70 by the end of the week, but I don’t trust it. We shall likely plunge back down into subzero temperatures before the winter is through.

So . . . . today is Valentine’s Day. I’m not sure about its history. I should probably do some research on it because I’m not sure where it came from — and I’m not sure about the history about Cupid, though I would be very interested to find out if he’s always been represented as a naked baby who flies around shooting people with arrows of love. I find it quite silly, really.

It’s amazing to me that the world always finds a way to cheapen things that should remain expensive. Like Love. Love is expensive, but the commercialism of Valentine’s Day has reduced it to animalistic instincts in a heart-shaped box full of chocolates. I’ve never understood Valentine’s Day, though, because I’ve never had a “Valentine.” So maybe I shouldn’t talk about things I don’t understand.

But it seems to me that if you’re in a relationship, demonstrating your love shouldn’t be a once-a-year kind of thing. It should be an every day kind of thing. And it shouldn’t be about giving chocolates or candies or flowers or cardboard Batman Valentine cards; it should be about something deeper that those things might just happen to represent (like the Batman Valentine cards; aren’t those the epitome of true love? I’ve always thought so . . . . ). I guess what I’m saying is that Love is so much deeper than a single commemorative day.

Love is the most expensive gift there is, and it seems wrong to only celebrate it on one day, especially if it doesn’t leave that day. I never liked getting Valentine’s Day cards from people who I didn’t know well because I didn’t know them. And they didn’t mean anything. I can tell you the one Valentine’s Day present I received that made an impression on me, though.

A young man gave me a rose on Valentine’s Day once. He was much younger than me, but I still appreciated it. Not because it was a beautiful red rose and not because he was a boy. I appreciated it and I still remember it because this young man was my friend and I loved him (and he still is and I still do; Paco, you know who you are), and he made a habit of being my friend.

Love isn’t a spur of the moment thing. It’s not something that you feel for a few moments and then don’t feel anymore. It’s something that you feel deeply and in response to that feeling, you act. In response to that feeling, you live a certain way that shows everyone that you Love somebody.

This young man was my friend. He had already proven himself to be my friend, and anything he did for me or gave to me already represented a friendship that pre-existed. In comparison, a gift from someone else I didn’t know was just an item. Just something they handed to me to make them feel like they had done something for me on Valentine’s Day . . . . or just to participate in an event that everyone else participated in. It didn’t mean anything — not to them and not to me.

Maybe this is a poor illustration, but that’s what I think about when I read the verse for this morning.

John 13:34-35

34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Love each other.

We’re supposed to love each other.

And, look at this, Christians. Christians are supposed to love Christians.

We’re not so good at that, are we? In fact, some of the meanest, cruelest people I’ve ever met have been professing Christians. I have been hurt the most deeply by people who claimed Christ was their Lord. And I have witnessed some of the most brutal displays of hate committed by people who say they follow Jesus.

How is that possible?

And even those Christians who say they love each other don’t really. To many Christians, they tell people they love them, but do they? Is it real love? Or is it just something to say? Is it just a cardboard Batman Valentine’s Day card? Or is it a sign of something deeper?

If you tell another believer that you love them, do you really? What does that mean to you? Can you back it up? Will you pray for that person? Will you sacrifice for that person? Will you give of your money and your time and your resources to help and encourage that person? If you don’t or you won’t, then you’re a liar.

Love isn’t in gifts.

Love is in action.

So am I saying not to give Valentine’s Day cards? Or chocolates? Or flowers? Absolutely not. Give them out! What I’m saying is that you should make sure there’s something deeper there.

And am I saying that you shouldn’t tell people that you love them? Again, no. What I’m saying is that before you tell someone you love them, make sure you really do. Make sure you really understand what it means to love someone else and make sure that you are willing to follow through with it.