R.I.P. Mr. Spock

Although I never was a fanatical Star Trek follower, I was saddened today to learn of the death of Leonard Nimoy, who played Mr. Spock. I’m intrigued to look back on this unique character and ask why it became so beloved around the world. After all, it’s not like Spock was a sex symbol or someone who was warm and fuzzy. Quite the contrary, his persona was emotionally detached and exceedingly logical.

I would love to hear your ideas on why Spock was so supremely popular. Do you have a friend like him? A professor in college? Or do you see qualities in Spock that remind you of the logical, unemotional way you like to process events in your own life?

As the years go by, I think I am less and less like Spock. Trained as an attorney, I certainly have an appreciation for logic and debate. But in recent years, I’ve gained an increasing conviction that “The heart of the matter is almost always a matter of the heart.”

The central Biblical paradigm for humanity is found in Mark 12:30: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Notice that the word “ALL” is used four times here. There’s no room here for love that is halfhearted or lukewarm.

Take a moment to reflect on how beautiful and profound this principle is. We are supposed to love and serve God with our entire being. Despite its critics, Christianity is certainly not meant to be a mindless pursuit, because we are specifically told to love God with our mind.

But the paradigm doesn’t encourage us to be like Spock either. Intellectual Christianity, divorced from our heart and soul, will never succeed in changing the world.

And I’m glad that strength is included as well. Yes, Christianity is about beliefs, but it is also about actions. Faith without works is dead (James 2:26), and God wants us to actively serve Him—with ALL of our strength.

So I encourage you to write back and tell me your thoughts on why Mr. Spock touched such a nerve in our culture. And, while you’re at it, take a look at Mark 12:30 and ask yourself: Am I loving the Lord with my entire being, or just a part?

 

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If We Kill Time, Will God Resurrect It?

I grew up believing the maxim, “If you waste a minute, you’ll never get it back.” No wonder I have tendencies to be a workaholic, struggling to have days off, take regular vacations, or even enjoy a lazy, unproductive evening.

Although I’ve made some progress in reversing this mindset in recent years, the whole issue got triggered again when I called a friend recently and asked him what he was doing. “Oh, I’m just killing time tonight,” he said.

Killing time? I found myself wanting to scream inside. How could anyone want to kill something as sacred and holy as time? Hadn’t my friend read Paul’s admonition in Ephesians 5:16 that we should make the most of our time?

But before blurting out anything stupid, I caught myself. I started having flashbacks of all the ways God had tried to deal with me on this issue over the years.

I remembered my first year in law school, when I studied nearly all my waking hours, seven days a week. Despite this heroic commitment to my studies, my GPA was less than 2.5—just a C+.

I wanted to do better my final two years, but it seemed impossible. I had already worked my hardest, just to get mediocre results.

When I asked the Lord for a new strategy, I was shocked by His advice. “Jim, you need to take a day off every week. No work…no studies…a day with no agenda.”

I was horrified. What terrible advice! I thought. If I only got a C average while studying seven days a week, how would things getting any better if I worked only six days?

Despite my misgivings, I followed God’s direction during my final two years—and the results were dramatic. To my amazement, I suddenly became an A student, one of the top performers in my class. I even won an award for being the most improved student!

Little did my professors know my secret: studying less and making sure to “kill time” each week.

This experience was a powerful message from God about the “sabbath principle”—the fact that having six days of work with His blessing can be more productive than seven days without His blessing.

Yet I’ll admit, I still hate to see time go to waste. And I still need God to change my perspective on what truly constitutes a “waste” of time.

At age 40, Moses fled from Egypt and spent 40 years taking care of sheep in the wilderness. If that were me, I would feel like my life was wasting away. But that’s not how God looked at things. This 40-year period of obscurity was part of the Lord’s training ground for Moses’ next 40 years, when he would lead the Israelites through the wilderness toward their Promised Land.

But the subject of wasting time came up again recently when I received an email from a friend who was going through a divorce after 10 years of marriage. “I feel like she just wasted 10 years of my life, Jim,” my friend wrote in frustration.

What would you say to person in this kind of situation, who feels as if someone else has “killed time” that will never be regained? Fortunately, the Scriptures provide this great promise about what God can do when we fully turn to Him after suffering losses:

I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust (Joel 2:25).

Isn’t that incredible? God not only can restore lost minutes, but He even can give us back lost years. Wow.

So if you’ve seen some of your time killed, whether through your own actions or by someone else, don’t despair. God can turn things around. His favor can reverse your losses. He can restore lost time in astounding ways.

The starting point is to make sure you’ve truly put your time in God’s hands (Psalm 31:15). Then get ready for a resurrection of your “dead” time, your lost hopes, and your abandoned dreams. Nothing committed to Him is ever wasted.

 

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Is God an Indian Giver?

My apologies in advance to both God and the Indians for this offensive title. But it’s the only way I know to bring up an extremely important theological question. Let me explain…

During the past 12 months, I have had a number of things taken away from me. This has caused me to wrestle with whether Job was correct in this analysis after his devastating losses:

Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked shall I return there.
The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
Blessed be the name of the Lord
(Job 1:20-21).

The subsequent verse endorses Job’s heart to worship the Lord, despite his great distress: “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong.”

But I don’t think this means Job’s theology was always accurate. In fact, the book of Job is filled with misguided theological discourses between Job and his friends, and at the end of the story God dismisses most of their theories as well-intentioned nonsense.

So what about Job’s statement here that the Lord was the one who had taken away his blessings—the same blessings the Lord had given him in the first place? This view is so prominent today that it has even made it into a popular song by Matt and Beth Redman:

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say, Lord
Blessed be Your name

I’ve always been troubled by those lyrics, in an otherwise great song. They seem to suggest that it’s God’s very nature to give us things, just to delight in later taking them away from us. What a warped, sadistic, and inaccurate view of God’s heart!

I’m sure entire books have been written to address this complicated issue, but let me make it as simple as I can.

Jesus said we have a Heavenly Father who loves to give good things to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:7-11). He certainly didn’t add anything about God then taking away the good things He had just given us. What kind of Father would delight in doing that?

Like any good father, our Father in Heaven wants His children to be blessed. His Word describes Him as a Good Shepherd who lovingly cares for His sheep, even when they face enemies or must travel through dark valleys (Psalm 23). David, the shepherd psalmist, wrote, “The Lord be magnified, who delights in the prosperity of His servant” (Psalm 35:27).

This is God’s very nature, after all. He’s a Lover and a Giver. He so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son—and, thankfully, He never took Him away (John 3:16).

The notion of God as an Indian giver is further debunked by Paul’s powerful statement that the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). And Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are faithless, [God] remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”

Although I take great comfort in these verses about God’s unwavering faithfulness, that still leaves the question: What are we to do when we suffer unexplainable losses, like Job did? This has happened to all of us at one time or another. It surely seems that God has taken things away from us at times, doesn’t it?

Here are some brief thoughts:

  • Satan is a thief. Notice that when Jesus pointed this out in John 10:10, He never said GOD is a thief! No, our Heavenly Father is the one who wants us to experience an abundant life, not suffer loss. Job didn’t see behind the veil into the spiritual realm, but it was Satan robbing him of his blessings, not God.
  • God WILL prune anything away from our life that is counterproductive to our good. Jesus explained,Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). So, in that sense, God truly DOES “take things away” from our lives—things that are dead branches…things that are toxic…things that have become idols. He may even challenge us to put something precious on the altar, in order to see if our heart is fully His (Genesis 22).
  • In this fallen world, we will sometimes experience losses because of the sinful decisions of other people. We can’t control the choices of others, nor does even God attempt to do that. But even though He may not always shield us from the consequences of other people’s decisions, He often will RESTORE our losses in due time. We see this repeatedly in Scripture, when God enabled His people to take back what an enemy stole (e.g., Genesis 14 and 1 Samuel 30). The Lord even brought about restoration when the “enemy” was a swarm of locusts (Joel 2:25).

Today I encourage you to resolve in your heart that your Heavenly Father loves you greatly and wants to bless you rather than steal from you. Yes, He may remove material possessions or relationships that are not truly blessing your life, but even that is an example of His love.

Although I vehemently disagree with Job’s insinuation that God is an Indian giver, he was definitely right that we should praise the Lord in every circumstance of life (1 Thessalonians 5:18). God is on our side. He delights in blessing us, and we should continually worship and bless Him.

Let’s make sure we are seeing Him correctly today.

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Dog Years…and the Perils of Waiting

I always thought I would become more patient as I aged. Sadly, though, the opposite has been true.

Instead of enjoying life under a palm tree somewhere, I find myself racing against the clock to complete all the unfulfilled dreams God has put inside me. Like a sports team desperate to score more points in the fourth quarter of a game, I’ve been watching the clock and endeavoring to “run my best plays” until the final buzzer sounds.

I recently realized that my state of mind is a lot like living in “dog years.” It’s commonly said that every year a dog lives is like seven years for a human. But as a person approaches the sunset of life, it seems as if dog years and people years begin to run at a similar pace.

For those in the final quarter of life, every year passes by more rapidly than the one before. Every moment is precious, and there’s no time to waste.

I don’t know how old Moses was when he realized this profound truth: Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (Psalm 90:12 NLT). But I find myself, like him, pleading for more of God’s wisdom as I number my days and recognize the brevity of life.

Not long ago, a friend of mine experienced a practical example of the “dog years” mindset. His marriage came to a sudden end when his wife left him for another man. It turned out that the affair had already lasted for several years when this breakup occurred, and the split was very quick and final when it finally came about.

My friend was around sixty years old, and he was eager to rebuild his life with a new wife of the Lord’s choosing. Yet he found that, under the laws of his state, there was a one-year waiting period before a divorce could be legally finalized. This seemed to him like an unfair and unbearably long period under the circumstances.

The problem, I think, is that my friend was living in the “dog years” of his life. From that perspective, a one-year wait seems like at least seven years.

Ironically, seven years is exactly the length of time Jacob had to work and wait in order to marry his beloved Rachel. But you can imagine my friend’s reaction when I tried to explain this illustration to him. “I don’t know how old Jacob was when he had to wait seven years,” my friend said, irritated at my example, “but when you’re 60+ years old, a seven-year wait would seem like an eternity.”

Yes, my friend was viewing his situation in dog years. Waiting can be agonizing when you feel like the clock is ticking.

Although I am sympathetic to my friend’s dilemma, I also recognize the virtues of learning to wait on God’s timing. While Moses spoke of the urgency caused by the brevity of life, David frequently pointed out that God won’t disappoint those who wait upon Him:

“None of those who wait for You will be ashamed…Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; for You I wait all the day (Psalm 25:3-5)

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).

So, what are YOU waiting for? If your waiting is mere laziness or procrastination, it’s time to get moving again. But if you are sincerely waiting on the Lord and listening for His direction, a wonderful outcome is ahead for you.

And if you fear that your waiting period will be measured in dog years, there’s good news in the story of Jacob’s wait for Rachel: Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her” (Genesis 29:20).

Isn’t that cool? When your eyes are on the Lord, He can help your wait seem like mere moments.

 

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Love & Other Craziness

Valentine’s Day really impacted me this year, and I still find myself thinking about the strange nature of “love.” If you’ve truly experienced love and are honest about it, you know it makes you a little bit crazy—and sometimes a whole lot crazy.

It doesn’t require any deep exegesis to conclude that the lovers in the Song of Solomon are over-the-top crazy about each other. Love has blinded them to such an extent that they refer to each other as “altogether lovely” (5:16), a description that’s obviously hyperbole unless referring to Jesus. The rest of us have many flaws, after all.

Sensing the craziness of these two lovers, the onlookers in Song of Solomon try in vain to sound a note of caution. Three separate times, they are charged not to “stir up nor awaken love” until the proper time (2:7, 3:5, 8:4). But alas, it was too late. Love—crazy love—had already been awakened.

The maiden knew she had a problem: She was “lovesick” (2:5, 5:8). That’s a “sickness” God wants us all to have, but it sure is uncomfortable at times.

This reminds me of one of my favorite musicals, Man of La Mancha, in which Don Quixote goes wild for a vulgar barmaid named Aldonza. Unable to recognize her unseemly condition or despicable morals, he calls her his “virtuous lady, Dulcinea.”

Like I say, love is a crazy thing, and Don Quixote is a prime example. But the really crazy part of the story is that Aldonza was transformed into Dulcinea by the end of the play. Quixote’s seemingly irrational love turned out to be a powerful force for the hapless barmaid and hooker to see herself in a whole new way.

Okay, perhaps you Bible scholars out there think I’m only referring to the craziness of romantic love, described by the Greek word eros. Certainly God’s love, agape, is more rational and levelheaded than that.

To our surprise, however, there’s evidence that even agape love is pretty crazy at times. How else can you characterize something that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”? (1 Corinthians 13:7)

To ignore the “evidence” and keep believing, hoping, and enduring certainly seems irrational to me. Yet that’s the nature of love.

In 2 Timothy 1:7, Paul makes a profound statement about the factors that either energize or undercut our ability to love: God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love [agape] and of a sound mind.” An entire book could probably be written about how the various elements of this passage interconnect:

  • Fear and love are enemies, and “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). But let’s get real: Nothing is scarier than love, for it involves entrusting our heart to another person.
  • True love is a supernatural thing, and in order to overcome fear and truly love another person, we must have the power of God (dynamis). Power and love are meant to go together, and power is a very dangerous thing if not governed my love.
  • By far the most intriguing part of this verse is the reference to “a sound mind.” The Greek word (sophronismos) describes moderation, self-control, or returning to sanity. Its root is sozo, the word for salvation, so the literal translation could easily be “a saved mind.”

This brings us back to the craziness of love. Anyone who engages in such a hazardous undertaking needs God to deliver them from fear…empower them by the Holy Spirit…and, last but not least, to give them a saved mind.

If love has made you a little crazy lately, I pray that God will give you a saved mind, helping you see things from His perspective. But I’m also praying for those of you who need a little more craziness in your life. May you overcome your fears and experience the joys of lovesickness once again.

 

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Buster Douglas & Me

I’ll never forget the day I met James “Buster” Douglas for the first time. His fiancé, Bertha, worked for my dad and me in our law office in Columbus, Ohio, and he came straight from the gym to visit her.

Bertha was clearly in love with this guy, and I could see why. He had a great smile and personality, and his highly toned body soared to 6’4”.

But when I later asked her what kind of work her fiancé did, I couldn’t help but laugh at her response. “Oh, he’s a boxer,” she said with true admiration.

“OK, so he likes to box,” I told her with a chuckle. “That’s nice hobby, but what does he do to make a living?”

“He boxes all around the state,” Bertha told me defensively, “and he makes money whenever he wins.”

I could tell I wasn’t going to get anywhere in this conversation, so I just dropped it, noting to her that he seemed like a really nice guy.

Less than a decade after I met this sturdy young man called Buster, he knocked out previously undefeated heavyweight boxing champ Mike Tyson in Tokyo. That was 25 years ago last week.

I guess his boxing “hobby” paid off after all.

There are two important lessons in this story. First, I’m ashamed to admit that I fell into the common trap of not valuing someone’s dreams and aspirations. What are the odds of someone “making it” as a professional boxer? I smugly thought to myself.

According to the odds going into the Tyson-Douglas fight, Buster was a 42-1 underdog. Nobody with any sense would take odds like that. His victory has been called one of the greatest upsets in history in any sport.

You see, success in life is not a matter of statistics and probabilities. According to oddsmakers, none of the trailblazers in history would have had a high probability of success. Think about Christopher Columbus…Abraham Lincoln…Thomas Edison…Steve Jobs…the list could go on and on.

So, the first lesson is this: Be careful about laughing at other people’s dreams—or at your own dreams, for that matter. God is a God who loves to prove the critics and oddsmakers wrong, and He has done so time and time again.

The second lesson is derived from what happened in the months and years after that fateful victory by Buster Douglas in February 1990. Just eight months later, he lost in the third round to Evander Holyfield in a completely lackluster performance.

What had happened in those eight months, between his dazzling victory and his dismal defeat? In the words of the old Rocky movie, Buster had quickly lost “the eye of the tiger.” After achieving his initial success, he was content to take it easy and rest on his laurels. He already had more money than he could have ever dreamed, so why push himself?

In the years after losing to Holyfield, Buster put on more than 100 pounds and experienced serious health issues. At one point, he went into a diabetic coma and almost died. According to some reports, these days he spends much of his time eating and fishing with his buddies.

So, here’s the second crucial lesson: After you win a victory, you must avoid the tendency to get fat and lazy. It’s not just that Buster had to keep winning boxing matches. But perhaps he at least could have been a better steward of his health, his time, and his money. Even if he had lost his zeal to beat up on his boxing opponents, couldn’t he have found new mountains to climb and new victories to win?

As various translations of Proverbs 29:18 point out, when we no longer have any vision, we are likely to “run wild,” “cast off restraint,” or even “stumble all over ourselves.”

I think we all can see ourselves in one aspect or another of Buster Douglas’ life. For example, just because the odds may seem against you today, that doesn’t mean you should quit. With God’s help, you can prove the devil and the naysayers wrong!

And just because you’ve had great success in the past, that doesn’t give you an excuse to quit dreaming now. There are new dragons to slay, new battles to win, new ways to invest your life to advance the kingdom of God and make the world a better place for others.

May God give you fresh vision for your life today! May He enlighten your eyes once again to see the hope of your calling (Ephesians 1:18), so you can win new victories and press on to new heights (Philippians 3:12-14).

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The Power and the Process

I really like the concept of miracles. As a writer for a Christian ministry, I find myself regularly penning articles and books about God’s desire to give “supernatural breakthroughs” to His people in their health, finances, emotions, and relationships.

It’s not entirely hype. I’ve seen breakthroughs like that, and they are awesome. We desperately need to see more of God’s supernatural power manifested in the American church today.

However, like almost any Biblical issue, there’s another side to the story. Yes, God wants to reveal His POWER, but He also wants us to understand that some miracles require a PROCESS.

A simple illustration is the conception, development, and birth of a baby. The whole thing is pretty miraculous, if you ask me. But God doesn’t do it all by Himself. He works through a man and woman through a set process that ultimately leads to a baby being born.

A great quote attributed to St. Augustine says, “Without God, we cannot. But without us, God will not.” In other words, we’re called to be what the apostle Paul described as “God’s partners” (NLT) or “God’s co-workers” (NIV). He will always be faithful to do HIS part, but the outcome of a matter is often dependent on us doing OUR part as well.

Farmers traditionally have had a keen appreciation for this partnership. Perhaps that’s why Jesus told several parables about sowing seeds and trusting God for a fruitful harvest (e.g., see Mark 4). I particularly love the parable about a man who scattered seed on the ground and then went to sleep (vs. 26-29). Isn’t that cool? The man knew he had faithfully done his part, and then he rested in the assurance that God would cause his seeds to “sprout and grow,” even though “he himself does not know how.”

The farmer in this story didn’t have to understand the entire biology of “how” his seeds would be turned into a crop. He simply knew the process would work, if he worked the process.

It’s fascinating to see that although this man’s harvest could be aptly described as a “miracle breakthrough,” it wasn’t instantaneous but gradual and progressive in nature: “first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head.”

If you’re like me, you get frustrated by this. Why can’t the harvest come all at once, fully grown right from the beginning? While I’m sure some harvests DO arrive instantly, that’s surely not the norm. Almost always, we have to wait for our seeds to sprout, and then we have to wait some more until they come to maturity.

I’ve noticed that some people are so in love with the concept of the supernatural that they overlook their responsibility to plant any seeds. They haven’t witnessed to anyone, but they seem puzzled that no one is getting saved. Or they beg God to open the door for a new job, even though they haven’t gotten around to sending out their resume yet.

Other people are painstakingly trying to work life’s processes, but they are in desperate need of a supernatural touch from God to energize and multiply their well-intentioned seeds. They’ve forgotten that even after seeds have been planted and watered, GOD must be the one who makes them grow (1 Corinthians 3:6).

In order to reach maximum fruitfulness, we need both God’s power and His processes. The processes may not be glamorous, but they are a necessary part of receiving the Lord’s provision. Apart from Him we can accomplish nothing of lasting value, but as we abide in Him and patiently apply His prescribed processes, we will surely bear much fruit (John 15:5).

 

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The Contentment Dilemma

It’s beautiful, but also exasperating, that the Bible often points out two seemingly opposite and contradictory sides of a subject. For example, Jesus is both God and man, a paradox that is hard, if not impossible, for us to fully grasp.

And have you ever studied the issue of “eternal security”? If so, you’ve found verses that seem to state the absolute impossibility of losing your salvation (e.g., John 10:28-29, Romans 8:31-39, Philippians 1:6), while other passages warn about the danger of falling away (Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26-27, 2 Timothy 2:12, 2 Peter 2:20-22). I’m sure God understands how all of this works together. But if we’re honest, sometimes it’s a bit baffling for us.

In the face of the Bible’s paradoxes, our tendency is to cite proof texts on one side of an issue or the other. In doing so, we ignore verses that show the other side, and this typically leads to heated theological arguments with sincere believers who have their own set of proof texts.

Hey, I used to be an attorney, so I’m pretty good at presenting just one side of the evidence.

Some of the Bible’s paradoxes are practical, not just theological, in nature. For example, I have a close friend who loves to quote Paul’s words about contentment: I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Philippians 4:11).

Over the many years this friend has known me, he’s periodically observed my discontentment over my finances, my weight, my lack of spiritual impact, and many other things. And even after I was able to get unstuck and make progress in these areas of discontentment, he’s noticed that I always find another mountain of discontentment that I still needed to climb.

When my friend preaches to me contentment, I quote to him a passage Paul writes in the chapter right before his statement about being content: I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).

I guess I struggle with the whole contentment thing. How can we be content, when our spiritual condition or other aspects of our lives fall short of God’s best for us?

What a dilemma this is. By focusing on the importance of contentment, my friend runs the risk of settling for circumstances in his life that God wants to change. In time, he’s liable to get stuck in situations that are far less than God’s high calling for his life.

But my perspective clearly has its dangers too. By stressing a lifestyle of continually “pressing on” to ever-higher goals and objectives, I run the risk of never resting or enjoying the journey. Life tends to become just one long marathon race, never being satisfied with my current position on the GPS.

Somehow both of these scriptural principles are true. Wherever we’re currently at on our journey through life, we must learn to abide in the Lord and experience His peace (Philippians 4:6-9, John 15:1-5). Thankful that He is faithfully working out His purpose in our lives, we can unapologetically take some time to “smell the roses” along the way.

Of course, this doesn’t negate the realization that we haven’t “arrived” yet. No matter how far we’ve come so far, we are still in the process of being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). And rather than allowing ourselves to become stuck on some spiritual plateau, we must recognize God’s “upward call” to transform us from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18).

So which side of the contentment dilemma are you on today? Do you need a nudge to get unstuck and press higher, or is it time to take a deep breath, rest, and enjoy where God has brought you so far?

 

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God’s Love Songs

With the approaching of Valentine’s Day, I found myself Googling “The Greatest Love Songs of All Time.” Wow. Pretty interesting list.

Many of the “secular” love songs could be described as mushy…overly sentimental…even corny. And some of your favorite songs probably didn’t make the list (sorry, but Kenny Chesney’s “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” was overlooked).

One of the striking things about the tabulation of great love songs is that often they’re just a dim reflection of the kind of love God has for us, and wants from us. After all, the Bible tells us “love is from God” (1 John 4:7). That’s where it comes from. Our Lord is the ultimate Lover and the source of all genuine human love. “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). And even if you think you’ve got a pretty good supply of human love, it’s destined to run out someday unless you’re connected to the never-ending source of love.

Perhaps you’ve never really thought of God as the ultimate romantic. But if you take a look at the world’s great love songs, you’ll see they’re often more scriptural than you’ve ever imagined.

For example, when the Bee Gees asked the probing question “How Deep Is Your Love?,” can’t you hear Jesus asking you about that as well? In John 21:15-17, He asked Peter this question not just once, but three times. And Paul picked up on the same theme when he prayed for you to be rooted and grounded in love…able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).

Yes, God’s love is very deep, very wide, very long, and very high. As John Mark McMillan says in his song, “How He Loves,” “if His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.”

So, I could go on and on about how the world’s love songs reveal the human craving for a love that ultimately must be found in a relationship with God:

  • We all want to experience a constant love like Whitney Houston expressed in her song, “I Will Always Love You.”
  • We want to experience the transforming love described in Celine Dion’s song, “Because You Loved Me.”
  • When we pass through life’s storms, we want God’s assurance that “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
  • We’re desperate to have someone who truly believes in us, even when we don’t believe in ourselves, and Kenny Rogers expressed this well in “She Believes in Me.”
  • We need someone who loves us not because we’re perfect, but rather says “I Love You Just the Way You Are,” as Billy Joel and Bruno Mars have sung about.

Yes, we’re looking for romantic love, but we also need something deeper and more durable than that. We want someone who sees us with grace—“Through the Eyes of Love,” as Melissa Manchester’s beautiful song says.

However, if your God is just a religious God, it will be pretty hard to see Him in any of these love songs. You definitely wouldn’t want a religious, angry, puritanical God to be your Valentine, would you?

I’m sure glad God saw to it that The Song of Solomon would make it into the Bible. Lest we think of Him as some distant, judgmental, religious tyrant in the sky, He reveals Himself there as our passionate Bridegroom and Lover, obsessed by our beauty—even when we feel anything but beautiful. And even when we’re down on our luck and down on ourselves, He sings love songs and dances with us (Zephaniah 3:17).

It’s so cool that Jesus didn’t choose to do His first miracle in a church service. Instead, He turned water into wine at a wedding! (John 2) Ironic as it might sound, Jesus wasn’t nearly as religious as we are. If we could grasp that fact, we would be much better at attracting unbelievers—and especially young people—to the Savior’s unending, sacrificial love demonstrated on Calvary.

What are your favorite love songs? They probably say a lot about what you need God to do in your heart today. So, go ahead and sing. Go ahead and dance. Throw caution to the wind.

He’s waiting to be your Valentine.

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