Posts tagged ‘love’

Remembering the The Good Fight on Memorial Day

As a veteran, I pause each Memorial Day to consider the many who have given their lives in service to their country. I have witnessed firsthand their dedication and commitment to, and their love for our country. My dad was a glider pilot during WWII and participated in many missions over France and Germany. He rarely talked about the war other than to tell me it was not pleasant, but he never doubted its necessity. The only story he ever told me about his time in the U.S. Army was how his best friend died as he took his glider through power lines to clear the way for my dad to land his glider behind enemy lines on D-Day. It’s a story about love and self-sacrifice. 

And then there was my encounter with young Marines when I was sent on a 10-day training exercise in San Antonio, Texas as an OBGYN intern at Bethesda Naval Hospital. I had the privilege of going on night maneuvers as well as combat training with them as part of the medical team. These men and women were totally committed to one another in service to their country. Each one of them was ready to die for each other in combat, if necessary. I will never forget the look in their eyes and the love and respect they had for one another. Before that day, I had never met anyone who was consciously ready to die for me and willing to put themselves in deadly situations for me.

What I have learned about the men and women we honor on Memorial Day is that they gave their lives because of the love they have for the person next to them in the heat of the battle. Yes, there is no doubt they love their country. But their country is embodied in that person standing next to them. And they will fight, protect, and battle for the life of that person, even if it means giving up their own life. At the end of the day, even war as we know it today is personal. It is about loving the person next to you as you fight for the freedom of all. Don’t get me wrong, I abhor war and have mixed feelings about some of the wars our country has chosen to fight. And yet I know there is evil in the world that at times requires the insanity of war. I find it amazing that in the midst of the insanity of war is the most sane motivation in the world – love.

And so it is in our personal lives. We are in a battle between good and evil every day of our lives. Some scientists estimate the average person makes 10,000 choices a day. Let’s just say 10% of those choices have moral implications. That’s 1,000 moral choices every day that have moral implications. That is 1,000 choices that love becomes the primary motivator. And the issue becomes the object of our love. Do we love others, or are we only focused on ourselves?

Paul describes life as a battle. In Ephesians 6 he tells us to put on God’s armor for this battle of life. And then he says in 1 Timothy 6:12, Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have declared so well before many witnesses.

Jesus came to this earth and gave His life for each one of us because He loves us. Through His death, we have eternal life. Jesus fought the good fight of “the faith” which is to love God and others. He battled satan in the Garden of Gethsemane and won by choosing love of others over love of self! He was crushed by your sin and mine as He bore every sin of humanity on the cross that day. He won the war on Calvary! But the battles rage on as the enemy has not yet surrendered. We are trapped behind enemy lines. And just as my dad trusted his buddies would fought the good fight to rescue him, so Paul encourages us to fight the “good fight” today. It’s a fight to keep our focus on Jesus. It’s a fight to allow love to motivate everything we do. It’s a fight for the true faith that is based on love, not self. 

On this Memorial Day as we honor the men and women who have loved others to the point of death, let us remember the command from Jesus for us to love God and one another as we apply the admonition of Paul in our lives to fight the “good fight.”

The Life of the Party

The Word gave life to everything that was created, and His life brought light to everyone.  John 1:4

Have you ever met someone who was the “life of the party?” You know, that person whose personality is so big that her mere presence fills the room. It’s the guy who transforms a boring gathering into a fun and memorable time by telling stories that somehow motivates everyone else to tell a story. Before you know it, hours have passed and it’s time to go home. But not before you feel energized, renewed, uplifted. And why? All because of the words, the stories, of him or her who shared from the heart and ignited your heart.

Such is the story of creation. John paints a picture of Jesus being the “Life of the party” on earth. There was nothing but chaos on this earth. In Genesis 1 we read the earth was without form and was void. There was no life. There was no heart. And then Jesus showed up. He came into a chaotic, lifeless, meaningless space and became the “Life of the party.” If Jesus is there, there is a gathering of life, meaning, purpose, healing, and love. He will turn your gathering into a party. He will transform your chaos into beauty. He will mold your doubt into faith. He will lift you from the pit of despair to the mountaintop of grace. And He does all of this through the power of His WORD!

When the principles of quantum physics are applied in leadership and organizations, we see the power of leadership and the energy of an organization are proportional to the truth of the information and the extent to which it is shared with every person in that organization. Our words matter. Why? Because they reflect our thoughts and beliefs. Jesus is THE Word. He embodies truth and hope and love. The fact that John describes Him as the Word reveals a deep truth about Jesus — He is more than the sum of truth, hope, and love because He is the Word imparting the power of the eternal truth, the everlasting hope, and the unconditional love of His Father to transform, regenerate, and recreate our lives today.

So when you take time to talk with Jesus, try giving the Word time to transmit His message of truth, hope, and love to you. Take time to listen, absorb, appreciate, and understand the Word. In my experience, this is time well spent. After all, the Word spoke the world into existence. Imagine what the Word can do in your life and mine today. He wants to bring life to your party!

Feel the Anger!

Then the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul, and he became angry.  1 Samuel 11:6

I had been studying the Bible with a James for several weeks. He was always happy, optimistic, and passionate about life. I thoroughly enjoyed the hour we would spend together studying God’s Word each week. But then there was the day that James came to my office with a heavy heart, a downcast spirit, and a sense of hopelessness in his eyes. He wanted to pretend that everything was okay, but we had bonded over God’s Word for too long for him to keep his hurt and pain inside. So he finally told me about his experience of being bullied on the school bus. The more he described, the angrier I became. I had grown to love James. The thought of a group of boys saying and doing cruel things to James broke my heart. I could see the pain in his face as much as he tried to hide it. My anger motivated me to spend extra time with James, give him advice, dig deeper into God’s Word for the promises of love and acceptance that James needed to hear. From that day forward, James and I talked about how to respond to the boys who would mistreat him, how to find himself in the midst of the rejection of others, and how to grow in God’s grace.

Saul had been anointed the first king of Israel. We read in 1 Samuel 10 that Saul was changed by God’s Spirit and that he was given a “new heart.” About a month after this transformational experience with God, Saul was plowing in the field when he was told that King Nahash of Amon would sign a peace treaty with the Israelites on one condition. He would gouge out the right eye of every person in Israel. This is when we read 1 Samuel 11:6 that Saul became angry. I must admit that most of the time I become angry it’s because of my own selfishness. I am concerned about my time, my money, or my reputation. But there are times, as in my experience with James, that I have felt God’s Spirit in me awakening a deep sense of anger due to the injustice around me.

Jesus, Himself, experienced the Spirit descend upon Him causing anger when He cleared the Temple of the moneychangers who were preventing people from worshiping God. There are times when anger is the only response appropriate for the situation. What should be our response to slavery, the sex trade, poverty, orphans, starvation, abuse, racism, and gender inequality in many places around the world? Perhaps if we allowed the Spirit of God to come upon us like Saul allowed in the early days of his reign, we would be angry. Not an anger that consumes our soul, but an anger that motivates us to love, touch, care, and be the hands and feet of Jesus.

I know this is a tough subject. I do not like being angry. And because I don’t want to be angry, I don’t let myself watch the TV ads about the starving children around the world, or the women being beaten in places I have never been to. I want to ignore the injustices in the world because I don’t like being angry. But there are times when anger is the only appropriate response. There are times when I need to care enough about the people around me to understand and feel their pain. There are times when I need to feel the anger that motivates me to love. There are times when I need to open my eyes, see the injustices around me, watch the TV ads, and feel the anger that comes from God.

Is Love Enough?

But the believers who were scattered preached the Good News about Jesus wherever they went.  Acts 8:4

A few weeks ago I saw a picture of a Christian in Syria with a rope around his neck as he stood on a wooden box. He was about to be hung by the ISIS extremists for being a Christian. The man was smiling. It was not a smile of defiance, but rather one of peace, love, and compassion. As I looked at the face of this man, I knew he was much more than a Christian, he was a disciple of Jesus. 

Christian is a name given to people who are disciples of Jesus by those who do not believe in Jesus. The word Christian was first used by the people of Antioch (one of the Roman Empire’s largest cities) to describe those who followed Jesus. You can read about this in Acts 11:26. Jesus, however, calls us to be disciples, followers of Him. The issue is that Christianity is a religion that has been organized around the teachings of Jesus. But a disciple is person whose life revolves around the love of Jesus. One is based on teaching knowledge about God. The other is based on living in relationship with God. 

These two concepts do not need to be in opposition to one another. When I think about it, I actually want to understand someone I love. I want to know what he or she likes and what makes them happy. When a person I trust tells me that yellow is not my color, I choose to avoid wearing yellow shirts. When someone I love gives me a necktie, I find myself wanting to wear it at every opportunity. However, when a stranger whom I just met at a dinner party tells me that yellow is not my color or that I need a new necktie, I do not respond favorably to such information. In fact, I might find myself wearing yellow shirts just to prove that I am not bound by such a person’s opinions.

So when I read Acts 8:4, I know there is something pretty amazing about Jesus. When His followers were put into prison, tortured, and even killed, those who survived did not go into hiding, but rather told everyone who would listen about the Good News. But what is the Good News? It could not have been that you would be persecuted if you believed in Jesus. There had to be something they were sharing that was compelling, something more than facts and data and teachings. Could it be as simple as love? Could the Good News simply be a love story? Could the most compelling concept in the world that can cause a man with a noose around his neck to smile really just be a 4-letter word – LOVE? In a word, yes!

When all we have is love, we have more than we deserve and can give more than we have. When all we have is love, our hearts are united with the heart of God, our darkness is turned to light, our misbelief is turned to truth, our discouragement is replaced with courage, and our weakness is replaced with power. I don’t care if you call me a Christian, but what I really want to be is a disciple of Jesus. 

What Bad Things Has God Given You?

Job replied, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”    Job 2:10  

When I was an OB/GYN resident at Bethesda Naval Hospital, we had morning rounds every weekday. During this time each resident would present the history, diagnosis, and treatment of each of the patients she/he had been assigned. There were times the attending physicians (those who were ultimately in charge of all patient care) would praise us for our technical abilities or diagnostic skills. But there were many instances of criticisms from the attendings, or even worse. Once I was asked to report the very next day on endometriosis, a benign gynecologic disorder that can cause pain and infertility. My attending wanted me to outline the causes of the disease, diagnostic testing options, and the therapeutic modalities. I was up most of the night preparing this paper due the next day. It was painful. It was humiliating to be called out in front of my fellow residents. And yet it helped me to not only learn about endometriosis, but to develop the habit of doing the necessary research to benefit my patients each and every day.

Job is described in chapter 1 as a man who was blameless and a man who had complete integrity. He loved God and followed His commands in his life. We read that Job was a family man who prayed and sacrificed for his children. He had been blessed with wealth as he was selfless, hard working, and humble. And then we read that he lost his farm animals, his sheep, his workers, and his children. If such losses weren’t enough, Job then lost his health. As he sat in agony with boils covering his entire body, Job responds to the the advice of his wife to curse God with a very insightful question, “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?”

This is a tough question. None of us ever want to receive bad things. But before I think about what it means to receive something bad from God, I think about what it was like to endure morning rounds at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Those were bad times. I dreaded the hour from 7-8am every weekday. And yet I learned to develop the intellectual discipline necessary to care for my patients throughout my career as a physician. I have even learned to accept the good with the bad from my friends which has taught me innumerable lessons about unconditional love, forgiveness, honesty, trust, and transparency that have made my life richer.

And so I resonate with Job’s rhetorical question. Some of the greatest blessings in my life have come to me when I have embraced the bad things from God. When I pray for humility, he brings morning rounds into my life. When I pray for a deeper love of humanity, he shows me the need to forgive. When I pray for insight, He uses the Word to expose my need to change a habit. And when I pray for forgiveness, he shows me how I need to confess my faults. Perhaps we should be thanking God more for the bad things He gives us than the good things!  

 

What Do You Expect?

As they [Peter and John] approached the Temple, a man lame from birth was being carried in. Each day he was put beside the Temple gate, the one called the Beautiful Gate, so he could beg from the people going into the Temple. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for some money. Peter and John looked at him intently, and Peter said, “Look at us!” The lame man looked at them eagerly, expecting some money. But Peter said, “I don’t have any silver or gold for you. But I’ll give you what I have. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!”   Acts 3:2-6

When my daughter, Sally, asked me to run a marathon with her, I expected to get into shape. I had tried several times in the past to run on a regular basis. I would buy the right shoes and running clothes to be successful. I would set aside a time each day to run. But something would always happen that derailed my best efforts. So I decided to give this a try with Sally with the expectation that I would simply be more fit. 

We see a story in Acts of man who had temporal expectations of his needs being fulfilled at the temple. He was taken to the temple to get a little money to survive another day. He was being reasonable. He was not asking for the world. Like me with running, he simply wanted to be a little better off for the experience. But Peter knew God had so much more to give this man. So he said, “Look at us!” It’s as if Peter was slapping him in the face to get his attention. He was at the temple of God, after all! He was at the place where miracles occurred, lives were changed, sins forgiven, and power experienced. 

But instead of giving him money, Peter healed the man in the name of Jesus. The fact is that Jesus gives us far more than we ask if we can only accept it. But our expectations can get in the way. This man was focused on his own condition thinking he could never change, never be healed, never be able to be a blessing to anyone else. And so he was seeking a few coins to make it on this earth without thought of the new earth. He was seeking temporal gain without a burning desire for eternal transformation. He was living in his own kingdom rather than the Kingdom of God. 

The goal of completing a marathon changed my approach to running. I read books on how to train, what to eat, when and how far to run. Sally was my Peter. When I made excuses, she said, “Look, we can do this!” Once I began, I realized I had failed at running in the past because I had only focused on the temporal expectations. Once I began training for a marathon, those meager expectations were shattered by the reality of the eternal and spiritual benefits God had in store for me. Running became an obsession that changed my life. I found it to be a spiritual experience that helped me face issues in my life I didn’t even realize were there. I learned the connection between my mind and my body. In the process, I learned the importance of living from the heart that allowed me to connect with Sally, and others, in ways I never thought possible. It was during my training runs that I connected in God more deeply that allowed me to hear His call into pastoral ministry.

What are your expectations for life? What are your expectations today? Too often we live for temporal benefits alone. We go to work expecting nothing more than a paycheck. We do our errands expecting nothing more than getting bills paid and the groceries bought. But God is saying to each one of us each day, “Look at ME!” When we look at Him, He will heal our broken hearts, correct our screwed up thoughts, and transform our weakened lives. When we focus on the temporal, the best we can do is get in a little better shape. When we look at Him, we gain the eternal realities of faith and love that become a part of everything we do in every circumstance with every person every day.

The Key to Knowledge

Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp.   Psalm 131:1

I loved college. It was stimulating to be in a place where students loved to learn and professors loved to teach. The constant challenge of new ideas gave me fresh perspectives on life. And though I could see there was so much more to learn than what I could pack into bachelor of arts degree, I had a sense that I was mastering the knowledge presented. It wasn’t until I went to medical school that I was completely overwhelmed with the vastness of knowledge. I realized there was no way I could be an expert in every aspect of the human body, let alone the thousands of other scholarly disciplines known to man.

The beginning of wisdom is the understanding of my own limitations. Humility is a necessary ingredient in knowing God and allowing Him to work in our lives. There are so many unanswered questions. There are so many unanswerable questions. But we do not readily admit such things because we worship knowledge. As a society, we are pushing the frontiers of knowledge everyday. We believe we can solve any problem and answer any question. So we have developed GMO foods to feed the world, alternative fuels to feed our hunger for energy, and pharmaceuticals to heal our diseases.

And yet for every problem solved, there seems to be two more that develop. Many times the very solutions to problems are the creation of new ones. In our search for knowledge, which is an innate characteristic of the human species, we are well served to have a humility of spirit that grasps the limits of our ability to perceive and ascertain what is beyond our reach. This is the essence of the serenity prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference. 

And so I seek to know God’s will above all other knowledge and to experience His love. Perhaps the best way to do this is to enjoy each day one moment at a time no matter if that day brings heartaches or joy. I have discovered that the greatest knowledge is often found not in answering why something has happened, but in how God wants me to respond. Sometimes we can only answer the how question by having the humility to forget about the why question.

And so my prayer today is that my heart will not be proud nor my eyes haughty. Rather, I seek humility of spirit to experience God, to know His will, and to allow His love to be expressed to others in my words and actions. As I live this prayer through the power of God, I find that the knowledge of humility is indeed the key to knowledge itself.

Tag Cloud