Category Archives: Love

Steadfast

You had to bang on the pipes if you wanted hot water at certain times of the day in our first apartment​  Outrageous, since we paid all of $40 a month for this 5 flight walk-up. But it was frustrating because it seemed the flow of water was always interrupted at the most inconvenient times.

Psalm 103 says that God’s love and mercy are steadfast.  Think about that word. When you desperately need to experience love, it can come from no greater source than Almighty God.  And steadfast means, no matter what is going on in your life, you don’t need to bang on the pipes.

Here is a sample:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.  As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.  (Psalm 103:11-13)

Weaker Equals

Women are weaker than men.  I know, you’re not supposed to say that out loud and I realize there are some women stronger than some men.  But in general, women are weaker.  If you don’t realize women have certain differences in how they have been designed, you have not been paying sufficient attention.   BUT…  weaker does not mean lesser.  That’s why Peter writes:

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.  (1 Peter 3:7)

Instead of belittling a wife who is weaker, a husband is to treat her with understanding and honor.  Understanding because she may not be able to lift that end of the sofa.  Honor, because she is not lesser in her weaker make up.  I own a guitar and a case for it.  The case is stronger than the guitar and is used to protect it.  When I play music, I have discovered that the case doesn’t sound as good as the guitar.  The guitar makes beautiful music precisely because it was designed to be weaker.  Weaker is not lesser.

Moreover, Peter reminds husbands that their wives are equals.  They are heirs of God’s grace, just as their husbands are.  Weaker is not lesser, it’s just different.  Different but equal.

But, what’s all this about mistreating a wife hindering prayers?  When we pray to God, we ask Him to treat us in ways we do not deserve.  We cannot ask God for grace while at the same time failing to treat our wives with the honor and respect they do deserve.  They may be weaker, but they are equal.

PS – Having witnessed the delivery of my children, I have seen that women are stronger than men in some amazing and necessary ways!

Just sayin’….

The Tough Part

As the flood waters continue to rise, he clings desperately to a rock, panic-stricken at the surging torrent.  It’s not a familiar feeling, as he’d always been an “I can do this myself” kind of guy.  Just before he’s about to be swept away, a rescue helicopter appears.  A cable and harness is dropped.  This scene and many like it play out across the country in countless different ways.  What they all have in common is what has to happen next:  the guy has to stop trying to help himself and submit to the instructions of the rescue team.  Like this:

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  (1 Peter 5:6)

Rescue workers can tell you that getting people to stop freaking out and start obeying their instructions is frequently the toughest part of the procedure.  When we are panicked, it becomes very frightening to relinquish control, very hard to trust someone else.  Knowing that, Peter continued with this next verse, currently my favorite:

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Four simple words.  Astonishing message.  The Creator of the universe, the Ancient of Days, not only knows you but cares.  He cares for you.  Peter learned this after having abandoned and disowned Jesus.  He was humbled and crushed to discover later, “He (still) cares for me.”  It matters to God what happens to you.  His rescue has already been mounted.  The cable has been dropped.  Jesus is ready to give you the harness, so the Father can lift you up.  Listen to Him.  He cares for you.

The Meaning of Meaninglessness

Here’s a special treat.  In the last several posts we have chewed on Ecclesiastes, but how can we scoop its message all together?  It seems so full of contradictions – just like you!  Scholars have tried for centuries to make sense of it.  But, Ecclesiastes is about real life, real life that throws curve balls.  Recently, my son sent me a wonderful You Tube about Ecclesiastes.  These guys really get it.  I couldn’t summarize the book any better.  Check it out.  But do yourself a favor and wait for a moment when you can really watch and listen.  It begins with a short Hebrew song and then goes way deep.   Click HERE.

But wait, there’s more!  No, not steak knives…    This same group produced a beautiful song based on the teachings of Ecclesiastes.  You’ll find it HERE.

And, If you missed this short series, the first one is found HERE.

Grace and peace.

Seasons

If you want to write a hit song for Millennials, here’s how (that is, according to a joke I saw recently):  First you start with some banjo.  Then all the musicians shout “Hey!”   The body of the song should contain complaints about life by Millennials.  Then another “Hey!”  Finish with a bit more banjo, played faster and fading out.  Like any good joke, it’s an exaggeration based on a bit of truth.  And the truth is, young people tend to complain when things aren’t going the way they hoped.  And write songs about it.  It’s not just Millennials.  My generation did it back in the 60’s.  “I’m just a man of constant sorrow. I’ve seen trouble all my days.”  We sang that with earnest looks, even though our “days” were just getting started.

But, spend time with an old farmer, someone who has struggled through the ups and downs of a tough life, and you’re much more apt to hear a fiddle tune than a bunch of complaining.  The farmers I have known are well acquainted with the fact that life ebbs and flows through good times and bad, and that complaining only makes it worse.  In fairness to Millennials, their generation is also known for a desire to “keep it real.” And in time, by “keeping it real,” they will be known for patient acceptance of life’s various seasons.  Because those seasons are real.

Perhaps the most famous section of Ecclesiastes are these next verses.

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace

(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

Try to identify exactly which of these seasons you have experienced and when.  Call to mind any of the ways you experienced God’s influence and care during them.

Joy and Fear

Maybe the man was schizo.  Or confused. When he wrote Ecclesiastes, he said:

Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God.  (Ecclesiastes 5:19)

And he also wrote:

Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandmentsfor this is the duty of all mankind.  (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

 Which is it?  Should we enjoy God’s generous gifts or fear Him?  It’s both, but let me explain.  To “fear” means to treat someone with great reverence or respect, paying careful attention to his desires or commands.  Can you do that with God, while simultaneously enjoying His gifts?   Here is a fantasy illustrating how to do both – fear and enjoy.

Let’s say my guitar hero, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, invites me to his home.  I’m in shocked disbelief and show up, quivering with excitement.  He welcomes me in, shows me around, and then we discuss guitar picking.  We jam a little and he teaches me a few of his trademark licks. Then, as I am about to leave, be asks if I would be willing to take his prize acoustic guitar and take care of it for him.  He said, “I want you to play it regularly, but there’s a few things you’ll need to be very careful about.” Perhaps you can imagine how astonished, delighted and thrilled I’d be for such an opportunity.  Stunned by his generosity.  And extremely careful to follow his instructions.  I would fearfully enjoy his gift until such time as he decided to take it back.  That’s what Ecclesiastes teaches should be out attitude toward God with respect to His gift of life.

Vantage Advantage

You are  going to die, so what’s the point of living?  According to the guy who wrote Ecclesiastes, there is no point. Once you are dead, theres no difference between the wise person and the fool.  They wind up in the same condition and will both, eventually be forgotten.

Then I said to myself, “The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?” I said to myself, “This too is meaningless.” For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered; the days have already come when both have been forgotten. Like the fool, the wise too must die! So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.  (Ecclesiastes 2:15 -17)

But this hopeless outlook changes when we do not limit our perspective to only that which happens “under the sun.”  (See Part 2 for further explanation)  

If you look at a piece of stitchwork from the back side, it doesn’t make much sense – bunch of tangled, knotted yarn hanging down.  But if you look from above, you see a beautiful picture.  That’s the vantage point advantage.  When we look at our circumstances from God’s vantage point, seeing things as He does instead of merely from “under the sun,” life seems less hopeless and pointless.  We begin to see life as a gift from a generous God.  

This principle is stated and restated many times and ways throughout Ecclesiastes.  It’s a recurrent theme in all of scripture.  Without God, everything looks pointless because we die.  But when we are reverently mindful of God, the outlook changes.  So,

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.  (Ecclesiastes 5:18 -19)