WHEN LOVE COMES TO TOWN

Valentine’s Day is fraught with mixed opinions and emotions. The skeptics deride it as a money sapping marketing ploy. The singles dread it as it feels like you’re walking through a city centre wearing an ‘I’m a failure and I’m frustrated’ T-shirt with everyone staring at you. The forced embracers reluctantly do something for their loved one as to avoid the ‘dog house’. And I am convinced there are some who genuinely love it and use it as a way to demonstrate their love.

It caused me to think of how often we cheapen the meaning of ‘love’. An overused word. An abused word. A precious word, in many circumstances, robbed of its meaning…

In The Fifth Element, Leeloo, gets to W in the encyclopaedia. Probably the most powerful scene in the movie is when this perfect being – a god, really – looks at war, and we see flashes of all of the horrible wars of this century. Pictures of concentration camps, atom bombs, death and carnage. And a single tear slides down her cheek. She collapses into a faint, and has to be carried into the pyramid. After everything else is in place, she is put in the middle of the pyramid, and must do her job, but she seems limp and faint. Bruce Willis, who plays a guy called Korben Dallas, is trying to get her to do her job. He says to her, “Come on, you’ve got to save the world.” And she replies, “Why should I save life, when I’ve seen what you do with it!”. He looks at her and says, “There is something worth saving. It’s love.” She replies: “I don’t know love.” All seems lost, until he kisses her. Then she saves the world.

Surely there’s got to be more to than that to love. I feel like the greatest Love has found out me, picked me and gave Himself for me through His death at the Cross. Jesus is the love that is ever-present, never-ending, all-embracing.

Wherever you are in this ‘love’ game today, skeptic, single, married, hopelessly romantic or reluctant ‘player along’ – I want to remind you that God showed His love for you in Christ:

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’     John 3:16

‘Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.’    John 15:13

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.’ 1 John 3:16

And something else. As you discover Him as your true love, He will enable to love you those around you with His extravagant, out-of-this world brand of love. This is what it looks like:

‘Love never gives up.  Love cares more for others than for self.  Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut,  Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others, Doesn’t revel when others grovel, Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth, Puts up with anything, Trusts God always, Always looks for the best, Never looks back, But keeps going to the end. Love never dies.’     1 Corinthians 13:6-8

 

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LESSONS IN A WEEK

Here are some of the highlights of my last week’s Bible readings (Leviticus 15-Numbers 4)

★ God’ s ‘rules’ can be unappealing but are His blessings in disguise.

★ God’s principles for healthy relationships are a foundation for healthy families and healthy communities.

★ There is a strong ethical vein that runs throughout Leviticus regarding protection, justice and compassion towards the poorer and unfortunate members of the community.

★ At the heart of the worship requirements in Leviticus are two principles: remember to put God first and refuse to copy/paste enticing pagan principles.

★ God doesn’t just promise the blessings of obedience without spelling out the consequences of disobedience.

★ The spiritual leadership had stricter standards and qualities – set apart for the Lord, sacrificially.

 

FOCUS

I was speaking last Sunday morning about the importance of refocusing. And that not just as a one off….but as a frequent exercise.

Many churches just had their ‘vision Sunday’ in the last couple of weeks. This felt a tad late as we are already in February, but I am sure there is a strategic wisdom in that choice.

I guess the naivety of the infamous New Year Resolutions wears off, and the realisation of our human inadequacy visa a vis self-improvement programmes sets in.

Still, I wonder, what is the ONE thing you desire most this year? What is the ONE change, either in your personal life, family life, career, education, that you long for?

You might need to take some time for quiet and undistracted reflection…

You might need to have some honest and frank conversations…

You might want to reflect on God’s revelation…

You might want to write it down…

You might want to make yourself accountable….

Remember, today is the perfect day for that new start.

The best place to be as a Christ-follower is on the move with the One who said: ‘follow Me’.

IN THE SHADE

How strange that so many things in life can have a dual purpose/effect. And sometimes it is diametrically opposed… Take shade for example. We cherish it in the scorching sun of the midday in the humid heat of he summer weeks.

But as I was crossing the Millennium bridge today I saw portions of he pavement still covered in frosty ice, as they were in he shade. It looked dangerous and slippery. It was a brilliant visual reminder that this is true in our lives. The enemy can’t keep the Son from shining over our lives but he tries so hard to shade areas of our lives from experiencing the grace that thaws away the fears and frost of sin.

Pull back the curtains afresh and let truth shine through. You are loved by a God who loves you not because of who you are or how you are. He loves you before you loved Him.

He loves you demonstratively, shown in the death of His Son on the Cross for you.

He loves you extravagantly, with a love that is patient, eternal and OTT.

He loves you too much to leave you broken and messed and because His speciality is redemption, He is continually carrying on an inside-out deep makeover.

He loves you so much that He lives in you by His Spirit and He makes you look more and more like His Son, so that people will keep mistaking you for Him.

That’s the kind of grace that can shine the light and warmth that can defrost all the shady parts of your life. Today!

Just receive it!

HELPFUL REMINDER

Monday is usually a tricky day for pastors. Just like those of you who find the weekend too short and maybe the week ahead too daunting, we battle insecurities and inadequacies.

We ponder on yesterday’s encounters and how well we fulfilled our calling in communicating the Good News and caring for the people God made us overseers over.

Here are John Newton (Works, 6:271): some very encouraging words to be read on a Saturday or Monday.

When I feel my own poverty, my heart wandering, my head confused, graces languid, gifts apparently dormant; when I thus stand up with half a loaf, or less, before a multitude, and see the bread multiply in the breaking, and that, however it may be at the time with myself, as to my own feelings, the hungry, the thirsty, the mourners in Zion, are not wholly disappointed; when I find that some, in the depth of their outward afflictions, can rejoice in me, as the messenger by whom the Lord is pleased to send them a word in season, balm for their wounds, and cordials for their cases; then indeed I magnify mine office.

LESSONS

Here are some of the highlights of my last few weeks’ Bible readings (Exodus 21 – Leviticus 14)

★ When it comes to your failures your past needs to be forgotten but when it comes to God’s grace, it must be always be remembered. # Moses/Israelites

★ Christian leadership should be flowing out of your encounter with God. # Moses

★ Don’t underestimate the power or ego trips and peer pressure in leadership. # Aaron

★ God has a soft spot for teaching patience, because patience is essential to a trusting relationship. Rushing things could lead you to some form of idolatry. # Israel

★ The secret of a godly leader: always resisting frustration and choosing intercession – born out of compassion.

★ The secret of a godly leader: chose to listen to smart advice and implement it with humility. # Moses & Jethro

★ Your style and substance of worship will speak volumes about your God. # Leviticus

★ If God gives you a command, the devil will make you think it is a rule to rebel against, but it is always for your benefit. # Leviticus

★ Sins often affect both your vertical and horizontal relationships. Don’t miss out on either. # Leviticus

★ Repentance in human relationships often involves restitution not just regret. # Leviticus

SATURDAY REWIND

Recent highlights of my week on the web. Some will make you smile. Some will inspire you. Enjoy

BOOKSHOPS OF THE WORLD
As a great lover of books, bookshops are like a small piece of paradise. Here are some of the most interesting 20 in the world. And, yay, I actually have been in one of them. I’ll let you guess. BTW – strange how few of them are in the Anglo-Saxon world…. I wonder why?

http://flavorwire.com/254434/the-20-most-beautiful-bookstores-in-the-world?all=1

MORNING ROUTINES & CREATIVITY

Very interesting article that will appeal to all who are ‘fighting’ mornings or searching for greater creativity in their work. Whether it really works, that’s another story… tempted to give it a week’s trial.

http://ideas.time.com/2012/02/01/why-morning-routines-are-creativity-killers/

GOOD REPORT

As I want to keep/start the good mood of the weekend, here is a website that has only good news. This can be a great alternative to the sleaze and shallowness of our modern-day media. Take your pick and enjoy.

http://good-report.com/

DIFFERENT HOUSE

In no ways envious, I admire the creativity displayed by the designers of this Lithuanian house. I like the light it provides and the sense of being propelled upwards. As with anything, I am sure it isn’t for everyone’s taste (or budget).

http://freshome.com/2010/09/28/incredible-residence-in-lithuania-a-perfect-escape-from-the-urban-jungle/

UPSTANDING WORK

Working on a stand-up desk seems to be all the rage among the health conscious or trend hunting office workers. Here is a detailed: why and how. Intriguing.

http://smarterware.org/7102/how-and-why-i-switched-to-a-standing-desk