Love Does It Right

PANNING FOR GOLD

Digging into 1 Corinthians 13 – the “love” chapter

There’s a passage in the Bible that is amazingly good literature. Until recently—I confess—I was so caught up in the beauty and power of the words that most of the message faded into the background. It was not until my small group used this chapter for meditation that I really thought about what it said. (A good reason to meditate on scripture—not just read it!) Here it is:

1 If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. 2If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. 3If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love [MSG].

What? I thought. Eloquence, miracle-working faith, works of social justice, and heroism are worth nothing . . .  compared to love?

Then rays of understanding came:

An eloquent speech or sermon can excite your emotions, but leave you unchanged. A simple word from someone who really cares about you, lodges in your heart and makes a difference in how you live.

It’s insulting to have to receive help from someone who thinks highly of their own generosity. But kind, gracious assistance makes you feel respected and cared for.

It’s not that eloquence, miracle-working faith, works of social justice, and heroism are unimportant—it’s how you do those things that makes the difference. And love knows how to do them right.

Making It Personal

  • Do you have a relationship with a boss, a neighbor, a parent, a son, or a daughter that needs to be oiled by love?
  • Which of the descriptions of love in the next four verses of 1 Corinthians 13 could you adopt for your problematic relationship?

 

Reading Between the Lines

It can be helpful to “read between the lines.” For example, let’s say your employer sends out a memo saying, “I need a volunteer for a project. Janelle and Tom helped me on the last one.” You may guess he is hinting that you—or anyone other than Janelle and Tom—should volunteer this time. The memo doesn’t say that, but you are— no doubt correctly—reading the unspoken words between the lines.

Sometimes, though, reading between the lines backfires. Your tennis partner tells you she’ll pick you up at 6:00 for a practice session at the park. Knowing her, you figure that means 6:15. So, when she honks right at 6:00, you are still clearing away dinner and haven’t begun to look for your tennis racket.

Have you ever caught yourself reading between the lines of the Bible? I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s called “interpretation” and “application,” which are really good things, if you do them in a valid way. The problem is, we do too much misinterpreting and not enough valid applying.

Let’s get real. Most of us (even die-hard, born-again Christians) believe—deep down inside—that some of the Bible is out of touch with reality.

We read: “Do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:39 NIV). 

and think: “Jesus must want me to be weak and passive. That’s not healthy. Besides, it’s giving in to evil. Shouldn’t I be fighting evil?” 

As a result, very few of us even consider doing what Jesus said. 

And how about this—we read: “Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked (Luke 6:35 NIV).

and think: “I know this is right, and it’s awesome how Jesus forgave the soldiers who were crucifying him. So I try to forgive the people who have hurt me, but it doesn’t seem to work for me.” 

As a result, we fall into discouragement. We conclude there’s something wrong with us—or that the Bible is wrong for expecting us to forgive the way God does.

Confused. Discouraged. Inadequate. Have you ever felt this way, as a Christian? I sure have. In fact, these feelings lurked beneath the surface of my life until I reached my mid-thirties. At that time I met God in a new way and my heart was flooded with love and hope. He also led me to some people for whom the Bible was a fountain of life.

The Bible—not a stumbling block, but a stepping stone—that’s what I would like to explore with you for the next several months (same format, same style of writing–just more practical). Let’s see how life-changing God’s Word becomes as we interpret and apply it in valid ways.

Making It Personal

  • Would you like the Bible to start making more sense?
  • Do you want to be able to be and do what you see in the Bible? Would God ask you to do anything that’s not possible?

Morning Dew

A polluted pot hole—does that sound appealing to you? W. Phillip Keller, in his amazing book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, says that restless, thirsty sheep often drink from them. Ugh! Then, he compares this to people who have a deep inner thirst for fulfillment. If their ability to fellowship with God is dried up, they will drink from any dirty pool.

He contrasts these sheep with ones who graze before dawn on grass that is covered with dew. Then, during the heat of the day, they will lie down, already well-fed and well-watered. That’s how it can be for humans, Keller says. “[T]hose who are often the most serene, most confident and able to cope with life’s complexities are those who rise early each day to feed on God’s Word.  It is in the quiet, early hours of the morning that they are led beside the quiet, still waters where they imbibe the very life of Christ for the day.”*

Some years ago, I was conversing with a friend whose family was in crisis—just like mine. Suddenly he said, “I pay a shrink big bucks to tell me how to deal with this situation. How is it you already know this stuff?”

I didn’t have an answer for him. Later, though, I realized it was the time I spent in Bible reading and prayer before the rest of my family awoke . . . During that half hour, I received from the Word and the Spirit an impartation of supernatural peace and perspective.

99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes. . . .
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:99, 103).

Making It Personal

  •  Does it seem there’s no time for Bible reading and prayer? Ask the Lord to show you how you can pull this off. (It might not be in the morning.)
  • If meeting with the Lord daily makes the rest of your day more profitable, can you afford not to?
  • Have you found yourself drinking from polluted pools—activities and thoughts you’re not proud of? Fill your heart with godliness. You will lose your taste for unclean things.

___________________________

*W. Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1970), p. 50-51, 52.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

PANNING FOR GOLD

Digging into Isaiah 55:1-3

 

Why read the Bible? Because it teaches us what is right and what is wrong, what is wise and what is foolish? Because its real-life stories show us how to live and how not to live? How about this reason: soul satisfaction?

“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live (Isaiah 55:1-3 NIV).

How can soul thirst be quenched? By listening to the Lord. What can we “eat” what fully satisfies? His words, apparently. Listening to God, not just talking to him. Reading his words in the Bible.

Are you scratching your head? It is obvious that reading the Bible could keep us out of trouble and it could help us please God, but how can the Bible be called “rich fare [food]”? How can it “satisfy,” and give “delight” and “life”?

The answer to this mystery is the word me: “Listen, listen to me” (verse 2). “Give ear and come to me” (verse 3). The words recorded in the Bible are doorways through which we can meet with God himself.

Making It Personal

  • Do you usually find the Bible dry and boring? Have you looked for God on its pages?
  • Do your failures make you uneasy about encountering God? Would you like him to accept you and give you the ability to do better? Ask Zacchaeus and the Samaritan woman about that.
  • Are you thirsty? Come and drink.