Sloppy Christians

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The Christian is the partaker of the greatest gift in human history – God’s grace. A sad byproduct of grace can sometimes be sloppiness on the part of the recipient. People can get lax, neglectful, and take their faith in a very casual manner. Those are three words that are never found in the Bible and never meant to describe the follower of Jesus. Instead, it says:

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.

Romans 10:9-11 ESV

Our faith is not a competition but it should be something that is propelling us forward. Progress is never casual, lax, or neglectful. The key contrast in the above quotation is between slothful and zeal. The Believer should be extremely zealous for the Lord and the mission we’ve been placed here for. We should be growing love for God and for others. We should be more about others and less about ourselves every year we get closer to the Lord. To have zeal is to have great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective. Our cause is to know Christ and to make Him known to the world. Our objective is humanity set free from the bondage of sin and death through a relationship with Jesus.

…and so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy…

Colossians 1:9-11 ESV

We need to be growing in knowledge and wisdom. We need to be bearing fruit. We need to be experiencing His Holy Spirit power working in us. This is not the description of a sloppy Christian, this is someone who is in love with their Savior.

The Lily and the Apple Tree

fireheartA lot people avoid the Song of Songs (or Song of Solomon, depending on your translation). It makes people blush, and rightfully so. I haven’t seen any bible study small groups quick to make this their selection. But, if it’s in the bible, it must have something very valuable to teach us right? I personally enjoy the book because of its raw, unapologetic description of love. It’s a beautiful dialogue that expresses the heart in a unique way. Just check out this small section:

Place me like a seal over your heart,
    like a seal on your arm;
for love is as strong as death,
    its jealousy unyielding as the grave.
It burns like blazing fire,
    like a mighty flame.
Many waters cannot quench love;
    rivers cannot sweep it away.

Song of Songs 8:6-7 (NIV) [my emphasis]

That’s intense right? Death is not something any of us can overpower. We can’t step out of the grave on our own power. And if you’ve ever seen a large powerful fire you’d know it’s unstoppable. It consumes everything in it’s path. To describe love that way is incredibly moving, especially in the context of a marriage.

My wife and I chose these verses for our wedding invitations over 7 years ago. I’d like to say that the past seven plus years have been fueled by a love like this but that wouldn’t be true. Many moments definitely have. But that’s not the case for every one of the nearly 3000 days that we’ve been together. So while passages like this are very moving, they’re also very convicting.

Don’t you think God meant for our love for our spouse to look this way? To be unstoppable, unquenchable, fierce, and powerful? Our love can actually be strong enough that no speeds bumps of life could ever dowse the flames. This is a passionate love that I think every marriage needs, and every spouse deserves. It’s a love that we have to fight for and make every conscious effort to maintain. It’s love that fully adores our spouse no matter how they are acting or if its a good day or not. It’s love that sets our spouse as a priority. It’s a love that serves as often as possible. It’s love that puts the needs of the relationship above either individuals personal needs. It’s a love that withstands any temptation. It’s a love that refuses to dull into oblivion.

Here, check out another one:

Like a lily among thorns
    is my darling among the young women.

Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest

    is my beloved among the young men.
I delight to sit in his shade,
    and his fruit is sweet to my taste.
Let him lead me to the banquet hall,
    and let his banner over me be love.

Song of Songs 2:2-4 (NIV)

This is passion. These are two people who adore one another. Our marriage should be a love poem that would read like this. Our spouse should know that we are head over heals for them. The butterflies never have to stop fluttering in your stomach when you’re out on a date with your significant other. You never have to stop being captivated by the one you chose to spend your life with.

When’s the last time you felt a deep passionate desire for your spouse? Anyone struggling to answer that question should also know that it’s not too late. That fire can be rekindled. With God, all things are possible. But we have to want it.

In a way, to lose our passion for our spouse is equal to devaluing them. If you know the story of Solomon, you know that he eventually went astray. He had to devalue his bride to go after other things and other women. All marriages are susceptible to this. We start to lose that passion when we allow jobs, ministry, other relationships, money, goals, hobbies, and even kids to get in the way.

I think Solomon’s sad story pushes some away from reading his love poem. I hope for you, that’s not the case. We’re told that all scripture is profitable and inspired by God. Which means, He wants us to know the words of the Song of Songs. Because that passionate love that we’re meant to have with our spouse reflects His heart for us. There is no power in existence that can stop our God’s love for us. And that is an encouraging thought.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

Be encouraged

Be loved

Love passionately

 

Carry Me

carryme

“Carry me”…I have become awfully fond of these two words. I don’t say them, although I should. They aren’t from a favorite song, poem, story, or quote. These words are spoken by the precious lips of my two year old daughter. They sound more like kaywee me but it’s a beautiful sound. She’ll come running up to me or my wife, usually when we are in the middle of doing something, and want us to pick her up. I have to admit, there is a part of me that wants to continue doing the project I’m in the middle of, but I am completely disarmed by those two words.

A month or so ago I was praying with a friend of mine and he spoke the following words, “Lord give us the hearts to run to and want to be carried by you.” My mind immediately envisioned my daughter running to me with her arms out wanting nothing more than to be lifted up and held by me. I confess, I got a little emotional. I kept telling myself that I needed to get it together before we were done praying so my friend didn’t see me crying (I know it’s a dumb guy thing).  But it was pointless because the Holy Spirit was melting my heart. I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that God wants the same from His children-from me. Christ’s entire mission is to heal our hearts and adopt us into the family of God. Our sin no longer stands between us and running up to our Father and speaking these words, “carry me Abba…carry me Daddy…carry me Jesus.”

I don’t think that it does anything to just speak the words unless our hearts actually want to be picked up and held. And more than that, we have to want it continually just like my daughter does. When presented with the choice of walking on her own or being carried by us, our little Anna wants to be held. I know that this won’t always be that way but I am praying that she will have that same, yet greater, dependence on her Father in heaven as she grows older. I am also hoping for that same dependence in my life. I don’t want to have that desire to walk alone when I have been given the choice to say to the Lord, “carry me.” Fortunately He is never too busy and will never tire. I imagine He is simply waiting to hear those two little words from you and me and I have no doubt that it warms His heart more than it even does mine.

Christ calls us to carry our cross and follow Him, but what we sometimes don’t realize is that He will actually carry us and our cross. He will do that because, one, He already carried our cross up Calvary’s hill, and two, because He is perfect love is far greater than any earthly father. From the beginning of time God wanted a relationship with His creation that He made in His image. It’s not a passive relationship, which I’m afraid describes most of our relationships in the western world. He wants the intimate, passionate, heart-felt love that He expressed, not only in making you and me, but in taking our place on the cross. How can we love our earthly family in such a way that our hearts hurt when we are apart yet we struggle to crack open our bibles or spend a few minutes in prayer? God doesn’t deserve a portion of our times when it’s convenient, He deserves the passion of our hearts. The passion that would pay any price so as to never be separated from Him. He deserves followers who act like His children and want nothing more than to please and be with Him. He deserves a love and a humility that would run to Him saying, “carry me” and never want to be put down. I want that heart for myself, for you. For everyone in this hurting, lonely, depressed, prideful, suffering world. What will it take? I’m convinced He has already done enough to make this happen. He risked it all, to carry you. Will you let Him?

“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” Mark 10:15 (NIV)

I feel like I’m starting to understand what that verse means. Thanks to being a parent I’m learning what it means to be a child. Now to love Him as I should.

The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)