Feel The Love

Feel the Love At one time or another, most of us have had the often dreaded experience of a performance review from our employer. A typical review involves a job description or standard against which we are measured, and you know the drill; your boss describes in precise detail all of your accomplishments and shortcomings for the last year against. We always hope the good outweighs the bad and most of us wonder how our manager or supervisor can remember so many particulars about our performance when most days we’re not sure he or she even knows our name. But all we really care about is whether or not we’re getting a raise, that is, of course, until one of those negative points strikes a nerve, causing our ire to be raised and our egos to be bruised.

If you’re especially blessed, your review might even include feedback from your coworkers. This review technique goes by many names, but involves the process of your manager collecting positive and negative feedback from a select number of people with whom you regularly interface and then collating said information into a format that becomes a large dose of reality for you to digest. The positive comments are easy enough to swallow, but inevitably the negative ones come out and you’re pretty sure your coworkers just don’t see all the good you do or maybe they have formulated a plot to see you fail. Don’t you just feel the love now?!

I jest, of course, but the negative comments do tend to be more difficult to accept than the positive.

I have been fortunate to be through many more performance reviews than I can count in my nearly four decades of professional service. I can say with all honesty that most of my reviews have been more positive than negative, but I certainly have endured my fair share of negative commentary as well. I especially remember one particular boss, with whom my working relationship could only be described as tenuous, looking me right in the eye and telling me, “your problem is that you’re arrogant.” Nobody wants to hear that about themselves, but I am quite convinced that the negative feedback that I have received, while maybe outnumbered by the positive, is still the most useful. Is it not by facing the truth about oneself that one experiences the most rewarding growth?

In the spiritual realm, we also find that there is a standard against which we are measured. God’s Word serves as that standard; as the Apostle Paul wrote to his young protégé, Timothy: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Indeed, God’s Word is the standard by which we can measure our performance. But, unlike our work performance review, there is no regularly scheduled time where someone else will do the work for us. We have to examine ourselves. Paul instructed us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 to “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves.”

For those of us who have already turned to Jesus in repentance and faith, we read the Bible and make every effort to put into practice what is says: “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” (James 1:22-25) It is through our daily Bible reading and study, interaction with other Christians, and church attendance that we grow and improve and we are blessed for our effort.

For those as yet spiritually uncommitted, please consider carefully these words: “the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.” (Romans 3:19-20) The fact of the matter is that while your good deeds may outweigh your bad, when you are measured against God’s law, the verdict is already in: we all fall short. But this is nothing to fret over, because God has already solved the problem for us. “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.” (Romans 3:22) And that is the good news: God loves you so much “He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) And now there is “no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

So if you have not yet given your faith to Jesus Christ, won’t you do so now? I guarantee you have never known love like this before. Come, feel the love!

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
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Imperfect…Just Like Me

Imperfect 3  When you think about the Bible, what comes to mind? Specifically, with regards to the characters in the Bible, do you think of them as role model types…the kind of perfect people whose stories are told for our benefit so we might know how we should live? The first time I walked into a Christian church at age 30, this is the idea I had in my head. Christians were perfect people who went to church, served the Lord, and committed no wrongs. Certainly, the characters in the Bible were like that, too.

It was on a Saturday in early September back in 1993 during a men’s morning gathering that I first came to realize Christians were not the perfect people I had believed. All my misconceptions melted away as two pastors shared their personal testimonies and I came to understand they were flawed men just like me. In fact, the similarities to my own story were more prevalent than I could have imagined. Years of feeling inadequate and outcast melted away as I listened to their stories of how God turned things around for them.

But even once I was saved and armed with this newfound awareness that Christians were imperfect people just like me, I still had this tendency to read the Bible as if every character I encountered within its pages was somehow a Godly example for me to admire. Surely the likes of Moses, David, Samuel, and Solomon were the epitome of the flawless kind of people God wanted all of us to be, right? After years of Bible study and teaching from some awesome pastors, I have come to realize that is not true. Not at all. With the exception of Jesus, every character in the Bible is an example of a fallen human being who has made mistakes, usually many of them, and is in desperate need of God’s grace just like I am.

To explore this further, let’s look at one such character: King Solomon. Solomon was the wisest man to ever live on earth. Why? Because when the Lord came to him in a dream and told him to ask for anything he wanted, Solomon did not ask for wealth or long life, he asked for wisdom and discernment to lead the Lord’s people. We read this in 1 Kings 3:7-9 – “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

This humble request was very pleasing to God and he happily granted it and subsequently, Solomon became wise beyond measure. In fact, I am personally certain no wiser man has ever lived even to this day. Solomon did many things that were pleasing to God, including building the Lord’s temple and writing the book of Proverbs, which is filled with practical counsel on how to follow the Lord. Solomon also wrote the Song of Songs, which presents a beautiful picture of what God intends marriage to be. Reading such things makes it easy to think of Solomon as a great example of Godly living.

But then we read that Solomon, the man who wrote the book on what marriage is supposed to be, had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3) in addition to the great personal wealth he amassed for himself. Many may be tempted to think that if Solomon had multiple wives and concubines this must be OK with God, but that is simply not true. In Deuteronomy 17:17 the Lord’s instructions are quite clear: “The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.”

Solomon’s taking of many wives and concubines was in direct violation of God’s Word. And just as God had foretold, they turned Solomon’s heart away from the Lord. We read in 1 Kings 11:4 – “In Solomon’s old age, they (his many wives) turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the Lord his God, as his father, David, had been.” And a little further on, in 1 Kings 11:9, we see the Lord was quite angry over Solomon’s disobedience – “The Lord was very angry with Solomon, for his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice.” The consequences of Solomon’s indiscretion were far-reaching and eventually led to the division of Israel.

You can read more on this in the book of 1 Kings, and it would be a good idea for you to do so. These stories are rich in life lessons that can benefit us today. In Solomon we see an individual who was hardly a perfect man. He was, like we are today, given to pursuing his own pathway through life, making choices that he almost certainly knew were wrong, to fulfill his own lustful desires. He started out in great humility and became prideful and arrogant and the ramifications of his actions spread far beyond his own life.

It is never God’s will that anyone should sin, but He does allow us to make our own choices. The story of Solomon is not the story of a perfect man, but the story of an imperfect one, and it holds a powerful lesson for us. Solomon thought that having all those wives and concubines would provide happiness, but whatever pleasure he experienced was not worth the price he paid. Solomon came to realize the grave nature of his mistakes as we read in Ecclesiastes 12:14: “God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.”

Solomon needed God’s grace just like we do. And through Jesus, that grace is available to us all. As we read in Romans 5:17 – “But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” Whatever mistakes we have made, whatever wrong paths we have followed; we can be assured God’s gift of grace is greater and we are able to live in triumph when we trust in Jesus Christ. May you find him now, if you haven’t already.

Blessings to you.

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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.