What Could Have Been

What do you regret? As a believer it is already forgiven.

“Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.”  

~Fulton Oursler

Regret is an ugly thing. Dictionary.com describes “regret” as, to feel remorse for, or to feel sorrow over. It is a difficult emotion for us, as there can be a dissatisfaction, or sorrow or remorse over, it can be a paralysis of sorts. It is the kind of personal sorrow about ones behavior in a certain situation, that can be overwhelming.

There will always be a deep sense of loss for “what could have been.”

I regret many things, my mind works as an active recorder. Future life continues its relentless advance, and there is from the past a constant awareness of darkness, failure and sin.

There are some who have no idea what I’m talking about. I might as well be speaking Chinese. But there are others who will “spark” on what I have just stated. Regret for many of us, is savage and bitter.

Not a day goes by when the voice of darkness doesn’t speak to us. My thinking is that it may be more reasonable to take a baseball bat across your femurs, and dealing with broken legs, than handling regret gone viral.

We think “about what could have been.” We imagine life without regret, of things we might have done not having this dark burden. However, these possible choices are things we can never be sure of.

In my younger days I dreamed of attending college, and then going to seminary. I really thought that I wanted to be a pastor, in some small Lutheran church in the Midwest. But this would never happen. It was just an aspiration, a dream. And it wasn’t reality (even though I wish it had been).

I assure you there are much nastier and blacker regrets, there are things of which I am profoundly ashamed. But my point is this, they exist, they do unsettle us, and the present moment is corrupted by my past behavior.

You are not unique or alone. There are millions of sincere Christian believers who face what you are facing.

“The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

1 Cor. 10:13, NLT

I must tell you that there is a spiritual war. Satan is the enemy of our souls. He will bring to your mind fear and confusion. In scripture, he is called “the accuser of the brethren.” He has a diabolical ministry is to bring you down. He operates out of pure hatred, and he will never show you mercy.

We must develop a more scriptural method of wrapping up our minds in God’s Word. It stops and then alters the spiritual radiation from the enemy. The Word has tremendous power to halt the enemies attack. Ephesians 6:10ff tells of spiritual armor that must be utilized and worn.

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

Ephesian 6:13

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Making Sense of a Deep and Kind Love

Love.

In the face of doctrine, creeds and faith systems…isn’t the important thing that we just love?

Isn’t love the superior truth we should be after?

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1 Corinthians 13, “The Message”

The Way of Love

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. 3-7If 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.”

About the time I have my discipleship all figured out, I come across a passage like this. It seems I continually try to move beyond it, somehow regarding love as something diminished. I get it in my head that love is a “primitive teaching”, something I’ve somehow outgrown.

8 “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”.

When we try to define love, we need to look at what love is not. The above list helps us make certain distinctive. Soaking ourselves in the scripture gives us limited authority in the vital area of discernment of real love. Love has a sterling quality that sets it far above everything else. Just as fine gold is valued and tinsel debased, so love is superior to all else.

8-10″Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

11When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

12We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”

Love is the constant and an eternal security  for the believer. Get it now, dig for it. Mine deep and pull it out,  for love is the steady currency of heaven.

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When Others are More Gifted Than You

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“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.”

1 Corinthians 12:4, NLT

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”

1 Peter 4:10

Several years ago, the Holy Spirit completely turned my understanding of the Church– upside down. It took some time. I found that over many years I had made the Body of Christ into a competitive sport. And although I wouldn’t of phrased it exactly that way, it was how I approached the Christian brothers/sisters in my life.

I guess a great deal of effort was generated to receive the proper recognition. I had completely misunderstood the very of nature of being a ‘gifted’ person. As I look back, I was very much like James and John, in Matt. 20:20. It wasn’t so much that I was exalting myself, as I only felt (?) that I needed to push for all that Jesus had for me.

(I could go much deeper, but I feel I should be brief.)

We must learn to respect the giftedness of others. Often, this is easy. When we encounter a special ability, it can be fairly easy to do. A teacher or preacher, a worship leader or an amazing writer who has a tremendous gift is a real blessing and are simple to recognize.

However, we are probably more inclined to operate out of our own bitterness or frustration. Rather than accepting others, we look for any reason at all to invalidate and disparage. We scour and search for anything to minimize or reject our “competitor.” To bolster our efforts, we label it as “discernment.” This justifies us, as we think that it is “protecting” the Church.

The Spirit, out of His infinite inventory, distributes the gifts to the Church. And we honor and respect Him when we acknowledge that. We don’t elevate the person, but we do accept them. We don’t ignore any sin, but we recognize the treasure that is hidden in a clay pot.

A necessary thought. What about when a gift is seen in someone 30 years younger than you? Paul wrote young Timothy precise instructions on his youth.

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

1 Timothy 4:12

We need to honor the Spirit. We should respect the giftedness that others have. Humility often varies with the person, the gift and the maturity. And it would be the nadir  of foolishness for us to think we have settled this issue, once and for all. There are no cookie cutters. One last thought, which is a wise course I think–

“Be desirous, my son, to do the will of another rather than thine own.”

–Thomas a Kempis
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We Are Only Amazing, Together [Plea for Unity]

“That’s how it is with us. There are many of us, but we each are part of the body of Christ, as well as part of one another.”

Romans 12:5, CEV

When we follow Jesus, we will not make any real progress unless we commit to following him together.  We must grow to the wonderful, purposeful point when we start to understand that our essential unity is the work of God in our hearts.  He purposefully blends us–our spirits, personality and thoughts.

We learn we can’t make it alone.  I am an American Christian, and independence is a characteristic of my culture.  We inherently become people who ride hard and ride alone.  There seems like there is not room for two where I am going.  If you get there, I guess we’ll be brothers. But this is not the Scriptures.

Having tried to live my faith in another culture, I discovered I needed a different mentality completely.  I had to learn to reach out to another way of thinking.  I discovered that my new understanding had to include others.  If we win, it is because we are a team.   Soccer was the national sport of my new country–I don’t think it has been successful in the U.S. because it’s fundamentally a true team sport. We don’t think like a team. We don’t like it.

 “Above all else, you must live in a way that brings honor to the good news about Christ. Then, whether I visit you or not, I will hear that all of you think alike. I will know that you are working together and that you are struggling side by side to get others to believe the good news.”

Philippians 1:27, CEV

Unity will leave its mark.  If we choose this particular approach we need to “think alike”.  That takes a bit of a miracle sometimes.  But this intrinsic unity has become the norm.  We are very used to the idea of Jesus saving individual men and women.  But it is a long leap for us to believe that we are sanctified through groups–called Churches.

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”

1 Corinthians 1:10, ESV

No.  Absolutely zero. Divisions.  There is to be agreement in every person.  There is to be a unity, in the very specific area of our thinking and our discernment.  And this is sent to us in Jesus’ name.  Paul understands that the name of Jesus (the Lord and Christ) is to have a definite preeminence, and his wonderful authority was to lead us to this unity.

The implications are this–not agreeing to Jesus’ authority, divides the Church.  Simple.  And that is exactly how we are to understand these issues.  We don’t need to be “rocket-science theologians” here, after all Paul was directing his remarks to simple believers.  He believed that they would understand.

The Holy Spirit is like a magnet. The power that pulls us to Jesus works in us all. We find that iron filings of all shapes and sizes are also ‘connected’ to Him, and we’re connected with each other. It is His magnetism that draws us to  each other.

How committed are you to unity in your town?  The Church gathers on Saturday or Sunday (almost always).  The believers that attend are your brothers and sisters.  They come to worship and pray, and hear the Word.

It is an interesting point that when Paul refers to the Church, and John in the Book of Revelation–it is connected to geography.  It is the “Church of Rome” or the “Church of the Colossians.” Thinking this way, will change how you perceive the Church of Jesus.

“In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.”

Richard Baxter

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