There is an ad I have been hearing on the radio about experiencing unconditional love. Turns out it’s ad about having pets. The point is well taken – pets do tend to love us in spite of ourselves.
I personally never had pet a pet growing up and am not particularly fond of the idea to this day. Outnumbered by a wife and two daughters, however, we all compromised years ago with a rabbit. His name is Titus and he is now almost 10 years old. That is VERY ELDERLY in rabbit years. He can’t see or hear very well although he actually seems healthier now than he was last year. This we believe is in answer to prayer.
Even though he chews through electrical cords and does things that aggravate Dads, Sandi and the girls love Titus. He is soft, cuddly and, I suppose, cute. His thick fur, floppy ears and pudgy body make him the perfect pet for ‘hug therapy’ when the girls get home. Everyone but me feels very attached to the rabbit, but for their sakes I continue to pray that he will live long and prosper.
And Titus, in spite of his occasional foot-thumping attitude, does seem to love unconditionally. That is something we humans appreciate but have trouble doing ourselves. It is what makes God’s love so remarkable. We are loved unconditionally, not because we own a pet but because we are created and loved by a redeeming God. This love frees us from approval-soliciting performance and heals us from the wounds of people who have loved us less than perfectly.
So may that life-giving, Jesus-centered, Cross-proven love of God wash over you today. You are important to God and relentlessly loved by Him.
For the Reflective Reading on the back of our church bulletin last Sunday I listed 7 ‘self-diagnostic’ questions I need to keep asking myself as a leader. To the end that we all fulfill God’s calling with personal lives that stay holy and healthy, here they are again. I hope you find them helpful.
KNOW GOD: If ministry activity were taken away from me, would I still have a personal, growing relationship with Jesus?
PURSUE INTEGRITY: Are there areas of ongoing secrecy in my life that I am intentionally hiding from those closest to me?
BE MYSELF: Am I living under the self-imposed pressure of always having to prove something to somebody?
OWN RESPONSIBILITY: Do I acknowledge my mistakes or do I project blame and use my influence to vent unresolved anger?
EMBRACE CHANGE: Is my attitude faith-filled and future-focused or am I overly nostalgic of the past and fearful of taking risks in the present?
LOVE LEARNING: Am I coasting intellectually or am I applying myself to the disciplines of personal study and reflection?
LIVE JOYFULLY: Do I love what I am doing or have I taken the pressures of ministry onto myself?
As we close out the first month of this new year (already!) I have been thinking about what a good friend of mine, Randy Hurst, calls “Jim Bradford’s Frustrating, Impossible but Right Rules for Living.” He heard me talk about them in a sermon from 2nd Timothy and has posted them, under that title, by his work desk. They go like this:
1. Put your best energies into your most important relationships;
2. Put your best resources into your highest priorities;
3. Put your best attitudes into your deepest disappointments.
Frustrating? Yes. Impossible? Maybe. Worth a try? Too much hangs in the balance this year not to — for God’s glory and for the sake of those who need us at our best.
We are in the grip of an ice storm here in southwestern Missouri. Like the local schools, Central Assembly will be closed today. Activities scheduled in the church building have been cancelled or postponed and the office will be closed. Even by the time I left the office late yesterday afternoon our parking lots were layering with black ice. Freezing rain and light snow have continued overnight. Icing is forecast throughout the day today.
This is our third ice storm of noticeable size in three years here in Springfield. If you live in this area be careful walking and driving, try not to resent the disruption too much and, for some of you, enjoy the gift of a day at home. Hopefully you can get some extra time with the Lord and with your family. And may the Lord protect the people in our communities from serious injury and damage. God bless you!
Sunday Focus: Pray for the release of Christ’s miraculous power among us.
Mighty God, we dedicate this day of worship and fellowship to you. Thank you for your living church, your gathered people and your awe-inspiring presence. May your Spirit be among us in corporate worship today, advancing Christ’s finished work at the Cross to forgive, save, heal, deliver, renew and lead. Let our eyes be upon you and may faith be alive towards you. We let go of our distractions and other dependencies. We seek you — your power and your wisdom. And in our healing service tonight may your supernatural power be released among us. What more can we pray that what the early church in Jerusalem prayed: “Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the neame of you holy servant Jesus.” (Acts 4:30) In turn, may it be to us as it was to them: “. . . the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled the the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4: 31) We pray this for Jesus’ glory alone, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Saturday Focus: Pray for the growing of our relationships with those who do not know Christ.
You who loved the world so much that you personally suffered to reconcile it back to yourself, we seek after your heart today. Thank you for the relentless grace that has changed our lives. Thank you that we can do nothing to make you love us more or love us less. Thank you for your blood shed and the price paid in full. Thank you that “all this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18). So we embrace gladly your reconciling love — not only in us, but through us. Open doors today for conversations with people outside of Christ. Help us to take time to cultivate authentic friendships with those those within our cirlce of acquaintance who do not know you. Give us courage this year to venture outside of whatever Christian bubble we might be trapped in. Make us creative and intentional in reaching spiritually lost people. You who is “reconciling the world to [yourself] in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19), would you make us ‘hands-on’ agents of that reconciling work? Would you allow each of us the privilege of personally leading someone to Christ over these next few months? Would you let your compelling love become a like a hunger inside of us that will not be satisfied until those we know find Christ? To this end and for their sakes we receive the gift of your Spirit to anoint and empower us, in Jesus name, Amen.
Friday Focus: Pray for the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit for this New Year.
Dear Lord, as we walk prayerfully through this first month of 2009 would you lead us unmistakably and clearly into tomorrow? Help us to “understand what the Lord’s will is” and “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:17,18). Give us the sharp eye of discernment and let us see past headlines, conversations and day-to-day activities. Help us to be alert to your purposes undergirding the events of our lives and to have faith that your hand will faithfully lead us as we seek your guidance. Keep us from either fatalism or assigning meaninglessness to daily routines. As you do, also give us an ear to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Help us to hear from you — about our hearts, our loved ones, people without you, the ministries you have given us, our jobs. Let the ‘perception’ gifts of the Holy Spirit work in us, gifts of wisdom, knowledge, discerning of spirits and prophetic insight. Speak to us out of your Word and let us hear your voice as we walk with you today. We surrender our wills and our ways to you. We ask you to order our steps not only today but throughout the many uncertainties of the year ahead. For this we praise you, in Jesus’ name, Amen.