Friday, August 26, 2011

Love: God's Way or Our Way?

The last several days a conversation I had with my pastor, Dony McGuire, several months ago, has been replaying in my mind. He was telling me how several people who had visited the church, and subsequently began attending regularly, had told him how God had led them to the church, and how wonderful the church was and how at home they felt there. But, after a period of time they became aware of issues or circumstances within the the church they disagreed with, most often regarding the welcoming of certain people to the congregation, so they approached the pastor and complained about those matters, saying they simply could not continue to be a part of the congregation or support the ministry of the church. They completely forgot how they had felt led by God to be members of the congregation. Their own prejudices had overridden the call from God.

How many times have we, as Christians, overridden the call or refused to move in the path God has led us to because we allow our preconceived notions or our internal prejudices to overwhelm the leading of Holy Spirit? One of the greatest things I found, and heard, from the pastoral team at The River at Music City is the motto of the church: "Love is spoken here!". Jesus told His disciples one of the greatest commands was to love our neighbor as God loves us. Following that one commandment brings about obedience to almost every one of the others; for if we love someone we won't steal, lie, murder, bear false witness or covet the possessions of your neighbor.

The commandments are based on a simple foundation of love. Love for God, love for ourselves and love for every other person on the planet. First off, if we love God, we will not break any of the other commandments. To love God is to do His will. To love our neighbor (which is every person on the planet) we will do nothing to harm them. Loving our neighbor means we value their lives, our relationships with them and we respect them and their rights and freedoms.

Jesus said the greatest commandment was "Love the Lord your God will all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." It's the first commandment, but He also said the second was like the first, "Love your neighbor as yourself," and stated "all the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments." Notice that Jesus called the greatest commandments the two that dealt with love. That's a powerful statement from our Savior that love is, above everything else, the most important thing we do as Christians. Jesus even told us that loving those who love us is nothing because even the vilest sinner does the same; but loving everyone, even those who do not love us, who mistreat us and do us wrong, shows that we are following the heart of the living God. "For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son.."

Think about that: God gave His Son to die for every human being who has ever lived on this planet, from Adam and Eve right down to the very last baby that will be born before the world comes to an end. That includes those who deny Him and those who reject Him just as much as those who accept Him and worship Him. Can any of us say we are able to do the same, without Christ in our hearts? Heck, it's difficult to do even with Christ living within. Our natural instinct is to reject those who don't love us and treat us with respect, dignity and courtesy.

Love is the single most important aspect of our lives. We all want it, seek it and desire it; yet it's the hardest thing for us to give to others. I love the way Paul wrote of love; what the power of truly loving will do and how love reacts to any given circumstance. And he stated that the greatest of faith, hope and love is love. It is the single most powerful thing we do as human beings.

We need to learn to love others the way God loves us. I can't find a single caveat to what God allows for each and every person when He talks about His love for mankind; not one single place where it says God loves us but He removes our choice to live our lives in the way we see fit because we don't follow Him. There's no mention that God will not allow a person to live in sin if they choose to not believe in His teachings or be a member of His church. Nor do I find where God will remove His love for anyone if they don't follow Him. Nowhere where He says if someone doesn't believe the way we do we have the right to prevent them from living their lives according to their choices and desires. And not a single word is written where God commands us to legislate the moral behavior of people who don't believe or worship the same as we do.

It's time the church rises to the level of love that God has shown us. We, the church, must bestow the same grace and mercy on our fellow citizens God shown us, even before we became His followers. Then, and only then, will be truly be walking in His complete will.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Working on the CD

Yesterday my Kickstarter project went "live". That means the path to recording my first Christian CD has been entered. After more than 20 years, my dream of recording this ablum (sic by design) is finally within sight, and it has been a very long road to get here. Many of the delays in getting to this point have been of my own doing. In so many ways I self-sabotaged the process out of fear and doubt. But, I also believe these things happen in God's time, not our own, and I believe this is the time God chose from the beginning for this project to come to fruition.

And I have no doubt this is exactly where God wants me and what He wants me doing. Beginning in 2009 when I first began to really work toward the creation of this CD, the enemy has fought me hard. Soon after starting the work, I contracted an infection. Although I lived with the infection for some 10 months before learning about it, I have since learned some startling information about it. Of the 5 bacteria that comprised the infection, one is the bacteria used by Saddam Hussein's germ warfare director, which I later learned is generally fatal. It wasn't until this past Monday I learned that the particular combination of bacteria I had consisted of several bacteria which, on their own, trend to a 90% fatality rate. And that 90% fatality rate is when doctors are fighting the infections: my infection was not treated for over 10 months because no one knew I had the infection or the bacteria. I am truly a walking, talking, living example of God's miracle power.

As I contemplate this project, I begin to realize the enormous responsibility I have accepted: each song is a 5 minute message in which I get to share God's Word with those who hear it. It is an awesome weight to shoulder when you accept the call to minister to God's people. Each and every word must be carefully considered so as to not cause His children to be misled or misunderstand. Every song is an opportunity to encourage, exhort, teach, remind and even chastise; but ultimately each song must reflect the love, grace, mercy and forgiveness God holds for His children.

Because of the fight the devil has brought my way since I first began working to make this CD, I know that it scares him, therefore God must have a very special purpose and goal in mind for this particular group of songs, which also makes me that much more sensitive when selecting the songs to include on the project. Already I had to make a change because I wanted to record a particular song, but I kept hearing another song, as if God was telling me I had to include that one on the song list. As soon as I replaced the original choice with the one God kept bringing out, I got a sense of peace. I know by that I followed Holy Spirit's prompting.

My daily prayer is that God will continue to guide me so that this project reflects all He wants to say to His people through me. My goal is to exhort my brothers and sisters, encourage them and help them understand the teachings and callings of God on their lives and to help them in their walk. My message is to show them not only God's love for them, but my own. And to reassure them they aren't on this journey alone; that someone else faces the same struggles, trials, temptations they do. My desire is to receive prayers from God's people as I continue on this journey, looking forward to that day when all that God has placed on my heart is available for everyone to hear.