‘Love’ in Today’s World — Part 2

Love

1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love is not rude or self-serving. It is not easily angered or resentful. I don’t know if any place tells on us more than the highway. I recall as a young boy riding with my grandparents. Grandma did most of the driving, and in her time, if your headlight beam reached the bumper of the car in front of you, you were crowding. If you crowded her you can bet there was an incremental response. She started respectfully giving room to pass, but if you didn’t get the hint she might just stop right there in the road and make you pass. Today it’s hard to fit a Bible between bumpers. We’ve forgotten our respect for each other. We are incredibly rude as long as our faces are hidden behind our monitor screens or tinted windows. We push and push, because we are so important of course. We anger at anything opposing or hindering our personal initiative and resent anyone or thing that challenges our view of self. I’m guilty too. Seldom do I need to hurry as I do. We seem to be scared of wasting a second in some environments but then waste hours scrolling social media. Move forward brothers, demonstrating love and forgiveness for each other regardless of the environment or circumstances. Imagine if Christ hadn’t been inclined to spare a few seconds for troubling people. Respect each other as co-heirs. Stop driving your life like your Dominic Toretto in some teenage car chase scene. Everyone else in this world has the same value in God as you and I. Let go of resentment. People fail us, because people are fallible. We have failed people also. Forgive as we have been forgiven.

Love is not glad about injustices, but rejoices in the truth. At the time of Jesus’s trial and subsequent crucifixion, many who had refused to believe in Him were happy about His arrest and flogging. The blood loss from the flogging by itself would have been life threatening, especially in a time without antibiotics. Jesus was beaten unrecognizable. There was no real evidence of corruption. The charge of blasphemy if proven legitimate might have been punishable by stoning, but the misery Christ endured was wildly unjust. Still, people cheered. Pilate, the governor, just before washing his hands of the matter conversed with Jesus and the question was asked; “What is truth?” This is one of the most profound and important question anyone can ask for themselves. Truth must be defined in its root before asking what is true of a circumstance. Truth is made of facts, but facts are too incomplete to be truth. Truth ascends beyond details, or agreed upon rules and formulas. Truth resides in permanence as the straight line by which all other lines are gauged to be straight or not. When we are glad about some injustice, what then is true about ourselves? “Means to an end” is not a justifiable position from truth. Move forward men. Pursue truth like your life depends upon it, for it most certainly does. Pursue truth, and follow the evidence. If we each commit to this, we will find each other at the end of our journey at the same feet, where justice meets mercy and Grace becomes manifest. What is true in the highest? Jesus paid a price by love that was unjust so we could choose to know…Truth.

Vance Durrance

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‘Love’ in Today’s World — Part 1

Love

1 Corinthians 13:4-7. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Paul has said that love is the ingredient that brings value to the Spiritual gifts we are given. Perhaps you are like me, in that, tenderness is not your specific gift. Thankfully for those like us, Paul defines love by its attributes. So, let’s take it in doses. Love is patient and kind, but not envious. Patience is a tool few of us share in our instant gratification culture.  Kindness has now often given way to self-service. Acts of decency once common and expected often become viral video today as they increase in rarity. Envious is the one term of these three that does define our “I want” generation. We’ve largely abandoned love in favor of entitlement. We are a nation divided by politics, corporate branding, preference, class, wealth brackets, and ideology. The church is failing because we the people have failed in love for each other as co-heirs, sharing together the image of God. It is not the presidents fault, or the past administrations fault, nor is it whomever you and I view as an opponent. The responsibility to love our neighbor as ourselves lands squarely upon our own shoulders. Jesus illustrated for us all how to love the unlovable. Move forward men, with patience and kindness. Take the time to love people. Give others the time to grow. Help one another in kindness. Smile, laugh with someone, hold a door. Be pleasant. These things make us more approachable. May love for one another begin here, and may God gain an increase from it. We may even find ourselves blessed by our own acts of decency among each other.

A little more on the attributes of love. Love does not brag, nor is it puffed up. We often miss the mark here. With so much of our lives turned inside out on social media today, we brag about everything from a new purchase to our dinner plates. We’ve surrendered privacy in favor of projecting a reality star persona. We’ve managed to create software to help us inflate our view of our self.  Filters, autofocus, and programs aid in shading and lighting help us with the perfect selfie or picture to convince the world we’re on top. We’ve ascended to a degree of puffed up as a culture where we are seeing the consequences of our delusions. When reality and truth strikes like lightning upon our house of cards we see the collapse of reason and judgement. Our culture has puffed to the level of entitlement, and when expectations aren’t met the response is often violent, irrational, and even deadly. There is good reason to present all glory to God. God is the source of all good, the perfect example to follow, a lion of a leader, and a lamb of sacrificial love. When we get glory we are in danger of increasing arrogance. We lose focus on the mission and look at ourselves. When God gets the glory He showers us with love. If we boast, let’s boast of what we have in Him. Move forward men, with far less ego, and much more humility as a people of God. We are not here on earth to bring things into our nests. We aren’t here to build bigger nests. We’re here to point to the One who is shelter, refuge, and peace in troubled times.

Vance Durrance

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The Named and Unnamed Storms of Life

hurricane-michaelThe named storms of this life can gain notoriety status. Hurricane Michael struck the people of Western Florida and S. AL and GA this week, with relatively little warning as storms go, and with a vengeance rarely encountered on the Gulf Coast.  On Saturday prior, the threat was almost unknown. On Wednesday afternoon the Cat 4 storm slammed Panama City with winds near 155 mph causing massive damage. Michael will not soon be forgotten by those that lost their home or business in the region. Similarly, Hurricane Florence that struck the east coast in September 2018 will be a named storm that many in Eastern NC will remember for the flooding destruction for decades to come. Hurricane Harvey in Texas in 2017 will have similar reputation. Collectively we remember the named storms.

But what about the unnamed personal storms? In my life I will always remember the personal financial crisis that impacted my family in 1998. Similarly, I will remember the business crunch crisis that we faced in 2001 after the attack of 9/11 brought the private sector to a halt for a time. I will never forget the land condemnation of 2007. I remember the personal questions of purpose and further and final surrender to the Lord in 2008 and the clarity and joy that followed. I remember the vicious attack of brain cancer that took my father-in-law in less than 3 months in 2016. I will always remember the quick and passing storm of depression that attacked my family in February of 2018, coming for a three week period with no warning but leaving as quick as it came once fully recognized. Life is full of attacks and storms. The stealth and the speed and even the source of the attack will surprise us many times, but the existence of the attack should never surprise us.

In John 16:33, Jesus said clearly, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world.” This Truth gives us great comfort as we face the named and unnamed storms. And, the worst storms of life do have their positive result. In James 1:2-4, the Bible says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, when you face trials of many kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  Sometimes the storms seem more than we can bear, but it is times such as this that Jesus can stand up in our boat.  Mark 8:24-27 reads, “Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”   He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.  The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey Him!”   If you find yourself in a storm, named or unnamed today, take heart, for even today, He is still capable of calling down the winds and waves in your life.

Derek Dougherty

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Revelations from the Book of Nehemiah

NehemiahWe have been studying the Book of Nehemiah in our Sunday School class for the last quarter.  Derek, my son, suggested that I write down some of the things we learned in this study.  The first thing we learned about the book of Nehemiah is that it is not really about Nehemiah.  It is about God using a benchmark person to reveal Himself to those that have been given an unction to seek Him.  The following are a few of the characteristics of God that are revealed in the Book of Nehemiah:

  • God can bring judgment on nations, even His chosen nation, for disobeying His law and following their own law (rebelling).
  • God does take care of his chosen no matter where they are; Nehemiah was exiled to Babylon. God’s hand was on him.
  • God does present opportunities to serve Him (hear, see, draw near, obey) even when we have been exiled due to our sins.
  • God does give vision of what needs to be done to bring Him glory and honor. We must have the faith to act on the visions He provides.
  • Hearing His words when we have been in a rebellious state can and should bring sorrow of heart when they cause us to see our sins and His holiness.
  • Understanding and turning (obeying) to God’s Word brings strength to our souls. The joy of the Lord is my strength!
  • Joy of hearing His Word and seeing His Works is worthy of celebration and making sure all outside are invited to experience the joy and share in the celebration.

Nehemiah is just one book of the Bible that reveals Gods manifold character to his special creation (all men).  In fact, there are 22 books in the Old Testament and 16 in the New Testament named after men and two in the Old Testament named after women.  These books are not about any of the people they are named after but instead they are all about using their lives as benchmarks for revealing Himself, His ways, and His plans for us.   Our lives are to be benchmarks to help others hear and see Jesus.  What does your life’s story tell about the character of God?  Watch with Him, talk with Him and lift Him up everyday by showing and sharing His love, His mercy, His grace to all we encounter on whatever path He takes us along.

Phil DoughertyNehemiah

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