Archive for June, 2019


Love-Triangle-Love-YourselfAs a kid, I remember getting up and getting ready for school. I remember thinking that I wasn’t like some of the popular kids, I wasn’t in sports, I didn’t have the “look” that they all had. I wasn’t welcomed in certain circles. I was almost 6 foot, all of 125 pounds, and I wore glasses. I guess you could say I was a part of the “nerd” class. There were many days that I wanted to wake up and be like the rest of what I saw as society, because I was different. But was I really?

Even today, probably even more so today with Photoshop, we are bombarded by images of who we should be, what we should look like, and what we should be doing. From commercials, to sitcoms, to movies, we are able to imagine ourselves in those roles, but there’s one simple but profound problem with it. We can’t live up to it. We used to see people around us and on media and have the possibility of reaching what was being portrayed, because they were not enhanced, or digitally altered. But now, it’s hard to tell what is real and what’s not. This affects the view that we have of ourselves. We, as a society, have an increasingly lower view of ourselves. We want to live the dream, but something seems to be holding us back. Maybe it’s the vision that we see, maybe it’s our backgrounds, or maybe it’s something going on inside our own heads.

Do you love yourself? Do you love who you are, who God created you to be?

We are finishing up this worship series on this spiritual ‘love triangle’ and I want you to really think about this part of it. Hear the great commandment again…

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Once again, there is the love triangle. We are to love God with everything we have and everything we are. And then we are to love our neighbors. Love God, love neighbors. But don’t miss that we are also to love ourselves. You see, we are to love our neighbors, just as we love ourselves. A love triangle, all connected, all important, all needed as we fulfill this great commandment. But how do we love our neighbors if we don’t love ourselves? Worse yet, if we are to love them as ourselves but we don’t love ourselves, does that mean that we don’t love others? Let’s not travel that road today. Let’s focus a little more on how we can love and view ourselves.

You have value in God’s eyes. Why wouldn’t this translate into the value that you have in your own eyes? The Psalmist writes that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made!” God loves you just the way you are, not as you should be, because none of us are as we should be. Just the way you are.

When you look in the mirror in the morning, what do you see? Do you see that face of a person who has been worn down by society, trying to live up to expectations of what a good person is, what a good mother does, or a good father? Does it look like the face of someone who is tired of always missing the mark placed before us by the media?

Does the face you see want to run and hide from the issues of weight loss, hair loss, aging skin, or the overall sense of exhaustion? Do you see someone facing difficulties in relationships, problems with motivation, struggles with addictions, or a lack of faith? Do you see someone who is battling depression or other mental illnesses? What do you see? Who do you see?

Psalm 139 gives us this image of being fearfully and wonderfully made and that God’s thoughts about us are more than the grains of sand. How beautiful is that? God loves us, just the way we are, because that’s how God created us.

This is great news, especially for those of us who struggle with their own self-image. I know that it is hard, but what really matters is not what the world thinks about you, but what God thinks.

I would love for you to for once, leave behind all of those things that society tells you that you should be and just be who God has created you to be. Drop the preconceived notions that you should be the perfect mother or father, brother or sister, forget about being the perfect employee or boss. Forget about fitting into whatever size clothes you think you should be in. Stop trying to live the perfect life, and just live the one God is planning for you.

Love yourself! Love all the little things about yourself. You are unique. You are special. And you are needed in God’s kingdom.

Love-Triangle-Love-OthersWhat do you think of when you hear the term ‘love triangle?’ What images come to mind, relationships, thoughts? I know that I initially thought of a marriage struggling through an affair. A once happy couple begins to have difficulties and then one partner introduces someone else into the picture by falling “in love” with them. Now, they are at the center of this weird love triangle, and it’s not healthy.

It’s like a country song straight off the charts. Sylvia’s “Nobody,” Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls,” or Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” are all filled with these images. Hollywood has made a living off stories like these, and Hallmark tells stories that get right up to the line without crossing it. We are fascinated with these love triangles, and that’s dangerous. In fact, love triangles can be more dangerous than another famous triangle, Bermuda.

But then, I got a different vision as I heard the great commandment. Hear it again…

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

Did you hear the love triangle in this verse? We are to love God with everything we have and everything we are. And then we are to love our neighbors. Love God, love neighbors. But don’t miss that we are also to love ourselves. You see, we are to love our neighbors, just as we love ourselves. A love triangle, all connected, all important, all needed as we fulfill this great commandment.

Today, we focus on loving others. What does it mean to love others? Are we just supposed to love those that we like, or are we called to love those we don’t know or worse yet, the ones we don’t like? These are questions we need to have answers to, we need to know.

If we look to scripture, we get a good picture of who is included in this command to love neighbors as ourselves, it’s everybody. Jesus loved everyone, even those he didn’t agree with. It should be the same with us. We should love everyone, even if we don’t agree with them, even if we don’t look like them. We are all children of God, loved by God, so why shouldn’t we love each other. I know, it’s tough to do, but that is our calling.

So, how do we love each other, even the ones we don’t know? Well, this past week I was blessed to be able to spend a week with youth from four different churches as we traveled to Camp Courageous in Iowa. This is a camp for developmentally disabled kids and adults who would never get a chance to go camping or do things that many of us take for granted when we camp like cooking over an open fire, enjoying s’mores, arts and crafts, and so much more. We travel there too perform maintenance and other building projects so they can continue to minister to the people.

This is a big way of showing God’s love to others, by doing things for them. We cleaned, split logs, skimmed a pond, sorted items for a resale shop, mowed, pressure washed, and stained a wooden stage. These were just a few of the projects we have worked on over the years and as we look back over the many years we have been there, we can point to major projects that have helped Camp Courageous in their ministry.

Here in Lanark, there is a group that has begun a ‘workation’ which helps people around the community with little projects around their homes. This is a way for those in our community to experience the same thing with loving others. This small community becomes it’s own mission field as groups from not only the churches, but also community groups, pitch in and help all over.

Loving others doesn’t have to mean completing projects, however. It can be as simple as having a cup of coffee and sharing some of your time listening to someone about some issues they are having. It can be giving someone a hug when they need it the most. It may be telling them that you really care about them. Showing our love for others comes in many different forms. I wonder how you can show your love to someone else today? What would that look like? How can you participate in the Kingdom of God right where you are by loving someone else?

Love-Triangle-Love-GodWhat do you think of when you hear the term ‘love triangle?’ What images come to mind, relationships, thoughts? I know that I initially thought of a marriage struggling through an affair. A once happy couple begins to have difficulties and then one partner introduces someone else into the picture by falling “in love” with them. Now, they are at the center of this weird love triangle, and it’s not healthy.

It’s like a country song straight off the charts. Sylvia’s “Nobody,” Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls,” or Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” are all filled with these images. Hollywood has made a living off stories like these, and Hallmark tells stories that get right up to the line without crossing it. We are fascinated with these love triangles, and that’s dangerous. In fact, love triangles can be more dangerous than another famous triangle, Bermuda.

But then, I got a different vision as I heard the great commandment. Hear it again…

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

Did you hear the love triangle in this verse? We are to love God with everything we have and everything we are. And then we are to love our neighbors. Love God, love neighbors. But don’t miss that we are also to love ourselves. You see, we are to love our neighbors, just as we love ourselves. A love triangle, all connected, all important, all needed as we fulfill this great commandment.

So, let’s ask a basic question. How do you show someone you love them? How do you express your love for people or things? Love is an action, it is a decision. We all make the decision to either love someone or something, how do we express that love?

First, let me be clear, before we go to far, that when we talk about our love of God, that you don’t get the wrong impression about needing to do something to prove your love for God. We are saved by the grace of God through faith, not works. We don’t necessarily have to do anything to receive this free gift from God, it is freely given to us. We express our love in works because we love God, not the other way around. It’s a difference in attitude.

So, who or what do you love? I know that I love a good banana split, some homemade beef stew, and a good cup of coffee. I also love the Chicago Cubs, now that they made it through the opening few weeks. I love music, I love singing. I love being outside, around the water, fishing and campfires. I love my kids, my family, and especially I love my wife. I love this community and the friends that I have made here. But most importantly, I love God. I love my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the power that comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and the graciousness of God the Father.

What and whom do you love? Do you love God? Do you love God all the time, or just when things are good? Do you still love God when things are difficult, troublesome, or maybe when you don’t understand what’s going on around you? We are called to love God at all times. We can love God when everything seems right, things are well, we are healthy, we are comfortable, it’s all good. It’s easy to love God when everything is going right. But what about in the valleys, because we are called to love God then, too. Maybe our health is failing, we are in the middle of a broken relationship, we’re struggling with depression, anger, or addictions. Maybe we’re just facing doubt and fear of what the future holds. Even in these times we are called to love God, to trust God.

Last year, I shared a series about the 3 simple rules from John Wesley. They were “Do no harm. Do good. And stay in love with God.” During this series we talked about how we can express our love for God. One of the main ways was by participating in the means of grace. This is done through worship, prayer, holy conversations, bible study, celebrating the sacraments, as well as other means of grace.

So, how do you show God that you love Him? Do you make sure that worship is a priority? Do you share your faith in God with others? Do you spend 15 minutes alone with God? Do you put your full trust in God, knowing that regardless of the situation, God will take care of you?

I know that we are entering into a difficult time here and a time full of uncertainty. I know that it will be easy to fall back to what we might have known, but I encourage you to center yourself in your love and trust in God. Stay in love with God because he will never leave you. God walks with us all the time.