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I had to apologize to my wife. It definitely wasn’t the first time, nor will it be the last that I wanted to seek forgiveness for my actions but this apology was unique. I had neglected something fundamental to our relationship and our lives together and I realized that I was not truly loving my wife. As I reflected deeply upon this I realized that I was not loving anyone…I was merely going through the motions. Allow me to explain…in the human sense of the word I love my wife well, I provide for her, protect her, listen to her needs, buy her flowers and all of the numerous trappings that come with the modern sentimentality of love. But this is not love, these romantic notions may be a small fragment of what love is but it falls woefully short of the love that God has modeled for us and called us to live out each day.

The love that we express in our society is a performance based “love.” Take a moment to reflect honestly about this. Our love is expressed to those who “deserve it” and have “earned it.” Every relationship that we have is entrenched with this worldview. We “love” our children when they behave and don’t embarrass us as parents, we “love” our friends and family members when they “love” us back and don’t betray our trust. We “love” our spouses when they do their share of the chores, help the household run smoothly or when they satisfy our emotional, physical and spiritual needs.

Shame on us.

Think of this amazing notion for just a moment…God loves us regardless of our performance! If we embarrass Him, betray Him, lie to Him, cheat on Him, forget about Him or neglect Him God still loves us. Not because of anything that we have done or could ever do, God loves us because of the sacrifice His Son made for us on the cross. God loves us so much that he sent Jesus to die on the cross (John 3:16) so we could understand how non-performance based God’s love for us truly is. God has shown us that he loves us despite our performance and that we are to love others in the same way, not based on performance but according to the worth God has ascribed upon us, the eternal worth which was purchased in blood by Jesus Christ.

Christianity is unique in this major aspect from all other world religions or belief systems…that “God is love.” (1 John 4:16b) Not that God knows how to love or that love is an aspect of who He is, but that love is the essence of His entire being. Likewise, to be called His children, we are called to love like God, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16) I want to love others like God loves me, not based on performance but based on the eternal love that is mercifully shown to me every moment of my existence. That’s True Love and it’s time I live it out…will you join me?

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I don’t want you to panic but I really need to tell you something, brace yourself….there are only 5 days left until Christmas (insert scream here)! Granted, maybe you are one of the elite few who had all of their shopping done by July but for the vast majority of us the season of Christmas can be an extremely stressful and anger inducing time. Some of the most flagrant disrespects of humanity happen during Christmas shopping. I’ve seen two grown women have a fistfight in the Disney store fighting over that one last toy, people have been trampled to death because of a “super sale” and people in general are rude, crude and only thinking about their well-being and survival. How did it go so wrong? How did the meaning of Christmas get lost in the lines at the mall waiting to see Santa? Perhaps we’ve never truly understood what Christmas meant in the first place.

I’m sure you’ve heard the catchy phrase before, “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” Well that’s true but not complete. Even in Christian circles Christmas has become a commercialized and marketed product similar to a soup line; feeding the masses but nourishing no one. I don’t know how many Christian people have told me that they hate the Christmas season! Really?! How can anyone hate Christmas?

It’s time to take Christmas back. Amidst the hub-bub and bustle, the long lines and frustrating return policies the meaning of Christmas must be redeemed. Christmas is the season of life, it is the time of year that we remember that it is because of a little baby that we have life. God himself looked upon his most cherished creation (humanity) and decided to step off of his throne of glory and splendor to come to earth and be born a helpless little baby. He went from the greatest of strengths to the weakest of all, because he loved you and I more than he loved himself. Let me repeat that, God loves us more than himself and he showed us this in the manger as a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths. As the baby Jesus laid there sleeping those who came to worship realized that this new life would bring forth new life to all men.

So the next time you are standing in a long line, being irritated by a cashier or buying a gift for someone you hardly know remember this; You have been given the gift of life, you didn’t deserve it nor could you ever obtain it on your own, yet God came to earth in a manger, as a baby so that we could have life, life eternal. You know what…this IS the most wonderful time of the year.

(This post is my contribution to a series at Grace Church on the book “Spiritual Disciplines of a C.H.R.I.S.T.I.A.N.” you can read the other posts here)

A strange phenomenon has happened inside the halls of American Christianity, we’ve gotten the third member of the Trinity all wrong. That’s right, the Holy Spirit has been offended and we are to blame. Charismatics believe that they own exclusive rights to the work of the Holy Spirit and Evangelicals act as if He is something akin to the Force from Star Wars, yet both are wrong. The Holy Spirit is at work in each believer, equipping Christians with the ability to produce fruits of righteousness, to accomplish works that are impossible to our personal/human limitations and lastly through the blessing of spiritual gifts and enabling us to use our gifts in a way glorifying to God. We must make a disciplined effort if we wish to see these areas of our life continue to grow.

In his book “Spiritual Disciplines of a C.H.R.I.S.T.I.A.N.” Dr. Gil Stieglitz shows us the practical application of living the Christian life in a way which develops lasting relational and spiritual growth with God. Stieglitz calls this the “Disciplines of the Holy Spirit.” Through these disciplines we as Christians allow ourselves to be utilized by the Holy Spirit and He in turn guides us to be more Christ-like. Not only are we mimicking the qualities of Christ, we become those qualities. One of the practical disciplines involved is through the meditation of the virtues taught and modeled by Christ. A great example of this is the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) where Jesus famously taught (and modeled) such virtues such as meekness and humility. By meditating on these attributes the Christian is led by the Holy Spirit to discover those virtues which are lacking or non-existent. As we follow this discipline the Holy Spirit draws out our weaknesses and turns them into strengths.

The Holy Spirit is also responsible for accomplishing what is only possible through the work of God. Jesus tells us “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27) All too often we place God into a box and we say things like “this can never happen” and yet we see God work in a powerful way through His Spirit. We must practice the discipline of making ourselves open to the working of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. By reading God’s Word we can see numerous times when God interceded in an impossible situation, He did then and He continues to work powerfully in our lives today. We must trust Him for the impossible, for it is only possible through Him.

Lastly, all Christians have been given spiritual gifts specifically granted by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7-11). These gifts have not been given for our own good but that we may glorify God and that we may “serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in it’s various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10) When we utilize our gifts on a regular basis we fulfill our God given purpose, God is glorified and man is edified.

As Christians we should daily ask the Spirit to strengthen us in these areas of growth. I challenge you to start now, read through this list of the “Fruit of the Spirit” taken from Galatians 5:22-23 and take a moment for reflection. What areas do you feel strong in? What areas do you need the Spirit to guide and strengthen you in? By practicing this simple discipline you will begin seeing yourself reflecting Christ more each day! Amen!

Love                Goodness

Joy                  Meekness

Peace              Faithfulness

Patience          Self-Control

Kindness

What’s Happening on Twitter

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