Tag: Love others (page 1 of 3)

The Lie in “Practice Makes Perfect”

practice makes perfect

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“Practice makes perfect,” right? We grow up being fed this idiom as the advice that will ensure our success. We’re told that no matter the skill, we are able to master it by simply repeating it over and over. We have taken this simple motivational saying and turned it into a life motto. But deep down we struggle with believing it is true. If it were true, then the American Idol audition episodes would not be as funny to watch. The truth is we know that we can’t be perfect, at anything, ever. But unfortunately so many of us still buy into this saying as an undisputable truth.

There’s a difference in wanting to do something well and needing to be perfect at it. One motivates you to continue to work hard and allows you to enjoy progress and success, even in the moments of failure. The other drives you to overreach in the area of practice, which often steals the joy of doing, creates burnout and causes feelings of never being “good enough.” When times of failure come; because they always do, even for professionals, or you meet the person that is better than you, it’s crushing. That often leads to more striving and more burnout or simply just quitting. Either way the potential for a defeated heart becomes greater and greater.

The Bible Doesn’t Necessarily Help

Unfortunately we’ve moved away from simply seeking proficiency toward seeking perfection. But, as previously mentioned, we know deep down that perfection isn’t attainable. Again unfortunately that doesn’t stop us. Sometimes it can seem like even scripture adds to this problem. Scripture like Matthew 5:48 only seems to feed our need for perfection. In that scripture Jesus actually says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” There it is, be perfect.

We automatically assume that He’s telling us to be perfect in all things, rightly conclude that it is not possible while on earth and often either ignore it and continue on our Christian way, or discount Christianity (or at least the Bible) as a whole. But, as with much of scripture it isn’t that simple and when we take a single verse out of context, we do more damage than good.

Biblical teachers have shared a couple different thoughts on what Jesus is talking about here. He says this while giving a long sermon (called the Sermon on the Mount). During that sermon Jesus elevates much of the previous laws that the Jews had been trying to live by. He equates hate with murder, lust with adultery and tells them that it is not enough to not wish their enemies ill will, but instead they must actually love them. Then, right in the middle of it, He says to be perfect.

I’ve heard it suggested that He is telling us to be perfect in our intent to follow the law as He explains it. The idea is, as humans, we are incapable of being perfect in action, but our intent can be perfect. It is basically us repeating Paul’s cry that, “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” I do believe that this is true. As we allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify and mold us into the likeness of Jesus, our intent to follow Jesus’ commands can be made perfect even though our ability may lack. But I’m not sure that’s what Jesus was talking about here.

Pursuit, not Perfection

Another way I’ve heard it interpreted is in the immediate context of what Jesus was talking about, specifically loving your enemy. The Greek word that Jesus used is different from other occasions when He said “perfect.” On this occasion the word means something closer to “mature.” If Jesus was saying to be perfect in the context of loving your enemy, then that changes the perspective on perfection. If this is true, Jesus is telling us to love perfectly; as the Father loves, so shall we. While that in and of it self is a hard task, if there is anything we ought to be practicing to perfection it is the ability to love. Jesus spends the few verses before v. 48 talking about how easy it is to love you friend, but the real defining factor of His follower is the ability to love their enemy. That is another blog for another time, but the good news in this is that He isn’t telling us that we need be perfect in all things.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive toward perfection. If we are pursuing Jesus we are moving toward perfection, but our goal is not perfection, it is Jesus; He is the prize, perfection is not. The best part is when Jesus talks about us being made perfect, as in whole and complete, He doesn’t say it to us, but instead during a prayer, He asks God that we, as a church, “may become perfectly one.” God never puts the onus on us to be perfect.

Practice for Pursuit

The truth is that we are not perfect and we can’t be on this side of eternity. Our flesh will continually war against our desire to do the will of God. We should strive to be perfect in the way that we love others. That should be the one area that we hold onto the idea that practice makes perfect. But, no matter how much we practice we won’t be perfect in every way it means to follow Jesus. We are going to fail. We are going to sin and fall short. We are going to be harsh with our children, upset our spouses, anger a friend, but God’s grace is sufficient for our imperfections. If He has that much grace for us, shouldn’t we have the same for each other and even for ourselves? It is in Him that we have the strength to keep on. Instead of holding onto “practice makes perfect” we would do better to view it as “practice breeds pursuit.” That means that as we repeat the things that Jesus modeled for us a desire is produced to pursue Him more.

Practice does not always make perfect, but it does bring us closer to the One who is.

How to Guarantee Success

SuccessThis past weekend I had the opportunity to hear Pastor TL Rogers, from The Triumphant Church in Washington D.C., preach on the importance of being a single, whole person before getting married. It was a great message in and of itself (you can watch it HERE) and there’s a ton more that could be said about the importance of wholeness, but there’s one thing that he said that I’d like to key in on. He said, “Success is predictable.” He was talking about success in marriage, but the idea spans the whole of following Jesus and Christendom.

He pointed to Joshua 1:8 as evidence. In that verse God is commissioning Joshua to lead the Israelites after Moses death. God tells Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” There it is. Follow the law then you’ll be prosperous and have good success. To be sure, God wasn’t simply talking about material success. He was telling Joshua what it would take to have success as His people and that started with following the law as He gave it to them.

If that’s true, we can extrapolate that out and apply it to the New Covenant in Jesus and use that verse as our guideline for success and prosperity. By the time Jesus hit the scene the Jews had over 600 laws that were required for “righteousness.” An impossible task, if ever there was one. When asked which is the most important, Jesus said, “And he said to him, “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 a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” If all the other laws depend on those two commands, then the promise of success found in Joshua 1:8 requires our continued obedience to them. 

What that mean in a practical sense is that as followers of Jesus our success, in everything, is dependent on not letting love depart from our lips, meditating on it day and night and being careful to do all that Jesus commanded surrounding love. That means being His witness to an unbelieving world by caring for widows and orphans, being agents of healing, loving each other well, displaying grace and forgiveness and not seeking to condemn others. Success looks like the love of Christ acted out by His followers. 

Let’s be successful.

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Loved People. (2015)

love-god-love-people212. That’s the number of times that the New Testament mentions the word Love. Depending on the translation you use it varies, but that doesn’t include the Old Testament. If you count those the number more than doubles. Of the 212 times the word love is mentioned in the New Testament, about 51 one of those are from Jesus. That’s a big deal. Here’s why, of the 27 books of the New Testament, Jesus physically appears in six of them. Of those six, four are the chronicles of his life and ministry, essentially telling the same events from the perspective of different people and written for different audiences. The reason that’s important is because of the over 200 times love is mentioned in the New Testament, Jesus said it about a quarter of those times. Love was a big deal to Jesus.

I think that one of the most important verses in the bible is John 3:16.  John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” That single verse is the Good News of the message that Christ calls us to witness to. Everything else aside, this is our message to the world. When we talk about God, this ought to be our lead, our middle and our conclusion. When we speak of Jesus it ought to be so saturated in this verse that others can’t argue it, because they see that it’s really real in the way that it affects us. The best thing about this verse is that it includes everyone. Everyone.

Nowhere in there does it place a condition on God’s love. It is a conditional statement, but that condition has nothing to do with God’s love. The condition is directed at our belief in Jesus as a necessity for being saved. But His love, that’s exists there for everyone; it’s a without exception or expectation kind of love. So when I talk about Loved People, I’m talking to everyone. But I’m not naive or overly optimistic. I do understand that some don’t believe that or at the least would believe, except they’ve never experienced it, so it’s a difficult idea to accept. That’s why, as a Christian, you have to understand that verse, and a number of others, but especially that one. In understanding it we, Christians, are able to extend it to others.

To the Loved People that know they’re loved,

Others will know His love through you. Think about the first time you really and genuinely experienced the love of Christ. Where their other Christians involved? Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” That means that Christians love each other. He also said, “Love you neighbor as yourself.” That means that Christians love other people. If you haven’t ever experienced the love of Jesus that occurs in a community of believers, I might suggest that you haven’t experienced the fullness of the love of Christ and you’re probably not experience the “life abundant” that Jesus said He came to give. Find community and you’ll find deepness in His love. But it’s not just for you and it’s certainly not for nothing. While He lavishes you with love for love’s sake, He also pours it out to be poured out. You’re loved for God’s own glory; so that other’s might experience the same love. While it may seem like a selfish thing, the saving nature of His love eliminates any perceived selfish intent. It’s a hard thing to understand, but once you know His love, the logistics of it seem less important. You are loved to love others. If you’re a Christians and not compelled to love others, I’d argue that you’ve never actually experienced His love and your decision to follow Him is still just one based on a “head” decision. If that’s the case, find community and I guarantee that the transition from head to heart following will be blatant and radical.

It isn’t our duty to love, it’s our compulsion; it’s who we’re meant to be.

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To the Loved People that don’t know they’re loved,

God does love you. He does. If you’ve never had an experience with a Christian that reflected that love, I’m sorry. It isn’t our duty to love, it’s our compulsion; it’s who we’re meant to be. I wish I could put into words the attractiveness of Jesus’ love. Obviously the bible does the best job around, but there’s still something that happens when you get to experience it that I just can’t explain. But, I promise you this, you are loved. Anyone that tells you different, even if they use scripture, is a liar straight from hell. The fact that John 3:16 says that “God loves the world” disproves any notion that “God Hates ________” (fill in the blank with anything you’ve ever heard). Because the world’s message is that you aren’t good enough or that you have to be better, believing that you’re loved is probably one of the more difficult parts of being a Christian; but it doesn’t make it any less true. You are loved. My prayer is that more Christians will understand, and remember, the impact that feeling loved had on them and extend the same to others and that you might benefit from that.

Loved People, love others, ok. Love well and often.

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