The True Measure of a Man’s Greatness

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IF THE GREATEST commandment is to love God, and the second to love man as oneself, then it follows that the measure of a man’s greatness must be in how well he has followed this law of love.  His greatness cannot be accounted merely by what he performs—that is, neither by personal piety and acts of worship (prayer, Bible reading, fasting, corporate worship, etc.) nor by outward religious duties (visiting the sick, acts of charity, etc.).

The inward protest immediately arises, “But I do those things because of love—love for God, and love for man!”  Perhaps so, and that is precisely the issue which has been laid bare and must be burned into our heart, mind, and soul: “Why do I do the things I do?”

A Christian performs acts of piety and deeds of love because he has a heart of love; he does not have a heart of love just because he does these things. This distinction is narrow, but definitive; it becomes the great motivational divide between that which is eternal and that which God considers nothing.  God stunningly reveals that eloquence, great prophetic ability, superior spiritual knowledge, great manifestations of faith, giving to the poor, and even martyrdom are nothing if not prompted by love (1 Cor. 13:1-3)—a sober reminder, indeed, of the great divide.

This measurement reduces all we do to the least common denominator of love.  A river can only accommodate as large a vessel as its most shallow depth permits.  The motive of love instantly becomes a pass of Thermopylae through which all our actions must maneuver.

Jesus Himself clarified this true measure of a man’s greatness: the greatest among you will be your servant (Mt. 23:11).

A man can serve without loving but he cannot love without serving. In either instance, he serves by compulsion.  In the first, by an outward compulsion—either coercion or fear of man.  In the second, by an inward compulsion—the law of divine love.

Truly, the greatest of these is love.

REACH 2017: I Can Tell Something is Bothering You

Here are my presentation notes for I Can Tell Something is Bothering You, a session at REACH 2017 on issues facing our Anabaptist youth:  I Can Tell Something is Bothering You.

I plan to post additional survey results and further analysis on replies to the following open-ended questions:

  • What do you appreciate about our Anabaptist heritage?
  • Is there anything about our Anabaptist heritage/culture that you struggle with?
  • What do you fear most about your future?
  • What is the most painful thing that ever happened to you?

Unanswerable Questions

question answer cloudI AM LEARNING that it is okay to ask unanswerable questions: Why am I suffering? Why is God silent?  Why doesn’t He answer my prayers?  Why doesn’t God perform a miracle?

WHAT IF the questions I am not able to answer are the most important ones that I ever ask?  What if they have more significance than the questions I have answers for?

It’s not so much the questions I ask, but Who I ask them to, and ultimately—who is doing the asking.  In other words, what kind of person is doing the asking?  And sometimes, the answer to that question is the only one I can provide.

ALL MEN ask unanswerable questions, though not all are honest enough to acknowledge their asking.  The Greatest Man shouted the greatest “Why” question ever from atop Golgotha.

On what basis are unanswerable questions the most important?  The answers I provide show who I am—and at the end of the day, that truly is of utmost importance.

Pricks from Thorns

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Thorn Pricks

Pricks from thorns, but oh—the fair roses!

Sleepless nights, but oh—the joy and peace which comes in the morning!

Weary days and darksome ways, but oh—the faith and trust engendered!

Failure and disappointment, but oh—the grace and mercy God pours unending!

Dusty, thirsty journey, but oh—the eternal glory just around the bend!

Meditations of an Insomniac

the night outside

If you are unable to sleep,
it is best to lose all sense of time and the passage of slow hours.  Turn the clock away from your bloodshot gaze.

Watch not the constellations wheel in the heavens above, nor the moon plow its unwearying course through the night sky.  Such contrivances only serve to excite the fevered mind and remind the weary body of its pitiful plight.

Turn instead to worship, and muse on things pleasant.  Ponder the goodness of God, and meditate on the splendors of His Person.  See how He has brought you to repentance, and bask in the wonders of grace. Commune upon your bed with the One Who loves and knows you best.

Recall sweet scenes from yesteryear, and life’s summer days of joy and gladness.  Conjure aspirations for tomorrow, should your days be continued.

Fix the heart and mind upon that which is greater than yourself.  Don’t focus on your failures and disappointments.  That will only bring further sleeplessness.  Turn instead to God’s grandeur, to the beauties and wonders of nature.  Worship.  Even if sleep does not come, an ultimate good was served by the night’s passage.

And remember, insomnia has very rarely killed anyone–but worry’s ax has felled many a fellow.

Escape From the Dungeon of Discouragement

 dungeon of the soul

Each of us faces times of discouragement, when all is dark and we are chained in a dungeon of the soul, with little hope and seemingly no escape.  Here are a few simple steps I’ve found which lead out of the darkness.

Invest in the lives of others. When I serve, I am blessed.  Relationships, relationships.  People are always more important than things and hobbies.

Remain optimistic.  There are innumerable circumstances which lure a person into despair.  Don’t succumb.

Cultivate a longing for Christ’s presence and heaven.  This earth is only a prelude.

Enjoy beauty and nature’s serenity.  There are few woes not lightened by a half hour’s walk in the wood or field.

Trust the Heavenly Father.  God is in control.  Really, He is.  The sovereign God of all the universe has not abdicated His throne.

Remember the little adage, “This too shall pass.”  I often add a second line: “Then who will I have become?”  In other words, my response to life is more important than the problems of life.  And after all—my response is about the only variable of life I can control.