Follow A Leader

I was born just months after the Cowboys lost Super Bowl V to the Baltimore Colts, but before I turned one, the Cowboys had dismantled the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. My parents did right by me and raised me to be a fan of the Dallas Cowboys. So, like most other Cowboys fans, I’ve been following the Ezekiel Elliot news. Now, we wait to hear what his season with the Cowboys will look like.

Just a few miles up the road from where I sit, a federal judge is weighing a decision that will determine if Elliot will get his day in court against the NFL. It could mean he plays all season as this process plays out in the courts. It could also mean that the 6-game suspension will begin with the Cowboys’ second game of the season. Either way, it’s a shame this is what the news is full of as the NFL season kicks off.

As all of this news is unfolding, and both sides are throwing jabs at the other, I wanted to give a brief word of encouragement and challenge. Whether or not Ezekiel did physically assault his girlfriend, there is definitely something that can be learned from this situation. Below is a tweet from Drew Pearson that caught my attention the other day.

Drew Pearson tweet

When I saw that tweet, I immediately thought about the importance of having older, wiser, successful people in our lives that we can watch and follow. It reminded me of Paul’s words in the Bible.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.   – 1 Corinthians 11:1

Like Jesus, who lived and walked the earth as an example for us, Paul knew that others were watching his life. This verse doesn’t reveal a deep-seated pride or arrogance in Paul. Rather, it points to his understanding that anything he ever did worth imitating was because he was following Jesus.

In essence, Paul is saying that he should only be followed in as much as he was living consistently to the example of Jesus Christ. Truly, the only things in his life that were worthy of emulating would be those areas where he was living faithfully and in accordance with the life of Christ.

When Drew Pearson, (a member of the NFL’s 1970s All Decade Team and the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor), who played for the Cowboys from 1973-83, says that Ezekiel needs someone like Jason Witten to follow…it shouldn’t be ignored. A person needs others in his life that have been there and done that, and those people should be followed and learned from.

If you are a person who struggles to learn from others, and can’t bring yourself to let others lead you, you will have much more adversity and difficulties in your life. Jesus talks about us following him some 23 times in the Bible, and Paul builds on that by saying we should follow others in our every day lives who are following Jesus.

Having the right kind of people in your life to follow will not keep you and I from making wrong choices. However, not having anyone in your life that you look up to, learn from, and try to emulate is an area of weakness. Realize that you definitely need others in your life, and admit that you are not above needing help. We are all helpers in need of help throughout this journey of life.

Stop & Smell The Burning Wood

In a world where time marches on, and things continually change, this chilly afternoon & evening by the fire was such a great blessing. Kym and I sat by the fire, both doing work on our own computers, and watching a few movies. It was very peaceful and relaxing in a world where things move too fast most of the time. Pretty cool just to have a rare day of down time together.

img_0077

We’ve seen quite a few things change in the past couple years as our children have grown, and are often busy with their own things. I’ve written (here) about how that hasn’t been exactly easy on this dad’s heart, and how it’s been a learning stage of life for both Kym and myself. Funny how God is always teaching something and stretching us.

Seems like today God wanted to show a glimpse of what life might have in store every now and then during this new stage. Thankfully, by his grace, I didn’t miss the beauty and ease of this day. He gifted our crazy North Texas area with a chilly day, and we enjoyed the sounds of a crackling fire for hours.

I’ll see your rudeness, and raise you kindness.

I guess the dude had been forced, unnecessarily, to wait for an extended amount of time (like 52 seconds) before someone noticed him, and asked what they could do for him. I mean, really. C’mon! He had decided to patronize your establishment, and you ignored him for nearly a whole minute? What is this world coming to, when you can’t walk in to a store and be immediately served? Heavy sarcasm definitely intended.

Lately I’ve made several trips to a certain coffee shop, and come to know some of the morning employees. I’ve also seen some of the usual customers who stop in regularly in the early morning hours. It’s always been cool to me to build customer/worker relationships at my favorite places. Ever since I first watched some Cheers episodes, I’ve wanted to be a “Norm”.  I like getting to know people, and you’d be amazed at what you can learn from others.

At this particular java spot, I’ve been in awe of one of the managers. The way he handles customers, and seems like he genuinely wants to help people have a good day is inspiring. I wish I could say I’ve been shocked by some of the customers’ attitudes and actions, but unfortunately rudeness and anger are all too common these days.

This manager’s gentle and kind way of handling even the most aggravated and frustrated customer has reminded me of a simple truth- how you respond is your choice. Just this morning the man who had to wait almost a whole minute without being served felt it necessary to berate the manager. He clearly decided that he was justified in treating this manager so poorly. Yet, this manager responded with kindness, and did his best to help this man have a better day. He literally said he was sorry for this man’s wait (52 seconds) at least three times, gave him a free coffee, and said he hopes that he has a much better day. In the face of this jerky behavior, I was amazed at the self-control and appearance of genuine kindness of this manager.

I’m not sure if he is a follower of Jesus or not, but he definitely acted like it. The Bible tells us in Romans 12:9,

Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Ephesians 4:32 tells us to treat everyone with kindness. It doesn’t say we should do it only when others are kind to us. In fact, the Bible says we are to “love your enemies” in Matthew 5:44.

Truth: people are going to treat you badly. They will put themselves before everyone else, and take out their frustrations on you, sometimes in a very nasty and ugly way.

Another truth: you do not have to repay that sentiment with ugliness of your own. In fact, try the kindness route and see just how many times you can defuse their angst. You’ll be surprised at what a little kindness will do.

Now, do not expect every angry, belligerent person to soften in response to your kindness. Sometimes they’re just too far gone, and lost in the middle of their bad attitude. But, remember, you’re choosing kindness as a matter of principal, and not just to change the other person. More times than not, it will work wonders. And, even when it doesn’t work, you will know you did what you could to help them.

I’m a Pastor & a Sinner

Thankfully, the concept that pastors are somehow more spiritual and closer to God has been blown to pieces over the years. Unfortunately it has happened due to gross sin being exposed in the lives of pastors and ministry leaders. Even so, it’s a great thing to get fixed in your mind…we are all sinners.

Sin appears in my life daily. Often they are sins of commission, where I am very aware that I have missed the mark of godliness by my direct actions. Other times they are sins of omission, where I again am aware that I missed the mark, but by my inaction. Then, there are times that I miss the mark, but I do not realize it at the moment. In every case, I have lived out my life in a way that falls short of the glory of God.

By God’s grace, and thanks to his mercy, I am able to see my sin. Granted, I do not always see it or even admit it easily, but God has a way of bringing people into my life who help me recognize my sin. This allows me the honor of working on growing in these areas.

What I struggle with (just behind dishonoring God with my sin) is the pain that my sin causes others. This is never more evident than in my own nuclear family. God has richly blessed me with three wonderful gifts to be part of my family. These people know me best, and neither of them have run for the hills. They see the faults, the struggles, the angry moments, etc.

Sometimes I am more concerned with being right than listening. Other times I seek my own agenda rather than seeking to lead and love well. My reaction to tense situations and discussions is often to protect my own interests. When I have messed up, or I need to answer for something I did or said, I tend to defend myself at all costs. In these moments, my family feels the pain of my sin.

However, they don’t give up on me. They don’t beat me down when I mess up. Somehow they still love me, care for me, and help me work towards being more like Jesus. Talk about a man being blessed way beyond what he deserves. Wow!

I think that is because they understand that they too are sinful. They understand that we all, no matter how hard we strive to honor God, fall short (Romans 3:23) of the standard set by Jesus. Having these kind of people around you is paramount in helping you realize your sin, and push you to grow in Christlikeness. Because God is so awesome, he has also placed others in my life that have license to speak directly into my life.

One question for you as you read through this short post: Do you realize that you are a sinner, and do you let people in your life have license to help you grow? That’s more like two questions in one, but it’s okay.

To my family: Thank you from the bottom of my sinful heart for sticking with me, by my side, and allowing God to use you in my life. I’m not sure where I’d be without you.

 

Tebow Time & His Airness

It’s super late, actually just really early…1:15am to be exact. Yesterday, during his first professional baseball game, when he saw his first pitch, Tim Tebow promptly deposited it deep over the center field fence. Yes, he hit the very first pitch he saw out of the ballpark. Now, this fact has nothing to do with what Tim’s baseball career might or might not be. If you know anything about baseball, you know it is a difficult game, and it can take years and lots of hard work for a minor league player to make it to the big leagues. Then, it takes even more hard work to stay there.

So, again, I am not saying this proves that Tim Tebow is the next baseball phenom. However, that one swing, and all the hoopla around it did get me thinking. Truth is, I’ve been perturbed ever since Tim announced that he was going to tryout for major league scouts. What bothered me was the way so many people (experts and amateur fans) quickly and summarily dismissed Tim’s chances.

It reminded me of the Sports Illustrated cover that convinced me to never pick up another issue. bag-it-michael-si

In 1994, the magazine decided to sell a few more thousand copies by slamming  Michael Jordan for his attempt to play professional baseball. He cut off all communication with Sports Illustrated, even to this day.

Both of these men have something in common- they are winners. In their professional lives, whatever they’ve attempted, it seems something inside them wills them to win. Michael Jordan is considered the best basketball player of all time. Tim Tebow was one of the best college football players ever. He was the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy, and he lead the University of Florida to 2 national championships in three years. Even in his very short NFL career, Tim had a knack for getting his team the win.

tim-collage-for-blog

However, critics can’t seem to say enough bad things. Michael didn’t make it to the major leagues, and maybe Tim won’t either. But, it seems to me that every man and woman should be given the opportunity to try something without being lambasted and denounced as a failure before they even get started.

Honestly, some people are probably dissuaded from even attempting something new just because of the very real chance they’ll be trashed by others. This cynical approach to life, and seeming joy we take in bashing those who dare to stray from what we think they should do is a sad trend in our society. It makes me wonder just what would magazines, blogs, and sports talk shows be filled with, if negativity and cynicism didn’t exist.

So, let me give you this quick bit of encouragement…DO IT NOW! Whatever it is that you’ve been wanting to try, dying to see if you can accomplish, hoping you could find the courage to try…just get up off your couch and get started.

As a believer and follower of God, I’m inspired and motivated by this verse in the Bible,

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.     -2 Corinthians 9:8

Whether you are coming from a foundation of faith in God or not, you will need inspiration. You will face cynicism, and you need to be able to shake loose the doubters and haters. Then, pick yourself up and get started. I am reminded of another story that challenges and inspires me ever year on May 21st. That day in 1982, a 21-year-old Cal Ripken, Jr. was inserted into the starting lineup by Baltimore manager Earl Weaver, where he would remain for the next 2,631 games. He played every single baseball game for the Orioles for more than 16 years.

The only way a story like that happens is by someone getting started. So, when the voices are telling you that you’re not good enough, and they say you can’t do it, that you’ll fail if you try, that’s when you will be faced with a decision- go forward or give up. You’re likely to face that kind of decision many times in your life, but it can be an especially difficult one when you’re changing course, or trying something new.

Just tell those cynics…well…on second thought, don’t tell them anything. Instead, ignore them, turn around, and walk away. Stay away from people like that. Seriously. The world has way more than enough, you don’t need that kind of influence in your life. Surround yourself with people who believe in you, care about you, and root for your success. They also have to be ready and willing to speak truth into your life. That’s for your protection. But most importantly they must have your back.

Make the decision. Turn away from, ignore, and remove the cynicism from your life. Then, get started. DO IT NOW!

 

Texas Lost Some Good People Today

If you’ve had dear friends that have been a crucial part of your life for many years, then you know the pain of losing them when they move. This is an especially difficult part of life for a church family. Of course, after two decades serving as a pastor with the same church, it is something you come to expect. Families move to town. They become integral parts of your church and even your personal life. Then, whether they truly want to or not, life takes a turn, and they are quickly gone…moving on to a new destination.

Our church will most definitely miss this dear family. They have served faithfully, willingly with a heart for others. You name it in the church, and they have had a hand in helping that ministry achieve excellence. God doesn’t just have to replace our friends, but also a big part of our ministry team in our church.

We trust in the knowledge that God definitely has a plan, and that his plans are for our good. Still, the empty feeling of loss that resides in the depths of our hearts is real. And, sometimes the question of “why” just won’t stop its nagging. That’s why I like to stop, think on the memories, and recount all the super fun times we’ve enjoyed together.

Days & Days kiddos

These pictures show just a smidgeon of the fun times we’ve had with this family. It’s crazy! Friends have a way of becoming family when you do life together. Personally, we have done ministry together, seen each other most every week, and spent lots of time together in various ways.

My own baby girl learned how to be a babysitter with these cute faces in these pictures, and my son learned the importance of being an example to others. The age difference between our kiddos provided a very neat opportunity for unique friendships, that I am convinced will last for many, many years to come.

Kym Beck Pres

My wife took on an important job of being a kindergarten teacher, and Becky was sweet enough to jump right in with her. They were side by side for the last three years pouring in to each other as they worked hard to bestow knowledge to their kinders. As a husband, I’ve been increasingly thankful for the friendship Becky has given to my wife. I’ll have my hands full trying to help soften the hurt in her heart in the coming weeks and months.

I was blessed to be there for the first time Eric took his son, Jake hunting. It was a great day as one of our resident hunting experts in Berean, Big Joe, was showing us all the ropes. We didn’t get a ton of doves that day, but we did have lots of fun trying. See what I mean, remembering good times is a good tool in handling sadness.

Jake's 1st hunting trip

So, yeah. The sadness is real, and there is no magic trick to make it disappear with a snap of the fingers. But, we know God wouldn’t have us stay in this sadness-stricken state. He wants us to know that what he has planned to come will be just as amazing. That’s not because the Day family is so easily replaced (FAR from it)…it’s because our God is so awesome!

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  -Philippians 4:19

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”           -2 Corinthians 1:20

During these times (like we should at all times), we cling tightly to his many promises, and trust his sovereignty in all things. He knows the sadness and the hurt we have, and he’s at work in it all.

Does Your Attitude S#@%…sometimes!

Mine sure does…suck, that is. Please excuse the word choice. I know it’s harsh, and I would normally go with something like stink, but sometimes my attitude is honestly way worse that just stinking. And, the harshness of that word is incredibly accurate as it points to the sin that overtakes me and torpedoes my attitude.

Of course, given enough time, I do eventually get over it. And I usually think how sad it is that I let myself get so focused on different things and circumstances that it took over my whole attitude. However, if I’m not careful, I end up doing it all over again.

Why is that?

Attitude collage

With all the clever, sayings & quotes, memes, graphics, etc…you’d think we could just pick ourselves up out of the doldrums, grab some encouragement and move on. Of course, it is often much harder than that, and for some, a bad attitude can stick around for many days, even weeks.

Real quickly, I just wanted to drop a few words that might help, if this finds you dealing with a bad attitude.

Ask yourself these questions to evaluate yourself…

  1. Did someone do something that attributed to my attitude problem?
  2. If so, why did I (or continually do I) give them such power over me?
  3. Did something I do cause my attitude to tank?
  4. Was it just one thing, or did multiple things stack up on each other?
  5. Are things exactly as you think they are, or are you assuming?

Part of our sin nature is to care about what people think of us, to care about how people treat us, to get down on ourselves, and to think that our perception of reality is always correct. People will say, “Well, he said ‘_________’. What else could he have meant by that? He clearly has a problem with me.” We leave no room for the possibility that there might be another explanation. On top of that, we are very good at adding things up until we have this tower of issues that submerges our attitude to the depths of our being.

In a very real sense, we want to be our own god. We want total control over what happens to us, how we’re treated, how others handle their own lives, etc. If it connects to us at all, we want things to go the way we want things to go. In other words, we want to be the gods of our own lives…controlling all circumstances and situations in a way that we see fit.

Instead, we should be looking at each situation with humility.

3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.      -Philippians 2:3-4

 

We are, instead of trying to be our own god, to have the mind of Christ.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus    -Philippians 2:5

Even when things go sideways, people actually do treat us poorly, and sin against us, the call on our lives is to follow the Lord’s example. Jesus faced real trials, persecution and suffering. Yet, in the midst of it all, he remained hopeful and was ever patient.

When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.       -1 Peter 2:23

When you find yourself stuck in this position, fighting your attitude, and nothing seems to help you get unstuck, do these two things.

First, go to a good family member or friend who you know loves God, and loves you. Even if you have a stack of issues, it’s a safe bet that one person isn’t at the center of it all. Find that person, share your heart, and let them be a blessing to you.

Second (and most importantly), sit down and make a list of the great blessings you have in your life. I hear you right now saying, “Oh yeah, I know, be grateful. I get it.” And you’ve got that rolling eyes smirk on your face. Get past that self-centered bull, and begin to make an actual list of the ways God has blessed you. You will be amazed at how your heart can begin to shift when you are focused on God’s goodness to you.

That’s it. I’m Done!

You’ve met multiple times, done tons of talking, and discussed how the Bible addresses the struggles of life. There have been meetings for coffee, lunch appointments, quick breakfasts, and even a few late-night Waffle House trips. This person is your friend, your fellow Christian, and you’ve always been willing to meet and talk. You’ve been told that your friendship and counsel is a real blessing to this person.

However, you’re reaching the point of giving up. The talks have gone on and on, but there are zero signs of change. This person has the same problems, and most every step of forward progress has been met with two or three steps backward. Now, you are facing the struggle of considering whether or not you should continue spending (or wasting) time in this manner. Seriously, you wonder if wouldn’t be better for you to pour into a young Christian, and see them grow?

So…when is it okay to just be done? Can a Christian just decide enough is enough? The quick and easy answer is, “No.” But, there is also some ambiguity when it comes to defining what giving up means.

Matthew 10:14 is a verse often used to declare a Christian’s right to be done.

“And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.”

Truth is, that verse is specifically referring to non-Christians who refuse to hear the gospel. This verse can’t be pulled out of context, and applied to Christians living in community together. Yes, it can be frustrating to your spirit when your friend seems to continually ignore the truth, but you can’t just pick a verse that you think gives you an out.

Our example for living this life is Jesus. Jesus modeled a life of self-sacrifice, infinite faithfulness, and ultimate love, and he tells us to love as he does.

Ephesians 4:2 says that we need to have all humility, gentleness, and patience, as we bear with one another in love. In 1st Peter 4:8, we’re told “above all, keep loving one another earnestly.”

1 Corinthians 13:7 gives some definition to love saying that “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

So, as we are loving well and that love is enduring all things, we can “not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” Galatians 6:9. This verse is not a promise that as long as we do not give up, everything will definitely work out with our friend, and that friend will turn from sin. But it does mean that we are to stay faithful to the work of living in biblical community with one another, and let God handle the change that needs to take place in a person.

“Not as involved in pursuing your friend is not the same as giving up.”

Once it is understood that there is no allowance for giving up on a fellow Christian, we can evaluate what level of leaning in we need to offer our friend. The level of involvement has to change based on level of response from your friend. When your friend is listening, studying, and trying to make changes, you’ve got to be all in. You can meet regularly, and be the supportive and encouraging friend…always speaking truth in love. As long as things are progressing, everything is good and on track.

Moving to the next level happens when that friend ceases to pour into changing, misses meetings, or doesn’t do the studying. The next level comes when your friend does the yoyo thing with you. They are serious for a time, then missing for a time, and seeming not to care. Then, they come calling, and you start the process all over again. While you will still pour in, and lean in to help them change, you will do so with a certain level of guard. This isn’t because you do not care as much, or are not serious about helping. It is because there is an important shift from you doing the pursuing. The friend is reaching out, and you are going to still be there to help.

The final level for me is when you make significant changes to the amount of availability you have for this friend. This means that you might meet when your friend calls, but you won’t enter into a regular meeting or counseling situation. Instead, you will wait and ask to see some commitment and consistency from your friend. If this is a serious time of wanting change, it will be an easy step for your friend. If not, then, you haven’t wasted any time, and have saved yourself opportunity for frustration.

Remember, this is a way of approaching a fellow Christian when you are having feelings of wanting to give up. The pervading thought should be, “I won’t give up because God has never given up on me.”

the MAD in all MEN

 

MAD-MENWhen a television series makes it multiple seasons, it does so by acquiring a faithful, dedicated audience. Nothing keeps a show on the air except ratings, and those come from viewer statistics. A few days ago, Mad Men, a popular series on AMC, ended with the culmination of its seventh season. In the essence of brevity, I’ll not describe the entire series. Simply put, it was a show set mostly in the 1960’s that covered the professional and private lives of men (and some women) who worked in advertising at firms on Madison Avenue in New York City. It’s quite a clever play on words, and yet it also speaks to the actual lifestyles that many of the men on the show lived – mad. Not mad in the angry sense, but more along the lines of crazy or chaotic.

Don Draper was the lead character, and his escapades with family, personal vices, womanizing, amazing creative ad work, and huge ego were often the central thread in each episode. Truth is, it wasn’t just Don who lived this way. Running around on your wife, drinking and smoking at all times of the day, deception and cheating with clients and co-workers just seemed like a right of passage for young, up and coming ad men.

While the show clearly had what some would call questionable or downright inappropriate content, there were also some interesting aspects that drew in many fans. Of course, more of those fans were consistently men, but there was enough of a story, with appealing characters throughout, to draw in women and varying age groups. Whether you have watched or not, I think there are definitely some life lessons that can be pulled out of the fictional lives on the show.

The focus for me, being a man, is on the portrayal of manhood in many of the key characters. In the basest areas of the heart of men, this show probably ignited some fleshly embers. Being set in the 60’s, men (especially in the professional workplace) totally dominated the place. Female secretaries and assistants scampered around catching the coats and hats of their bosses who waltzed in every day like they had just saved the human race from extinction. There was such heroism, strength, and courage in their gate as they marched through the office, it was hard not to want to be like them…at least in some ways.

I think many men have a hidden desire to be seen in that light…to be looked at with reverence and awe because you are so stinking good at what you do. It would even be nice to have assistants whose sole purpose was to make your life easier, all so you could theoretically meet the intense demands of your job. Someone who took pride in keeping the distractions away from your view, and helping to protect your valuable time.

Without exception, I think there is a little MAD in all MEN. A little, “I’ll do it my way” – “I’ll take what I want” – “I’m the greatest” – “Everyone should be thankful for me” – “You’re fortunate to be graced by my genius”, rests deep down in the recesses of our corrupt hearts. If nothing else is taken from this television show, the lack of humility and the controlling desire to be worshiped should stick out like a sore thumb. The ultimate idol of Don Draper’s sin-sick heart is to be worshiped like a god…more accurately to live as a god. And, hence, the struggle…for, there is only one God.

It’s interesting to me that the word ego does not appear in the Bible. However, the Bible is filled with God’s words admonishing us to fight against this inherent desire to be worshiped. Our flesh (our natural person) desires satisfaction and fulfillment, and can be shaped to believe that the only way to have that true contentment is by satisfying all the urges of self. It is clear that God hates pride and arrogance (Proverbs 8:13). We are also warned in Matthew 23:12 that whoever exalts himself will be humbled. If we live by our own desires and devices, we will be humbled.

So, our challenge is to build up and live by our spirit (our inner man), and let the Word of God and the Holy Spirit be our guide through this maze of life. Instead of doing whatever you can to be noticed, to get ahead, we are commanded to be humble. According to Proverbs 22:4, it is genuine humility and fear of the LORD that bring wealth and honor and life. The real, lasting gift of the very things we desire so deeply only come from God’s hand of blessing, because of his goodness, when we humble ourselves.

I know you’re probably thinking that this is not the way of the real world. The meek and humble people do not get ahead. They do not end up getting the promotions that lead to the luxurious cars, big houses, and boats docked at the marina. In some circles that might seem to be accurate. And, I can’t (nor can anyone else) guarantee you that you will have all those things if you follow God’s plan for living your life. However, my question to you is, “What does it matter if you get all the money, success, notoriety, position, power, and things that you desire, but lose every other single thing that money cannot buy?” (Matthew 16:26)

Some of the more miserable, angry, sad people in the world sit in their houses surrounded by the trappings of this life every night- all alone. They’ve worked hard to get ahead, make partner, become CEO, and reach the pinnacle only to find they’ve had to step all over people along the way up. Friends have been pushed away, bridges have been burned, and families have been lost. When they finally learn it all wasn’t worth it…it’s too late.

Jesus, our example, came to the earth, not to be served, but to serve. He made himself nothing, emptied himself, and became a servant (Philippians 2:7). Truly, an inflated ego and an unbalanced focus on self is in direct opposition to God’s call for living in humility. Don, and most of the other men on Mad Men lived the antithesis of what characterizes a true Christian: total dependence on God and self-sacrificing service to others. And, that seemingly glamorous lifestyle that felt and looked so good on the outside, left them in a lonely, desolate place.

Our society, with all its clever devices, tries to get all of us twisted up in this empty pursuit. The man who would follow God’s plan, and become more like Christ – living out the gospel – will have to fight hard…and it will be worth it.

I Don’t Love My Wife

You read that right. It’s not something that I’m proud of, but it is 100% true. I just do not love my wife…at least not all the time. See, it is a desire of my heart to love my wife, and to love her well. Reality is, though, that I often do not love her. Instead, I choose to love myself.

You have to know that I’m not talking about the typical “love” that we throw around haphazardly. Anyone can say, “I love you” or send a quick “love ya” to another person. I mean, what kind of commitment does that require? We often throw those out in passing, when there is literally zero chance to prove that it’s either really true or show that it’s not. In those times we are really stating a status quo type of feeling-based sentiment.

“I do not have time to either show that I love you, or mess up and reveal that I’m not loving you right now. So…let me just give you a little ‘I love you’, and be on with my day.”

Clint Black wrote and recorded the song, “Something That We Do”, back in 1997, and for a country song it is full of wisdom regarding the reality of love. In the song he attests that love isn’t something that we find or have, something we are in, not just those words we said, or some place that we fall…it’s something that we do. Funny how a good song can help paint a picture that imitates real life, and make us think.

God had something very similar to say in 1 John 3:16-18.

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

True love, love like God shows us, is in our actions. What good does it do for us to say, “I love you”, when we are unwilling to do what real love requires? There’s not a whole lot of good to come from saying you love someone, when what they really need is a helping hand, or a nice warm meal. We know the love of Jesus by his giving of himself, and that’s exactly how we are to love. It’s the only way to truly love. And, it is imperative in a marriage.

I have to understand that while I do have a deep feeling of love in my spirit for my sweet wife, that feeling can come and go based on the varying circumstances of life. Disagreements, hurts, and confusion can quickly deflate that lofty feeling of love that I often have for her. And, in those toughest of times, if I’m not committed to active loving of my wife, I will simply not love her. In truth, I will hate her with my words, my thoughts, and even my actions.

This truth has made me rethink the flippant jotting down of “I love you” in cards and notes. Instead my wife will find “It’s my joy to love you,” “I hope you can tell I love you”, and “I can’t wait to love you”. We should strive to love to the degree that saying it is just not necessary…like Jesus loved. There simply was no question as to whether or not Jesus loved.