If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have
My wife Kristen and I just started a marriage study and the first chapter was “Realise your inability to love”. One exercise was to reflect on the well-known love passage (1 Corinthians 13:4-6) and highlight what you struggle with the most. What immediately came to mind was how I have a hard time with patience and irritability.
When I reflected on my “ugly” moments with my wife and family, I recall countless instances that I just lost my temper, raised my voice, or used unloving words. I know what I am supposed to do, but when my patience runs low, irritation takes over, and love is far from me.
When we read this chapter, we often focus on “love is patient, love is kind,” but it actually starts with Paul warning the people of Corinth about even when they use their gifts to do wonders or sacrifice to the point of death, they are nothing if they are not done with love. What a challenge!
His point is that serving God is not about what you do on the outside but how you are on the inside. It dawned on me that, most of the time, I focus on my actions and try to “white knuckle” my pursuit of being a good husband, a loving father, and even a good Christian. All the while I have forgotten that this standard of love is simply unattainable on my own. Loving well is not the same as acting lovingly. Being more loving is not an issue of behavioural change, but how your heart is positioned towards God. Loving well requires a position of humility and full dependence on God.
We know the standard, which is to love selflessly and sacrificially; but we must come to terms with our inability to do it. Our will power alone will never suffice because we are fallen. And the best we can do is to pray unceasingly for His guidance and power.
Let’s practice impossible love by:
Two days ago, we started the first day of Lent. It is a season of reflection and preparation before the celebrations of Easter. By observing the 40 days of Lent, Christians replicate Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days. It is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities. On Good Friday itself, Christians the world over will be taking time to remember Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. He is our Passover Lamb, the only One worthy to stand in our place and take God’s judgment on our behalf.
Like many others, whenever I pause in my daily life to ponder the fact that Jesus, the very Son of God, came down in human form to die for my sins and redeem me for all eternity, I am overwhelmed with gratitude even as I am covered with the shame that I have cost my Lord so much. God loves me so much, how can I love Him less?
More than that, how could I live each day without remembering Jesus in my words and my deeds? Do I make decisions and plans without reference to God and what His Word says? Do I live my life, this life that God has given me, as though He was not there?
The reality of our daily life is that we all do, at least from time to time, forget that we have been redeemed. Thankfully, God knows that. God knows all about us. As noted in John 2:24-25 “Jesus knew all men… He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.”
This is why in the last supper, just before His crucifixion, Jesus instructed His believers to remember Him through the practice of communion:
And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine from now on until the kingdom of God comes.” And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” (Luke 22:17-20 NASB)
Jesus understood the fragility of the human will and spirit, and our propensity to forget. Communion prompts us every time to remember what God has done for us and helps us to re-adjust our focus to His will and purpose for our lives. Even more so then, the Lent period brings us back to a time of thanksgiving and worship of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Let us remember Jesus by:
Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’” 2 Chronicles 20:14-17
Life can be hard sometimes. Whether it be dealing with personal health issues, sickness in the family, stressful work situations, relationship problems or any other number of items. Towards the beginning of this year, I heard someone exclaim in disbelief that only two weeks had passed since the start of the new year. I could feel the exhaustion and defeat in that person’s voice. Truth be told, I often have similar thoughts of exasperation and tiredness.
During those times of despair, I am too easily disheartened by the circumstances right before me and lose perspective of God and His great and mighty power. But passages such as 2 Chronicles 20 reminds me that my time is much better spent falling prostrate before the Lord, worshipping and praising Him rather than fretting about what I fear may lie ahead.
Much like God delivered a miraculous victory for Jehoshaphat and the Israelites in 2 Chronicles 20, God can and wants to do so for us as well. Unfortunately, I foolishly find myself many times putting faith in my own power and wisdom rather than in God who can wipe out an entire army without the Israelites even having to raise a sword.
For your own life situations and predicaments, do you spend more time stressing and relying on your own wisdom than seeking the Lord for His? If so, I encourage you to:
A person stood before me, he is still not too tall – just a bit past my shoulders – but this will not be for much longer. His voice no longer carries that boyish chirp, but it has deepened, with a tint of harshness to it; like Batman using his voice-changer! His shoulders broaden, he eats more than ever… All of a sudden, my first son has leapt from a little baby boy that I could hold in the palm of my hand to a young man that I now have a hard time piggybacking. All of a sudden, Ryan has entered his puberty years!
Have I been the father that he needed? Does he feel loved? Will he be dating soon? What will his future be like? Will he be strong enough to face the world? Will he be fulfilling his potential? Will he be following Jesus for the rest of his life; seeking after God’s heart? Questions that I am both excited and challenged by as I look at my son.
At Men’s Fraternity, I surprised Ryan who is turning twelve with “The Rite of Passage” ceremony last Tuesday. It was a special night not only for him but also for me as a father. Through that ceremony of “boy to teen”, I realised not only is my boy entering into a different life stage, I am also entering into another phase of fatherhood. As I looked at my son, I began to understand a little more about the heart of my Heavenly Father and how He must feel towards me.
“What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:11-13 (ESV)
I love Ryan so much and all I want for him is to follow His ways; to choose His path when faced with a crossroad and express God’s glory through the gifts that were uniquely given to him. My hopes and dreams for my son rest not on his shoulders but on trusting that the Lord will provide what He sees as the best for Ryan. I am comforted by Jesus’s words in Luke 11.
For those of us who are parents, may I encourage you to spend time with your children? Your teenagers? Take time today to say “I love you, I am proud of you and you are good at __!” words of love and confirmation speak to the soul. Dr Ted Roberts (founder of Pure Desire Ministry) said to me once, “A day without a kiss, a hug and to say ‘I love you’ to the people who are close to you, is a day wasted”.
Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matthew 26:41
The flames at the end of your torch flicker aimlessly into the night sky. The moon does not reveal itself tonight as only traces of its dull presence can be seen behind the clouds above. You stand atop a wall surveying the dimly lit plains for any trace of movement. The town the wall surrounds is quiet and serene, the residents fast asleep. The night is long but you keep your focus, vigilant to those that would do the town harm.
Suddenly, you see a group of obscured figures moving swiftly from the horizon. The figures grow larger as you realise they are headed straight for your direction. Suddenly you feel something fly by your head, grazing the tip of your ear. You move your hand across your ear and bring it close to your eyes only to see blood. An arrow had just narrowly missed your head. You begin to feel the pain in your ear and fear grips your mind. Your legs feel weak almost forcing you to collapse and hide from the oncoming hail of arrows. Still, you gather your thoughts into one goal as you sprint towards the tower and reach for the horn to alert the town. The enemy draws near.
I need to remind myself to think of temptation to sin as a very real and physical threat, similar to the way the watchman looks out for the physical enemy described in the story above. If I do not treat temptation as an impending danger, then there is a tendency to become unaware of temptations or actions that could lead me to sin. On the contrary, if I constantly thought of temptation as a real threat to my life, like an enemy waiting to stab me through my back, I would be much more alert and on guard.
Matthew 26:41 is sometimes analogised with the watchman at night who must be even more alert than usual due to the darkness, which inspired me to write the passage from a first-person narrative. However, in addition to being on watch, Jesus tells His disciples to pray in order to combat temptation. When we become aware of the sin, we respond by praying to God, constantly connecting with Him, and asking for help to overcome or the way out of temptation (Corinthians 10:13). When the watchman is alert to the enemy, he does not climb down the walls and face them on his own; he alerts the town in order to assemble their defences. You and I have God as our defence!
Jesus also tells us in the verse, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” We all constantly struggle against temptations of the world; otherwise, we would not need to be alert to the enemy. But as long as the spirit is willing, as long as we want to follow Jesus and His commandments, we continue to watch and pray and know that God is with us. Even in our moments of failure we can pray and seek God.
Let us practice alertness by: