We all see through a dimly visible window of God's purpose for our lives. Last week I was pressing and striving to make things happen, and they did - nothing worth remembering and praising God for today. I lost my focus on grace, and I lost my desperate need of Jesus' love for me and through me to others.
I was striving, and I failed.
I sit here in great repentance, swimming in a river of grace not seeking to get out of the cleansing water until I 'feel better' (yes, I need to feel better) about myself. It may take some time to get over tonight. I know in my knower it's alright, I just have to forgive myself and fall in love with love again.
This is what happens when you get too self marveled.
When we see ourselves as the 'key' ingredient for God's measure of change inside of creation, we have reached the status of the Corinthian disease - better, a virus of self, that contaminates the purest intentions of love.
The antidote: Knowing that I don't have all of the answers (not even close), I just know him and thank God he knows me.
I'm encouraged by Paul's letter to the church in Corinth, a church (and I say this with great affection) full of 'Jesus People' that I resemble all too often.
Seriously, ask me where I'd like to attend church in the New Testament, and I would say Corinth - you should see the looks when I answer this way, as if we are any better than the brothers and sisters of Corinth. Get real.
Yes, I'd want to hang with the worst of the worst, so to never forget the depth of God's grace for me and my sin situation. The Corinthians were real, authentic and raw. Ragamuffins in every measure, and we tend to dump on them way too often. Maybe we should look a little closer to that reflection in the morning mirror.
The Corinthians were Jesus believers with tough outer skin, "spiritual knuckle-heads" just like me.
They were loved into the Jesus relationship with a 'come as you are' attitude. It grabbed their hearts providing for them a google map to grace's river flow. When they started to operate as "Christians", that derogatory term of slang, their outer skin remained (great, me too!), as their fleshly hearts grew in relationship with Jesus.
After Paul left for another hot spot the Corinthians set out to make a difference, only to be grabbed by the religions ploy of self focus.
As my great-grandmother used to say, if the enemy can't pull you, he'll be glad to simply push - away from the authentic elements of Jesus' relationahip for you and the world in love.
The Corinthians were religiously pushed, began to divide over personalities, styles, teacher's resumes, achievements and created creeds and formulas. If they could have, I believe they would have joined the 'Corinthian Fundamentalist Conservative Coalition' and forced certain followers into certain categories of world view and marketplace convictions and mandates.
They had forgotten the love that Jesus changed them with, a love that reaches through a real relationship from the inside out. No religion, no denominational creeds, no self celebrating, just the love of a Creator God, reaching through a delivered Jesus for mankind.
Paul hears about the 'love abyss' and writes back to the donkeys (PG) in waiting. He goes over all the previously ground, covering once again Jesus' work, salvation and love for each person breathing. Paul focuses on unity, a focused determination to - if you're going to work on something - work on the glorious and gracious details of God's saving love to a world full of hungry, hurting people.
In other words, leave behind man's religion and pick up God's loving reach; Get over yourselves, you're not as needed as you think - just look in the mirror. It's Jesus' love fool, not your presentation of intelligence.
Paul breaks out four areas of consideration: (1 Corinthians 13:1-7)
"If you speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy, and have no love flowing through you, you're a rusty gate." There are many speakers, teachers, preachers, radio teachers, talkers, political leaders and celebrities in today's arena, but if we don't have the accepting love of Jesus in and through our lives, we become a gate that rusts, falls off of its hinges and causes people to discard.
"If you speak with power, revealing mysteries and great wisdom, offering formulas for followers to follow and you have no love, you are an empty voice." How often we get caught up with the presentation of something new, some additional "add on" to the faith that will take us to the next level of righteousness and holiness.
Paul says, if you want to be about a formula that takes you higher, turn up the volume of your love to the world around you. A holy love that is set apart from man's concocted love, both in and outside of the church.
"If I speak of faith that can move mountains, make things happen - make things jump, and I don't have love, I have nothing of true effect." Without love, we become great marketers for the institutions and organizations of religion. Join the club, become a member of the isolated self-righteous, make something of yourself.
I may make great resumes, draw large crowds and sell many books, but if I don't have love for the abortionists, sexually active teenager, adulterer, homosexual, divorced, transgender, prostitute, atheist, drug dealer, child pornographer... I'm nothing but a noisy publicity stunt.
"If I give all of my money to the poor, and even to the degrees of seeking persecution unto death, and I have no love, I'm bankrupt." What good is giving, if it's not from the core of love? I hear of so many who want to meet needs for the cause of a 'drive-by evangelical' shooting. I'll be evangelical by feeding, clothing and loving.
Paul states: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, meet the needs of others... because you love them, because you see them as yourself, in great need of love from God. Meet them, meet their needs and meet them in love. I must be about loving love; his love in me and through me to others, as my first and foremost priority.
When I see myself as a sinner touched by love, then I can touch other sinners with his love. The danger is when we see ourselves above the sin, the mess and the decay of creation. I want to stay focused on a love that hugged me, washes me (right now, today) and clothes me in a robe of grace.
A love that drives me, not me striving. A love that compels me to proximity in relationships of authenticity. A love that makes me a lover of kingdom essence, not religious bondages or legalisms. An agape love that, at times, needs to be sloppy... just like me.
"Jesus forgive me, this ragamuffin has fallen prey to the sinful condition again. Give me your love, so I can pour love for others."
Eric Hogue is a 25-plus year radio professional. A 2004 recipient of the Andy Anderson Award for excellence in broadcasting. Hogue has a background in sports play-by-play for both radio and television. He was raised a fundamental legalist, became a contemporary cultural pastor and now resides in "Graceland" as a saved Ragamuffin. Hogue is also a veteran husband, a learning father of two teenagers daughters. During his years as a general market 'News/Talk Radio Host', he worked in Cleveland, Ohio, and Sacramento, California. "The Eric Hogue Show" can be heard all over Northern California on radio stations 710am KFIA in Sacramento, and 1100am KFAX in San Francisco and San Jose. Comments: [email protected]; Web: www.erichogue.com
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