Paul Madson


Month: January 2018

Loving People: Not as They Deserve, Not as They Love, Not as We Need

A while back, Scotty Smith wrote on the topic of loving others – and how we can fully and freely do so only when Jesus is our sole satisfaction and deepest identity. Scotty wrote this as a prayer, but I’ve reworded it as a brief article. Enjoy.

Of all the pits easy to fall into, being too impacted by how people relate to us is the pit with the deadliest toxins in it. When people have too much power over our hearts, their approval can be as addictive as heroin or money. Their criticism can paralyze and kill us, like the venom of vipers. Their distance can fuel our anxieties and intensify our shame.

All of us want our relationship with Jesus to be the most defining reality in our lives—our greatest peace, joy, and hope.

We need to regularly ask God to restore to us the joy of our salvation; to renew our experience of His delight in us; to refresh our hearts in His everlasting love and unfailing kindness.

Only God’s love is better than life.

We need to be freed to relate to people and love them, “as unto the Lord,” as an act of worship—whether our kindness is acknowledged, reciprocated, or ignored.

We need to ask God to help us break the cycle of letting people be the thermostat in our lives. People will always make lousy saviors. Nobody can be Jesus to us but Jesus; and we dare not take on Jesus’ role in other people’s lives.

We need to be grateful that our heavenly Father doesn’t despise our weaknesses or brokenness, even when we have to confess the same things to Him over and over.

We long for the Day when we will be made perfect in love.

Until that Day, Lord, we ask that you would keep freeing us from our “people idolatries.”

“Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people.”
(Eph. 6:7 NIV)

“Obviously, I’m not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ’s servant.”
(Gal. 1:10 NLT)

“The LORD is for me, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”
(Psalm 118:6 NIV)

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”
(Jer. 31:3 NIV)

(Bold and italics mine)

Starting is Half Done

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions (or set goals) for this new year?

Two of the most common goals people set are…

1) Attend to my spiritual life more consistently, and

2) Attend to my physical life more consistently (usually meaning exercise and diet).

Whether you are still on track with your goals, or have already fallen behind in the first 10 days of this year (which is more common than most people think), here is one suggestion I’ve found helpful over the years that has helped to increase my consistency in all areas of my life.

Starting is half done

Many times, half the battle is just getting started.

I enjoy long-distance running, but unfortunately, I don’t always feel like doing it on my scheduled days. On the tough days, I’ve found that if I simply tell myself to “change into your running clothes and put your running shoes on… and walk out the door” (I run on a trail in my neighborhood), 99% of the time I actually end up running.

The same could be said about personal devotions.

Make a plandetermine a time, a place (your desk, a comfortable chair, your office, etc.) and what you will do during that time each day.

For example:

  • Bible Reading (15 minutes) (read three chapters in the OT and one chapter in the NT).
  • Prayer (15 minutes) (use the C.T.S. acronym to guide you as you pray – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). Make a simple prayer list of things you want to specifically pray and thank God for each day.

Then if you want to add writing in a journal or Scripture memory and meditation (which I highly encourage), you can do so.

This will give you a plan of what to do when you sit down to have your devotions.

Also, as a side note, I would discourage having your digital device(s) on (or even near you) when you have your devotions.

We live in the most distracted culture in history… we need to push against the prevailing winds of “always on technology” in our world today.

If there is ever a time when we should truly “disconnect” digitally, it is when we are seeking to enjoy God’s presence and refocus our heart and mind.

A healthy spiritual life comes as we make small daily decisions to interact with God and His Word and seek to apply what we learn to our lives.

Sit down in your “place,” at your “time” and open your Bible…and start.

Starting, many times, is half done.

Walking with a Limp

I’ve always had an interest in learning what lessons others have gleaned throughout their pastoral ministry – in particular, as they look back upon their years with greater wisdom and insight. I wrote my own series of what I’ve learned over my first 30 years in ministry back in 2010 here.

I share many of my own lessons with pastors all over the world. And what never ceases to amaze me is how the stories and lessons learned are so similar, even across diverse cultures… whether in Africa, Asia or Latin America. We’re all made in the image of God. We’re all broken sinners in need of a Savior… no matter where we live.

A few months ago Kevin DeYoung, Sr. Pastor of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, NC and board chairman of The Gospel Coalition, wrote about what he has learned in his years of ministry.

Here are two of the thoughts he shared…

“I often tell people that when I came to URC I told the search committee that my philosophy of ministry boiled down to three P’s: preach, pray, and be with people. Those are all really good. They’re still what I want to do in ministry.

“But I’ve had to learn a fourth P, and that is patience.

“I know I was naïve in how change happens—how long it takes to address things and how you have to build up trust and confidence.

“I always joke about when I first came there were some particular issues that I told the elders would be taken care of in six months. Then I said, well maybe in another six months. Then I said six years. And now I think, well, maybe in heaven.

“I know I’ve learned about patience…

“There are lots of little things you learn as a pastor, and some of them are simply part of growing up. …

“…And here’s the last thing I’ll mention. It goes back to the Bible story about Jacob wrestling with the angel. You remember, Jacob is touched in the hip socket and starts walking with a limp. It is true: given enough years, everyone ends up walking with a limp.

“It’s not all equal by any means.

“I’ve had less suffering than most other people. But if you live long enough, you’ll find that everyone is hurting.

“You’ll discover people’s marriages aren’t as good as they seem, or their kids are more troubled than they let on, or there’s a miscarriage or infertility, or there’s a parent who’s sick, or someone whose death is still the source of constant sadness, or there is a strained relationship, or there is an addiction, or there is an invisible illness.

“There’s just a lot of pain out there.

“Everyone you talk to is a sinner and a sufferer.

“As a young person filled with good theology, it’s easier to know the sinner part. And we can’t forget this, otherwise we will be poor friends, and I’ll be a poor pastor. Compassion without follow through or correction is not real love. But that’s only one part of the equation.

“You have to remember people are carrying around a lot of hurt, a lot of sadness, a lot of fears. I’ve had to learn that people are not just sinners; they’re sufferers too. And that shapes how you deal with sin and extend mercy. I hope I’ve learned that.”

Click here to read the full article by Kevin DeYoung.

© 2021 Paul Madson

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑