Fearless Love! by Michael Dixon — Perfecting Marriages

images-1“There is no fear in love, for perfect love cast out fear…But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18

Keith Sanford of Baylor University surveyed over 3,500 married couples and analyzed the words couples chose to describe a past argument and the feelings and behaviors of each partner during the disagreement. What he found was that every argument, covering everything from dirty clothes on the floor to the meaning of life, came down to two fundamental concerns: (1) one person feels that he or she is being unjustly blamed or controlled because of something that has nothing to do with the argument and/or (2) one partner feels neglected, and this causes the other partner to think – “You don’t really care about me” or “You are not as invested in this marriage as I am.”

In other words, the research revealed that most fights are driven by two things: a perceived threat or a perceived neglect. In 1 John 4:18, the Apostle John narrowed it down to one thing, fear. Fear of being accused, fear of being neglected, fear of being controlled, fear of losing control, fear of losing connection — fear causes us to try to preserve our life by defending ourselves or by withdrawing from the battle entirely.

It’s been said that, “Our thoughts determine our actions, our actions create our habits, and our habits construct our destiny.” The challenge is not just to have good thoughts, but for our thoughts to move from an action which we do occasionally into a habit that we perform daily. When we habitually operate in fear, we will try to protect our own rights and preserve our lives. The focus is all on what “I” am getting out of my relationship. The greater question is, what is God getting out of our relationship? Matthew 16:25 says, “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” NLT We have a choice, do it our way and ultimately lose what God has for us. Or we can do it God’s way, which means dying to self, and eventually we will possess an abundant life of love!

Perfect love means mature, fully developed, complete love. The word for love here is agape love, which is unconditional love. We must “know” the agape love of Christ. To know His love means that we must experience it. In other words, we will have to operate in the love of Christ, not just talk about it. We will have to walk it out. We can not walk in love if we don’t experience difficult, frustrating, disappointing and unlovable situations.

As you express love towards those who you may feel do not deserve it, you become more like Christ, because He loved us when we did not deserve it. You become fearless…not afraid of not getting what you believe you deserve. You don’t attack others demanding your way, or withdraw because you feel neglected. No, you can press into God and release love because you are getting immense love from Christ and that’s more than enough. Give and you shall receive…pressed down and running over. The more love you release, God promises that you will reap it…if you do not quit. The love your heart longs for can only be experienced through sacrifice. Love never fails. Keep loving!

perfect God.  perfecting people.

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Why Black History Month?

This month America celebrates Black History.  African-Americans have contributed greatly to the growth and prosperity of the United States.  Unfortunately, apart from an intentional effort, Black history is often lost and overlooked.  In many of our nations public schools Black history is taught, only during Black History Month.  Even the most robust curricula often reduces the contributions of African Americans to three parts: a softened version of Slavery, a truncated version of the Civil Rights Movement and a handful of black inventors. When we observe Black History Month, we embrace the opportunity to learn about a past and a people of which we have little awareness.  This lack of awareness supports the distorted perception that the greatest contributions of Blacks in America is limited to sports and entertainment.  Black History Month presents an opportunity for followers of Jesus to follow the mandate in Romans 12:2 to renew our minds and be transformed by that renewed mentality and world-view.  A European-American dominated view of our world devalues the intrinsic worth of other cultures and inhibits the impetus to love all people as God does, with no partiality or bias. We all have blind spots and need a means to humbly seek to be as whole and God-honoring in our perspectives as possible — black History month is one such opportunity.

photoSharing and revisiting the contributions made by African-Americans to the creation of American wealth, innovation and Democracy, humanizes America, after having experienced and continuing to experience the dehumanizing effects of discrimination.  History provides a record and a counter-narrative to false theories born out of American slavery that defined African-Americans as a different species and lesser human beings.  Slavery in the American South not only said that blacks were subhuman—it also said, as a people we didn’t have a full and culturally rich past.  These widely spread and widely believed falsehoods have had, and are having effects on the collective psyche of all Americans. February is a balm of sorts, albeit one that needs to be administered for more than a month, that helps remedy this destructive social and national ill. Why is this important? Because history informs our collective memory as a nation.  History tells us what to remember and what to forget, and in turn contributes to our collective identity.

As an African American Pastor of a Christ-centered community, rapidly growing in ethnic and cultural diversity, I see this month as an opportunity to emphasize ethnic diversity as an expression of God’s glory.  By God’s grace we will one day occupy a new heaven and a new earth that puts an emphasis on the supremacy of Christ and not one ethnicity or culture (Revelation 7:9,10). As Christians we should be actively pursuing that present and coming reality in our churches and daily lives now.  No single ethnicity or culture can fully reflect the infinite beauty of God’s image. He gave us difference to help us appreciate and experience His splendor through diverse expressions.

So I challenge you to splash some color into your view of American history this month. Don’t dismiss someone or someones because they think differently or have had different experiences.  We need diverse people, speaking truth and perspective into our lives.  Only diverse views of the nation and it’s history can widen the narrow ones that keep us trapped, closed and too often divided in this country.  We need and have benefitted from each other far more than our record of history has lead us to believe.

perfect God. perfecting people.

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Salt & Light – Disruptors

hqdefaultYou are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. — Matthew 5:13-16

Salt and light are disruptive. Jesus intended for His followers to be disruptive to the nations, culture, society and people He called them to. Jesus was a disruptor. When He said peace, He meant peace with God. When He said love, He meant keeping His Father’s commands. When He said life, He meant dying to the one they were living. When He said come, He meant get out on the water…leave your tax collectors table and upset your previous way of life.

When Jesus “comes in” it’s disruptive. How can absolute life, all-power and love without condition — enter a dying, sin-stained and self-absorbed world without shaking things up? This world is characterized by the desire to be accepted, celebrated and adored. But Jesus was never accepted, celebrated and adored for long. His “Triumphant Entrance” on Palm Sunday turned into His “Bloody Cross” not too long after. His teachings, healings and miraculous provision regularly led to being driven from town at the threat of beatings and death.

This place is not our home. We’re called to be disruptive, counter-culture and other worldly. If those outside of Christ’s Kingdom are finding permanent refuge and a place of constant affirmation in us, could it be we’ve lost our flavor? Could it be our light is being covered by a basket? We don’t have to try to be controversial. We are simply called to hear and follow Jesus. Our persistent and consistent fellowship and followship of Him will alter us, the way we engage others, and the way we see this world and function in it.

The constant question we must ask ourselves is, “Do I long to be a man or woman of the people? or Do I long to be a man or woman of God?” The way Jesus loved, lived and looked at things was not popular. In the end He was killed for choosing the Father’s will over the people’s will. What would today look like for you if you surrendered to being salty and bright?

For Joseph of Arimathea a wealthy business man and Pharisee, being salty and bright meant stepping out from the shadows and the flavor of the day shared by his contemporaries. He went to Pontious Pilate the Roman President of Syria and begged for the body of Jesus. Pilate commanded the body to be given to him and when Joseph received the body, he cleaned it and prepared it for burial by wrapping it in linen cloth and laying it in the tomb he’d purchased for his family (Matthew 27:58-60). This was not popular with the Romans — he would have been seen as a sympathizer. This was not popular with the Pharisees — he would have been seen as a traitor. And it likely was not even popular with the disciples — he was not considered one of them.

So why would Joseph risk his livelihood, safety and family name to do something that wouldn’t be celebrated by anyone? Because in that moment when his heart heard and responded God, he learned what it meant to be salt. He learned what it meant to be light. He learned what it meant to be disrupted and to become a disruptor to the nation, culture, society and people to which he had been called.

These calls to stand out as light and to bring a different flavor as salt are not self-contrived. They are directives from God. We live in the world but we don’t live as a product of the world. We live in a posture of readiness. We live with our proverbial necks extended and ears turned, watching and praying. We live ready to be what the King calls us to be. We live as Salt and Light — ready to be disrupted and ready to be disruptors.

perfect God. perfecting people.

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