To Listen and Love

Guilty as charged, I am a word junkie. I enjoy looking up words and checking out their nuances and meanings. Today’s word is conviction. Maybe it’s because my husband and I have been binge watching the law series Suits on Amazon Prime. Or perhaps I’m curious about how people are convicted of their beliefs about God. Mesmerized I listened this past weekend when Mount Pleasant Christian Church’s senior pastor Chris Philbeck interviewed a panel of nonbelievers as to why they don’t believe in the God of the Bible.

Merriam Webster gives three meanings for conviction. The first one listed—“the act or process of finding a person guilty of a crime especially in a court of law”—appeals to my strong sense of justice and my love for law and order TV shows.

The second one is more generic: “a strong persuasion or belief; the state of being convinced.” People’s convictions drive their actions. This afternoon I finished reading Bill O’Reilly/Martin Dugard’s book Killing Kennedy. Even though I lived through November 22, 1963, my nine-year-old, fourth-grade self didn’t quite understand what was happening.

When Mrs. Noel came back from lunch, our class couldn’t grasp the gravity of why our President had been shot and why she cried all afternoon. Then I had no idea why someone would do that. After reading this book, I begin to understand Lee Harvey Oswald’s convictions and his assassin Jack Ruby’s contrary beliefs.

My takeaway? Erroneous convictions can cause a great deal of pain, suffering and needless tragedy.

Finally comes the 3a definition of conviction: “the act of convincing a person of error or of compelling the admission of a truth.” Here is where we Christians sometimes dangerously park. Too often we forget that conviction cannot be forced upon someone, even if it’s based on truth.

After hearing the panel explain how Christians come across in their beliefs, I was convicted of not listening and loving enough. God gave us the freedom to either choose or reject him. Our God relationship is not an arranged marriage. It’s a union of choosing to love, with listening and loving being the best pathway in sharing our convictions about God.

“A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. . .”

2 Timothy 2:24-25, NLT

My Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me like down in green pastures, he leads me besides still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his namesake.  (Psalm 23:1-3)

On the morning of my 63rd birthday, my husband Al and I took a walk around the area where our daughter and her family live in Cyprus. In the days before, we had become fascinated with the goat farm located just minutes from their house. There didn’t seem to be enough grass or water for any animal to survive or thrive.

Even though the living conditions were dusty, barren and stifling hot, their shepherd still cared for the flock. Note in the photo how the goats gathered in the shade, seeking relief from the piercing sun.

I couldn’t help but think of how our loving Father God wants us to thrive. He makes us lie down in green pastures because we need our physical rest. Note that his pastures are  green.

He wants us to walk with him besides still waters, to be quiet in His presence and refresh ourselves spiritually and emotionally. During those times the reflections of our lives become clear.

Finally, God wants to refresh us so we can pursue paths of righteousness for His name’s sake–to live that purpose-driven life Saddleback Church’s Pastor Rick Warren described so well a few years back.  Father God sent us a loving Shepherd to guide us through far-from-perfect trails.

Thank you, Jesus, for being our willing and sacrificial guide and shepherd sent from our loving Father.

“I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me–just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

  • John 10:14-16