By This We Know Love

By This We Know Love

When someone says, ‘I’m a Christian’ the first thing I look for is evidence of love. Let’s talk about what we mean when we use the word ‘Love’.

‘Love’ is a blanket term describing a variety of things spanning from sexual love to commitment to pleasure in someone or something. I ‘love’ ice cream and I also ‘love’ my wife… What’s the difference?

In Greek, there are four words used to describe what we call ‘love’. I appreciate the Greek because the words are rich in meaning and contain dimensions our English word ‘love’ simply does not contain.

Love rendered in Greek… simply.

  • Storge means the love or affection of family (parent and children)
  • Philia means affection between friends or equals. Think brotherly love (Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love)
  • Eros means sexual or romantic love. This is where we get the word, ‘erotic.’

‘Agape’ love is the highest form of love. Agape love is a sacrificial love and is an act of the will. Meaning, this love is a choice and has a cost. This love delights in its object and is sacrificial in its essence. Let me clarify. Agape love does not mean total acceptance of acceptance of bad behavior or choices. I can love you and absolutely disagree with you at the same time.

So how do we recognize ‘agape’ love?

Look for the sacrifice. Which means humility and an act of the will will be involved. It will be an abiding affection, delight and commitment by the one expressing it.  The value I place on the object of my love is directly linked to what I’m willing to sacrifice.  The higher the cost, the greater the love.  How can I find delight in sacrificing ourselves? Great question!

Here is the hard part of understanding ‘agape’ love. Agape love must come from outside one’s self. Other affections are self-manufactured and may have self-gratification undergirding them. Meaning that other ‘lower’ forms of love can have selfish motivations driving them. Only agape is completely SELFLESS.

The Evidence of abiding faith in Jesus Christ is love ‘in deed and in truth.”

This love is the pinnacle of love expressed as ‘agape’ love – sacrificial love.

With this love there is a cost involved.

With this love there is a choice – an act of the will.

This ‘agape’ love must come from outside ourselves.

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down out lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16).

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” (John 3:16).

There will be a cost…. there will be a sacrifice with this love.

Humility Matters

Humility Matters

If you could listen to others describe you, do you think they would say that you are ‘humble’?

I’m certain people would not describe me as ‘humble’. I’m a lot of things but ‘humble’ is not on of them. However, that does not mean I give up on humility. By no means!  Humility is something we can strive for and cultivate.

We live in a culture that places a higher value on personality over humility. As a whole, the leaders we look to demonstrate strong personality traits over strong character traits like humility. I think we’ve lost our way. Perhaps its time for us to recalibrate and course correct as a people.

Humility matters because it truly puts others before one’s self. True humility crosses all dividing lines of race, sex, nationality, etc.

Where do we find this model of humility? Who is the humble hero of our age? We’ve fallen for the lure of big personalities and they let us down. Jim Collins describes humility as a major factor in successful leadership in his book ‘Good to Great’. Conversely, Collins describes ‘Hubris’ (pride) as a major factor in failure in his book, ‘How the Mighty Fall.

Like most things in life, we learn through the demonstration of others. I learned to open doors for others by seeing my dad open doors for others. I learned how to add and subtract by watching my teacher. At some point we must take what we have learned and apply it.

In his book, ‘Humility: True Greatness’, C.L. Mahaney describes humility “as an honest assessment of ourselves in light of God’s Holiness and our sinfulness”. We must have a point of reference on which to base and measure humility. God is the reference point. Jesus Christ is the map that shows us the way to humility.

What does true humility look like?
It looks like Jesus.

Read the passage below.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:3-8)

Read it again and focus on the bold.

Humility Matters because true humility stands champion over personality and other ‘character’ traits! If you and I are constantly putting our own interests and rights aside for one another there is no room for hatred or divisiveness. How can I hate someone who I’m willing to set my life aside for or who has set their life aside for me?

We’ve tried following personality. It doesn’t work! Maybe its time to follow humility.

Let’s look at the my original question but one month down the road.

ONE month from now, If you could listen to others describe you, do you think they would say that you are ‘humble’?

The truth is, #HumilityMatters and deep in your heart you know it.

A devotional for the day – June 16, 2016

A devotional for the day – June 16, 2016

The devotional below was distilled from Psalm 148:1 and Proverbs 16.

You alone are worthy of praise. I commit my work to you today, Lord, that my plans will be established. May my ways be pleasing to you, so that my enemies will be at peace with me. As my heart plans my way today, Lord please establish my steps.

I prefer your wisdom over wealth. Guide my path toward righteousness and away from evil. May I guard my words and path to preserve my life and witness.

Guard me from pride that leads to destruction. I trust in you alone Lord and humbly ask for blessing. I know that apart from your grace, I am dead. Amen

For those called into Gospel Ministry:
You received The Call to serve the Lord in ministry. That Call came from the same voice who called Abram (Abraham) our of the Ur of the Chaldeans. This is the same voice who Called Moses to lead his people out of Egypt, the Prophets, the Twelve Apostles and Paul. It is the same voice. What a blessing and honor….. What a fearful privilege and responsibility.

Called into His glorious Light!

Is your heart breaking today?

Is your heart breaking today?

It’s been a little over two months since my father died of pancreatic cancer. The images of his suffering haunt me. I tried to ease his pain but found myself to be helpless. I’m left with a broken heart. But, not one tear is wasted.

One thing I know. God is near the brokenhearted. In the midst of suffering, His Spirit ministers to us. He knows pain and suffering all to well.

Having experienced the love of Christ, it is impossible to deny this truth. In the midst of a dying father, there is pain with peace and there is sadness with joy. In asking ‘why’, I discover wisdom. In the foaming sea of emotions, truth is the lighthouse. God is near the brokenhearted regardless of how I feel at any given moment.

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

With a broken heart, I confidently draw near to the throne of grace that I may receive mercy and find grace to help in my time of need.

In the final analysis, I don’t ‘need’ much in life. What I need is Grace. Grace is sufficient for me and mercies that are new every morning. That is what we all need!

Here’s the kicker. Grace can be a tough pill to swallow because accepting grace and God’s love goes against our self-sufficiency and pride. If I’m injured and refuse treatment due to pride, how can someone bind up my wounds so I can heal? If I need the care of another, I’m going to need to draw near to them to receive that care. It’s about recognizing our true needs.

Is your heart breaking over something today?

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you… He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.

Make the most of life

Make the most of life

“The tide—so faithful and so sure—offers every man, sooner or later, the chance of escaping from the tiny cove of the Here to the broad bosom of the Everywhere, from the little bay of Self, to the infinite sea of Service; and they are life’s most enviable voyagers who, when the sublime opportunity presents itself, are all alive and all alert, waiting, with oars in rollocks, to make the most of it. It is the hour of destiny. The kingdom of heaven pours its wealth into the heart of the man, who is ready when that hour strikes. He was waiting: but only waiting for the tide!”

-F.W. Boreham, ‘Waiting for the Tide’, The Nest of Spears (London: The Epworth Press, 1927), 48-57.

There are tides in life as there are in the sea. We need only to wait for them. One cannot rush the ocean’s tides, neither can rush the tides of life. I cannot face a beautiful sunrise, look at my watch and command the sun to hurry up. The sun doesn’t respond to such a foolish thing.

In all manner of life, there come opportunities. Whether in love, life or death; life has all manner of tides. When the tide comes in, there is abundant opportunity. However, in order to make the most of it, we must take our eyes off ourselves and place them on others.  The farmer enjoys the harvest by waiting for the season to arrive as the fisherman waits for the tide.

True wealth is not found in the “little bay of Self”. The real treasure of life is discovered and enjoyed in the “infinite sea of Service.” Making the most of life is about being ready and waiting for the tide. We must be ready when the tide comes by taking our eyes off of ourselves and looking toward others. In serving, we find infinite possibilities to express love and kindness.  Jesus said he came to serve.  He opened the door and we can follow his lead into a universe of overwhelming need knowing we cannot meet the insurmountable need alone. Go to where there is need and serve.  There is a voyage ahead for anyone willing.  Are you ready?

Why aren’t you serving?

Why aren’t you serving?

This message is for those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; aka believers, Christ-followers, (authentic Christians), those who make up the body of Christ, the Church.

If you are not in this group, what I’m going to say does not apply to you. By all means, continue reading as you may find what I have to say interesting, who knows? This message is for those who call themselves ‘Christians’.

Moving on.

There are two kinds of Christians.

The first kind are those who are sold out for the cause of Christ. These folks are yielded to the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives and are committed to putting their faith into action. Their lives are marked by obedience, love and sacrifice. They see this life and the world around them through the lens of eternity. The Lord has done such a work in their lives that they can’t help but serve others. These people have a hunger to help others and share the hope they have in Christ. Their fruitfulness manifests itself in a variety of ways.

What these first kind of Christians have in common is their personal relationship with Jesus Christ and their faith in His atoning sacrifice translates into other-centered actions. Whether it is feeding the homeless, providing a home for an orphan or visiting prisoners or widows, these Christians go to where the need is and meet it. This kind of Christian lives out their theology. You can see it. Their faith is active, vibrant and fruitful. Be encouraged!

The second kind of Christians are those who are self-focused. They go to church every Sunday. They participate in Bible studies. They can discuss theology on the highest levels. This group is quite adept at feeding themselves and talking about what is on the menu. Their lives are marked by routines of religious activity based on personal desires, preferences and convenience.

For this second group, the message of the Gospel is intellectually understood and (possibly) accepted in the heart. However, the Gospel has not made it to their hands and feet. The result, is they don’t feel the need to serve others. When a need arises, they squash it with excuses like, “I’m not called to that.” or “I’m not equipped to do that.” or a dozen other excuses. Slowly but surely, the embers of their faith die and the radical transformation of Christ in their life becomes a distant memory. Before long, people around them don’t even know they are a Christian except when they see them leaving for Church on Sunday morning. Be challenged!

One of the marks of a healthy spiritual life is serving others. It is like breathing in that it comes naturally.

I’ll boil it down for you Christian. If you are not serving, there is something wrong with your walk with God.

Before you run out there and overcommit out of compulsion or guilt. Have a discussion with God first. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you what is wrong in your heart. If you need to ask forgiveness or repent, do it. Then, get up and walk!

Our lives are to reflect the life of Christ. Read your Bible and discover again what Christ did. He served the father with obedience. In Jesus’s march to the cross, He did many things along the way. He met people in their moment of need with love and compassion. Ultimately, he served our biggest need. He saved us from our sin (John 3:16).

Back to the question. Why we serve or don’t serve is directly related to what we believe.

Does your faith manifest itself in action? If not, why not?

The blessing is not in the knowing…. the blessing is in the doing.
The spiritually maturing Christian engages in service in doing so he/she will participate in the blessing while bringing glory to God. In John 13, Jesus washes his disciples’ feet. When he is done serving them, he says; “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:17 ESV).

In Matthew 20:28, Jesus says, “even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Read Philippians 2:1-11. From the pen of Paul, we see a model of Christlikeness, “…rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…”

James 2 points out that faith and works (service) are two sides of the same coin. “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”

What about you?