What is Love?

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”  Jesus answered, The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:28-31 (ESV)

Love Is:
4a:  unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as
          (1):  the fatherly concern of God for humankind
          (2):  brotherly concern for others
     4b:  a person’s adoration of God

Definition of from Merriam Webster

So what does it mean to love God? Does it mean being at the church every time the doors are open? Does it mean accosting everyone you come across with the Four Spiritual Laws? Does it mean dressing weird? Does it mean putting tons of bumper stickers on the back of your car? Of course not.

  • To love God is to first of all believe that He exists.
  • To love God is to admire His character.
  • To love God is to love what He loves and hate what He hates.
  • To love God is to follow His decrees and commands.
  • To love God is to pattern your life after Him.

And what does it mean to love your neighbor? Does it mean agree with or condone everything he does? Does it mean to roll over and do everything he wants you to? Does it mean offer him platitudes when he is poor, or in trouble, or depressed? Of course not.

  • To love your neighbor is to treat him like you want to be treated.
  • To love your neighbor is to seek his best interests.
  • To love your neighbor is to not seek revenge.
  • To love your neighbor is to open your heart, home, and wallet to his needs.
  • To love your neighbor is to be happy for him when he wins, and mourn with him when he loses.

 

Or as a much greater writer put it:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (ESV)

The Cart Before the Horse

“Doesn’t the Bible say ‘judge not, lest ye be judged? ”

“Don’t judge others who sin differently than you! ”

“Who are you to say what’s right or wrong? “

Three excellent statements that deserve an answer.

1. The bible does indeed say to ‘not judge’ in two parallel passages . However,  it uses the word judge in the sense of condemn or sentence, not in the sense of distinguishing between things. In fact, very often the bible specifically tells us to judge between right and wrong and to judge the actions of those in our midst.

2. The Bible,  God’s instructions for us,  is very specific in naming some things as sin. It is less specific in other things. First we should define what sin is:

Doing what God says is wrong;
Not doing what God says you should;
Doing the right thing for the wrong reason;
Doing the wrong thing for the right reason;

But first, foremost, and the ONLY sin that will keep you from God’s presence – Refusing to love and be loved by God by accepting the forgiveness found through Jesus (the cause) and following Him as a humble student (the effect).

3. What gives God the right to tell us what to do? Because He created us and loves us, He knows what is best for us.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:36-37, (cf Matt 7:1-5)

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people —  not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.  But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.  For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?  God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”
1Cor 5:9-13

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,  nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1Cor 6:9-11

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance,  but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
1Pe 1:14-16

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.  For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality;  that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor,  not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;  that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.  Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.  Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,  for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more,  and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you,  so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
1Thes 4:1-12

The cart before the horse

For far too long, the Church has gotten things backwards. We tell (or at least infer) that you need to clean up your act and come to church. We shout from the rooftops that ‘you heathen are going to hell in your sins’. We insist that the people outside the family of God act like the family should (when in fact most of the “family” doesn’t).

The horse before the cart

The Church, starting with the local group of disciples, needs to clean house.

How can we say come be like us if we’re no different than the world?

Before we can have any credibility that our faith is real and true and useful,  we need to live like God tells us to.

We need to be absolutely clear what the Bible says, and transparently, honestly,  wholeheartedly,  apply it to ourselves.

We need to hold each other accountable for our lifestyles.

We need to call those who are not living a disciple’s life back to repentance following  the biblical process, as Paul says:

If your brother is sinning, go to him and urge his repentance.
If he doesn’t listen, bring two or three others and urge his repentance.
If he still doesn’t listen, the leadership of the local body meets with him to urge his repentance.
If he still refuses to listen, treat him as an unbeliever, ie love him, keep urging his repentance, but for the sake of the body, he is to be excluded from the life of the congregation.

Only then can we say to the world  “we have found the Way, the Truth, and the Life,  come follow Him and live.”

Only then can we offer them the message of hope, and love, and reconciliation with God:

The Good News

God loves you! He created you to love Him and live right.

BUT, we have ALL rebelled against Him. We are bent and broken people, unwilling and unable to love Him.

He still loves us so much that He sent His own Son (Jesus) to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our rebellion.

If you

BELIEVE in Jesus,

ACCEPT His forgiveness,

REPENT (turn away) from your rebellion, and

CONFESS Him as Lord (in control).

He will give you a new heart , able to love Him and live right.

Hospital or Cruise Ship?

An Open Letter to the Church in America

A phrase that’s been bandied about lately is, ‘Don’t judge others for sinning differently than you’. The sentiment behind that is that the world looks at us and sees that we are no different than they.

As a group, we watch the same entertainment, talk the same trash, buy the same toys, have extramarital affairs, live together outside of marriage, get divorced and remarried, just like they do. We’re mean, critical, abusive people. We cheat, we steal, we lie, just like them.

We’re hypocrites.

Not all of us, of course, but enough that our reputation is destroyed.

The church has been described as a hospital. A place where broken, hurt, wounded people come to get healed and in turn, go on to help heal others.

We have become a cruise ship. A place where you come as you are, be entertained, and leave just the same as you were. No one dares to call out our sin to us for fear of offending and driving us away. If someone dares to try to live holy, they are mocked as self righteous.

If we ever hope to be the Church that God calls us to be, our churches need to become hospitals again. We need to know each other on a deeper level. We need to call each other out and be eager to be called out.

Brother, if you see a brother sinning, go to him and righteously counsel him. Sister, if a sister points out a sin to you, fall on your knees before God in confession, then rise in His power and DO something about it.

Only then will the world see us as His bride and not as hypocrites.

On Whose Authority?

One of the most common phrases I’ve heard this past week is some variation of ‘what gives you (narrow-minded, bigoted, hateful) Christians the right to tell anybody how to live?’ And they’re right. I have no authority, of myself, to tell anybody else anything.

IF, as most people assume, I am here by chance and there is no god, or only one of my own imagining; If religion is only a construct of culture and social engineering; if there is no absolute truth; then the only constraints on me are myself and whatever social and cultural constraints I choose to accept.

BUT, if there is an absolute truth, an absolute reality outside of any human construct; if there is a Being who created us, then that Being has the Right to direct me and correct me and constrain me.

  • The Bible says God created everything, including me.
  • The Bible says mankind rebelled against God.
  • The Bible says God chose a particular tribe to bring His message of love and peace with Him to all mankind.
  • The Bible says that He himself came to this world and lived as a man, to show us what a perfect man looks like, and to make a way for each of us to come back to Him.
  • The Bible says He taught His followers how to live in such a way as to please Him.
  • The Bible says that He was killed, was buried, and that He rose from the dead never to die again, went back to heaven, and is returning soon to settle all accounts and re-create this world perfect again.
  • The Bible says it was written by men who actually talked with God, and were directed by Him to write it.

Our choice is extremely simple:

Either the Bible is our authority for understanding who God is and what He wants from us, or we have made ourselves our own authority.

God help us to choose wisely.

God Speaks, Culture Responds

God says, ‘I alone am God, there is no other’.
Culture says, ‘What god? There is no god at all.’

God says, ‘Worship only me, do not make anything higher than Me.’
Culture says, ‘Self and pleasure are the highest good, that’s what’s important.

God says, ‘Respect My name and My character.’
Culture ignores God’s character and uses His name as a swear word.

God says, ‘Take one day a week to worship Me and to rest and reflect on all I have done.’
Culture says, ‘Go flat out 24/7 until you drop.’

God says, ‘Respect those who have come before you in this world.’
Culture says, ‘The elderly are washed up and need to be housed away from productive people.’

God says, ‘All human life is precious, don’t end it gratuitously or in malice.’
Culture says, ‘I’m important, you’re not, if you’re in my way, I will dispose of you.’

God says, ‘Marriage, between one man and one woman, is MY invention and is the only place where sex belongs.’
Culture says, ‘it’s MY body and I can do whatever I want, with whoever I want, whenever I want.’

God says, ‘Respect other people’s things, don’t take things that aren’t yours.’
Culture says, ‘Take all you can, give nothing in return.’

God says, ‘Honor, respect, speak, and live out truth.’
Culture says, ‘Tell people what they want to hear. Don’t offend them. Make up a good story to protect yourself.’

God says, ‘Don’t want what I haven’t given you.’
Culture says, More, More, More. Grab everything you can. Keep up with, and surpass, the Jones’s.’

God says, ‘There will come a day when I will suffer their sins and affronts no more.’
Culture says, ‘Yeah, right. When?’

God says, ‘I will come like a thief in the night. Behold, I am coming quickly.’

Even so, Lord Jesus, come.

The Coming Conflict

There is a conflict coming.

A struggle between people who believe, teach, and strive to live out the concepts embodied by a traditional understanding of biblical principles and those people who do not hold such views (I will use the terms traditionalists and moderns as shorthand). If some moderns have their way, traditionalists will be silenced, not only publicly but privately also. This will be a fight for the very existence in any meaningful way of traditionalists in our culture.

We have already seen the beginning of this, such as;

  • Extracurricular bible study groups being kicked out of schools that allow any other type of group.
  • Private small businesses being forced to provide services that violate their beliefs.
  • Selective enforcement of zoning and parking laws to inhibit church and small home group meetings.
  • Selective enforcement of free speech issues such as public preaching, demonstrating, discussing faith on the job, office cubicle decor, etc.
  • Selective enforcement by Child Protective Services against traditionalists (and anyone who does not share their rigid view of child rearing).

While it has not happened in the U.S. (yet), I have seen examples of extreme modernism that advocate stripping all parental rights from traditionalists, stripping tax exempt status and even the legal right to exist from any traditionalist congregation, criminalizing traditionalist preaching (even within a church setting), and many others.

There are three camps in this struggle:

  • Traditionalists who wish to see moderns eliminated from the culture.
  • Moderns who wish to see traditionalists eliminated from the culture.
  • Moderates on both sides who wish to see a live and let live attitude preside along with a healthy debate

For many years those in power held a traditionalist view for society, even if they didn’t personally live it out. Sadly, they marginalized all with whom they disagreed. Many people were hurt by a system that could only see ‘my way or the highway’.

Over the past few decades, moderns sought, fought for, and finally achieved a seat at the table of cultural debate (and rightly so). But now that moderns are in power, they seek to do the same thing to those they disagree with that was done to them and their forerunners.

One of the clarion calls of modernism has always been that every voice should be heard and no viewpoint should be silenced. Yet now they seek to do that very thing to traditionalists.

  • How long will moderates stand by and watch as the moderns in power chip away at traditionalists’ right to a seat at the table of public discourse?
  • How long before moderate traditionalists find themselves perceived as extremists, therefore to be silenced?
  • How long before traditionalists, fearing for their survival, rise up violently, and bring condemnation from the culture and retribution from those in power on themselves?

I do not know if these things will happen or if the pendulum of culture will start swinging back toward traditionalism. But I do foresee, that if nothing changes, a conflict is coming, and it will not end well (from a cultural perspective) for traditionalists.


So what can traditionalists do to retain and regain a seat at the table of cultural influence?

First, two things that would be extremely bad for us:

  1. To do nothing at all, and watch what little influence we have now evaporate.
  2. To rise up in armed insurrection and be marginalized by the culture and criminalized by the powers that be.

What’s left for us to do?

Love and Pray.

Jesus taught us to ‘love your enemies and pray for those that despitefully use you’.

What does it mean to ‘love your neighbor’?

  • Does it mean agree with them? No.
  • Does it mean argue with them? No.
  • Does it mean accept all behaviors as normal or good? No.
  • Does it mean take anyone into your fellowship of believers, regardless of whether they’ve shown heart change? No.

It means pray for them, go to them, care for them, feed them, clothe them, visit them, let them know they are important to you as a person, not a statistic or conquest. Only then will we have the opportunity to invite them into the kingdom.

We need to clean house.

Live out what we say we believe.

The early church, while hated for it’s message, was respected for it’s authenticity. They were known for actually being the kind of people they preached you should be.

Sadly the way many people see Christians is as hypocrites, and for good reason. Many that are in our churches ARE hypocrites, or worse yet, false teachers and brothers.

  • We need to fall on our face before God and let Him expose and convict us of the garbage that entangles us… and then get rid of it.
  • We need to purge our churches of the snakes, and lions, and false brothers and teachers among us. Not by indiscriminately kicking them out but by showing them their errors and urging them to get right. Only if they steadfastly refuse to repent MUST the church sever ties with them.

Only when we become and are seen as authentic followers of Christ who truly love others and truly live out what we say we believe will we begin to have an impact on our culture again.

We need to separate being a Christian from being an American.

Our identity is in Christ, not in the Constitution. As long as we continue to conflate being holy with being patriotic, we will continue to drive people away. We drive away three groups at the same time:

  • Those who are Americans, but not Christians.
  • Those who are Christians, but not Americans.
  • Those who are not Americans and not Christians.

I’m not saying don’t be patriotic, but rather, understand that governments come and go, our ‘rights’ can be taken away, our freedoms can be limited or withheld, but God is forever.

Spiritual Growth

Life on the road as a trucker is hard. It’s hard on your health. It’s hard on your marriage. It’s hard on your kids. It’s especially hard on your relationship with God. Only by careful, alert management of our time and resources, can we keep our health, marriage, and family.

Our spiritual health must also be guarded and protected. There’s an old adage, ‘you are what you eat’. I would add to that. You are what you hear. You are what you see. You are what you do.

As a driver, I have many hours every day that I must choose what I will fill my mind with. Will I listen to music? Talk radio? News? Nothing? I have found a better way, a way that builds my mind and heart in God and not in the way of the world, a way to know God better in the solitude of a truck:

  • Worship & Pray
  • Listen & Learn

I know, that sounds basic, even trite. But until I made a plan and started doing it, I was stuck in the rut of complacency and lazy habits.(I still fall back into those too often!)

Worship & Pray

I have learned that when I take time each day, even several times a day, to focus on God, to acknowledge His worth-ness, to thank Him for all He’s done, and to praise His goodness, that my life goes better. Yes, the difficulties of life still happen, but somehow they don’t bother me as much. By scheduling a set time each day ( I set alarms on my phone to remind me) I remind myself in the busyness of life to shift my focus back to Him.

I have several tools that I use to help me respond to Him. Drawing from some of the oldest practices of the church, I use the daily worship routine or Orders. Northumbria Monastery has a daily feed that I follow as well as a feed from the Episcopal church.

I’ve had several people question my use of these, asking if they aren’t just rote prayers and therefore lacking in any real substance. Any worship or prayer has the tendency to become rote and devoid of meaning; even reading scripture can become meaningless. The answer is to focus on the words as I am speaking therm, making sure I am speaking therm to God. When I drift, I start over.

Listen & Learn

The biggest part of my day is spent listening and learning and thinking. I spend about an equal amount of time listening to scripture, Christian and classic fiction, Christian non fiction, along with some preaching thrown in.

One of the greatest joys this past year has been to rediscover a love for the Bible. As I have listened to it as a whole, not just reading it in bits and pieces, I have found a cohesiveness that I have never seen before.

Listening to books is different than reading in that it seems easier to picture what the author is saying. It’s like listening to a friend.

If you are stuck in a rut of spiritual complacency I highly recommend that you take a look at some of these tools that I use and implement your own spiritual growth plan.

Daily worship (Orders) apps. Orders are one way to regularly focus on God in personal worship.

Helps you remember those you are praying for.

Lots of good Christian music.

The bible in many versions and hundreds of daily devotions.

Daily Bible readings and portal to many radio teaching ministries.

Many different Bible versions and hundreds of study helps available for purchase. Best study app for the droid.

General purpose flashcard app. Useful for learning and rehearsing memory verses.

Good Christian audiobooks for purchase and download as mp3 files. Save them on a thumb drive and play them through an FM transmitter to your radio. Wait for their twice yearly sale and get the bigger books including Bibles really cheap.

I group 4-6 hour chunks of scripture into folders, then put therm on the thumb drive interspersed with fiction and non fiction books…bible, fiction, bible, non fiction, etc.

Suggested Books
English Standard Version (ESV) Bible
Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
Classic Christianity, Bob George

Suggested Radio Teachers
Grace To You – John MacArthur
Truth For Life – Alistair Begg
Searchlight – Jon Courson