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.

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.

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

In His Presence

Worship is not for you, dear Christian, it is for God.

Insofar as I make worship about me, my desires, wants, and feelings, I will fail in my attempts.

The paradox of worship is that as I leave myself behind as I approach Him, I find Him welcoming me into His presence. When I express my love for Him, I find that love returned, multiplied, pressed down, and running over.

Conversely, when I go into worship to get an emotional high or spiritual fix, I find heaven silent and cold. I can never achieve a closeness with God by demanding it.

May we all learn to come to God in humility, remembering we stand in the Presence of the Most High.

Losing My Religion

While in a truck stop the other day, a song from the past that I have always detested played over the muzak. I’m not sure I’ve ever understood the song or even really listened to it much. The line that has always bothered me is;

That’s me in the corner
That’s me in the spotlight
Losing my religion
Trying to keep up with you
And I don’t know if I can do it

R.E.M. ‘Losing My Religion’ 1991

But when I heard it yesterday, I realized that is exactly what God wants me to do, lose MY religion.

re·li·gion – noun \ri-ˈli-jən\

: the belief in a god or in a group of gods
: an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods
: an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group

All the trappings of religion get in the way of just loving, and being loved by, God. To the religious leaders of His day, Jesus said: “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.  Matthew 23:23-24 (NIV). To another leader who was trying to justify himself and make sure hadn’t missed a rule, Jesus said: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40 (NIV)

I want to think that following a list of rules brings me closer to God. It’s easy to measure my progress if I have a checklist to check off. I like hard and fast do this, don’t do that. And while lists and rules may be helpful at times to bring a sense of order to the amorphous command of ‘Love God and your neighbor’, it becomes way too easy to stop at the end of the list and think I’ve done my best.


The main thing I’ve learned over my journey the last six months is that it’s not about action, it’s about my heart. I can do all the right things and have a heart as cold as stone. I find it much harder to have a heart that is tuned into God and still want to behave badly. When I am spending time and energy focused on God, I tend to see that the right actions flow naturally from my heart. So, it’s not about my religion and my rules and trying to please God. It’s about being in touch with Him and learning to think and feel in the way He does. It’s about love.


He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6:8 (NIV)