Archives For Love

Recently I’ve had the frustrating experience of trying to get three of the largest churches in my city to come around a family in need. The situation at hand is a low-income single mother with six children, whose minivan was recently involved in an accident and totaled. Fortunately, no one was seriously injured. One church never responded, one said they get too many requests to be able to help but did ask what my own church was doing about the situation, and the final church – the one I attend and have been financially supporting – responded they only helped with rent and utility bills and would not be able to contribute towards purchasing a vehicle for the family.

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Being a preacher’s kid, I understand the inner workings and dynamics of a church better than most, but I was still left flabbergasted by the lack of assistance these local churches were willing to extend.

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I’ve been attending church almost my entire life. Being a preacher’s kid will do that to you. Don’t get me wrong, I believe the local church has played, and will continue to play, a critical role in the advancement of the gospel. Still, I’ve become increasingly frustrated with the direction the modern Western Church seems to be heading. Maybe it’s me. Perhaps I’m just on a rant. But it seems the church (and I realize I’m painting with an incredibly broad stroke here) has fallen into a formulaic approach devoid of passion and urgency.

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Our mission is to take the message of Jesus into all the world (Matthew 28:18-20), but we seem determined instead to preach a gospel of self-improvement and feel-good adherence to a script Jesus never embraced.

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Each of our lives is telling a story. There’s the one we think we are telling, and the one actually being told. No matter what story we have led ourselves to believe we are telling, the way we live will tell the truth about who we are. God is the Author and Creator of all life, but He has given us the freedom to write our own story. What story we tell is up to us.

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We can’t dictate every circumstance, but we can decide how we respond to whatever comes our way. The trouble is, we tend to not be able to see the forest for the trees. We tell ourselves our life is telling one story, when in truth, it is saying nothing of the sort.

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Who is it you want to be? More importantly, who is it God wants you to be? If the answers to both questions are not aligned, you are setting yourself up for a life of frustration and emptiness. No matter how far you advance on your dream of becoming who you want to be, if it isn’t the person God wants you to be, there will always be a gnawing hole inside. There will be an ache none of your success can fill.

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We were designed and created to serve and love God, to live in relationship with Him. Our thoughts were meant to be as His thoughts, our actions and motivations the same as His. Until we reconcile who God wants us to be, we will never become who we truly desire to be.

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In his book, “Together is Better”, Simon Sinek writes, “We can start a revolution when we know what we stand against. To create change that lasts, however, we need to know what we stand for.” (emphasis mine) This advice is great for our lives as disciples. It’s easy to tell the world what we’re against. Doing so may even gain us a following of sorts. But if we look at the way Jesus lived, He spent His time demonstrating what He was for.

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In doing so, he caused a change so radical it split time in two. We now refer to dates based on those before Jesus came (B.C.), and after His birth (A.D.). The followers of Jesus in first century Israel were looking to Him to denounce all the Roman Empire was doing. They were looking for a revolution. Jesus brought something better. He brought a glorious change to their lives and to our world.

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Jesus is love. For many of us, this goes without saying. But do we really know what it means? Recently I was reading the famous “love” passage in I Corinthians 13, and it struck me I was reading about Jesus. For years, I’ve read this passage through the lens of how to better love my wife and others. As I read this time, it suddenly occurred to me this was more than a description of what love looks like in action. It was a description of Jesus Himself.

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As the embodiment of love, I Corinthians offers us a perfect description of who Jesus is. I’m confident I’m not the first to have this revelation, but even if you’ve heard this before, take a moment to re-read the passage, substituting the word, “Jesus” every time you see the word, “love”.

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Becoming a disciple of Jesus can seem like a lot of work, but upon closer examination, we see work has little to do with it. Instead, following Jesus as a true disciple is about doing just a few things well. As I’ve continued my journey to discipleship, I’ve come to realize there are three keys to spiritual success. Craig Groeschel summed these up well in his latest book, “Divine Direction”.

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He wrote, “It’s the faithfulness to do mundane things well, develop productive habits, and to remain faithful that eventually leads to success.” These are three simple concepts, all of which have the potential to unleash incredible results in our quest to live a more Christ-like life.

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I’ve been told I look like Jesus dozens of times in my life. At face value, it’s something every Christ follower wants to hear. In my case, it tends to be because I happen to bear some physical resemble to some of the more famous paintings of Jesus. While hearing someone tell me I look like Jesus never gets old, what I truly long for is someone to tell me I look like Jesus based on how I live, not on how I look.

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Every time someone tells me this it makes me stop and ponder if the way I am living my life is worthy of such a comment. It’s a question we would all do well to ask ourselves. Physical characteristics aside, do you look like Jesus?

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One of my favorite Bible verses is James 1:27, which says, “Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” As religions go, this list of requirements seems extraordinarily short. Yet there’s so much to discover in this little verse.

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Jesus didn’t come to instill a new religious order on earth. Rather, He came to establish a way of life. All Jesus wanted, and still wants, is for people to seek God with all their hearts (Matthew 6:33). Everything else falls into place once we get that part down. Why then does James call out requirements for religion God will accept, a true religion?

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One of the saddest verses in the Bible is Matthew 9:37, where Jesus told His disciples the world is desperate for hope and healing, but few are willing to go and help. Two thousand years later, the problem persists. The effects of sin are all around us. Evil manifests in unthinkable ways while the Church sits idly on the sidelines.

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We make token efforts, shake our heads, and wag our fingers, but still very few go out and spread the truth and love of Christ to our world. There is much anger and violence swirling around us. If we don’t go and tell them good news of Jesus, who will?

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