When God Grows Love…

The moment we respond in anger or hurt, we have dismissed love from our life. True love looks beyond the disagreement and builds a bridge that demonstrates the Christ with you.

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 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.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that He is One, and there is no one else besides Him; 33 and to love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:28-33)

Two years ago I had the privilege of preaching through the Gospel of Mark in tandem with the senior pastor at the church where I was volunteering. It was a great experience for me. I was always a huge believer in expository preaching; but to actually explain the text verse by verse, was one of the most transforming experiences of my life.  My walk with Christ radically changed during this period. You may find this humorous, but most of the sermons I preached, affected me. It seemed that every sermon preached was at myself. I began to wonder if the passages assigned to me were done out of an intentional purpose. Did the senior pastor see something in my life that needed to be changed? I found out later that it was all the work of the Holy Spirit and the pastor was oblivious to what was happening to me. One of the passages that was life changing for me was Mark 12:28-33.

It has been over three years and that sermon still stirs within me. It convicts, encourages and transforms. This passage teaches us how to love. It gives us understanding of how to accept the love of God and where true love comes from. This may take a few posts to explain, so I plan on keeping each post easy to read. (Yes I am A.D.D. and feel your pain.) The subject of love is important for a number of reasons. Our society has forgotten how to really love one another and how to love God. It has forgotten that God loves us and what that love truly looks like.

Jesus breaks this passage down in two ways, surrendering to God and loving God. In this passage we learn that Jesus is making an absolute statement, that the greatest commandment is to live in total love and to live a completely surrendered life to God.

One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?”

For many, Christianity is a list of rules that no one one can live up to. Most people view us as hypocrites. They despise our hypocrisy because they view our moral code as changing in order to meet our own selfishness. This is not supposed to be the case. Some people try to live by a moral code. But even the best moral code fails when there is no love. The scribe was seeking righteousness through moral living. God wants us to seek righteousness through surrendered living.

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. (Mark 8:34)

So what does this mean?

Simply put, Jesus is asking us to deny selfishness in any form or behavior, lay your life down for others and follow His example of unconditional love. Think about how contradictory that is to what the world is telling us through social media and Television. Is it loving to be on your phone texting, when you are with someone else? Of course not! We have become so self absorbed as a society that we cannot even see when others are hurting. Self love is being promoted in the absence of genuine compassionate love for others. This is denying otherness. Jesus is calling us to deny oneness, selfishness, pridefulness and our egos. Our world has become so self centered, that anyone who breathes, must conform to the collective mindset or be destroyed. Selflessness allows others to foster opinions different from our selves; yet embrace those individuals with unconditional love. Jesus demonstrated that love to us, by dying for us even though our sins were contradictory to the nature of God.

“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:8-10‬ ‭NASB)

Recently, after an online Bible study, a young man asked the question, “Am I really saved?” After spending some time asking questions, it became clear that he was living with guilt and shame over his personal struggles with sin. The more we love God with our total being; heart, mind, soul and strength, the more God’s love, grace and forgiveness strengthens our resolve to follow Him in righteousness. We don’t have to worry about if we are saved, if we live in committed love towards God. We do not need to worry about our salvation, if others see the light and love of Christ in us. If our mind is dedicated to His word, and our soul to worshiping God, then our strength is in Jesus. When our heart belongs to Him, then our love will be pure and faultless. This is not earning salvation. This is living in the works of our faith out of gratitude for what Jesus did on the cross. Our salvation was earned by Jesus, as a free gift for us, but we must have the free will to receive it. The choice we make either brings us life or it leads to death.

“There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, And the end of joy may be grief. The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied with his.” Proverbs‬ ‭14:12-14‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In the last eight years, the life I desire is to be a disciple of Jesus. I desire to be known by my love and not my anger, selfishness or tone. It is in my love for others that I demonstrate the reality of a fulfilled relationship with Jesus. My love is the proof of my faith.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” ‭‭John‬ ‭13:34-35‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Stop Making Excuses for Your Behavior!

Why do we desire to point out the faults of others, before we clean up ourselves? Hypocrisy is epidemic! Its time for change. Its time to love others more than ourselves.

“May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus. Then all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory.” Romans‬ ‭15:5-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

It was my dad’s first Sunday as senior pastor of a church in Los Angeles. I was a young five year old boy full of energy. In those days they had a time in the middle of the service called, “The Children’s Moment.” It was a time that the pastor would share something inspirational to the children right before they went to Children’s church. On this particular Sunday all the children gathered in the first three rows of the church so my dad could address them, along with a few volunteer high school girls to help keep the kids calm. Sitting behind me was another five year old boy named Chris, who thought it was a great idea to whisper to the high school girl next to me, “Fat Cathy, Fat Cathy.” I was confounded by these remarks, for Cathy was quite beautiful and definitely not fat. After a third insult, I decided to defend her honor. In front of the whole congregation, I turned around and punched Chris square in the nose. You can only imagine, as horrified gasps echoed through the church followed by glances of disapproval towards the new pastor, my dad. Needless to say it was not a good first impression, on a new church.

“So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech.” ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I was not the easiest kid to deal with. By the time I was five, I had already earned a degree and was an expert in pushing my dad’s buttons. On the way home, my mother was hysterical in her outrage at my behavior, but my dad was eerily silent. When we arrived home, my dad pulled me aside and explained to me the difference between situational ethics and absolute morality. No matter how hard I tried to justify my behavior, my dad would calmly point out why I was wrong. I was waiting for my dad’s calmness to erupt into frustrated anger, but it never happened. Years later I finally understood the lessons from that day; bad behavior is never justified by the immoral behavior of others. Today we live in a society that blames others for their behavior, but ignores and justifies their own destructive and out of control behavior. We see this in politics,  in America both political parties are guilty of name calling, lying, corruption and abusive bullying. Both point fingers at the other, while justifying their own corrupt and unethical actions. In the end both are wrong. My dad wisely pointed out to me that hitting someone is never right, Christians show love and forgiveness. The 16 year old girl did not need me to defend her honor, she was wise enough to ignore the insane ramblings of an immature five year old kid. My actions brought grief to my father, the church, and to Jesus.

“In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” ‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭1:5-7‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Just like the excuses of a five year old, who did not see the big picture of his behavior, so are our excuses to God as we justify our sins to Him. We are ignorant, but still accountable for our actions. We blame everyone but ourselves. Some lie to themselves, by denying the existence of God, in order to avoid accountability. This too, is a foolish excuse.

“Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. So let’s stop condemning each other. Decide instead to live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble and fall.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭14:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The person who comes to the cross and chooses to follow Jesus, for them, it is no easy task. It is not easy for anyone to face the humiliation of their own wrongdoing.

Isn’t it time that we stop making excuses for bad behavior?

All the excuses do not matter to a just God. In fact nothing we do, can earn His grace or forgiveness. Jesus paid the debt for our selfishness and immorality. What God wants is for us to humble ourselves, examine our own hearts and live in a repentant relationship with Him. Let God shine a light through you to change the world. Let His love drench others around you, so that all they will see is Jesus. Nobody was better at promoting harmony, love and peace in a chaotic and hate filled world, than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blacks, whites, Republicans, Democrats, rich and poor all respect him for what he accomplished peacefully. He believed in civility, love and forgiveness. Ponder this quote.

“We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.”–Martin Luther King Jr

Dr. King believed in the power of love to change the hearts and minds of people. He preached the Gospel to anyone willing to listen. Love is the answer! Holding yourself accountable to God for your own actions is the answer. Forgiveness and compassion is the answer. Violence and uncivil behavior will lead to the death of innocent people. Everyone needs to change the rhetoric and the violence; or we will be at war with one another. We must to return to moral, compassionate, behavior! There needs to be a desire to read the Bible and pray, be encouraging and stop promoting negativity. We should learn to love disagreeable people, to find common ground and to be compassionate. Don’t be selfish, stop the name calling and be a light in the darkness.

“The Lord approves of those who are good, but he condemns those who plan wickedness. Wickedness never brings stability, but the godly have deep roots.” ‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭12:2-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Let us bring stability back to a world gone mad. Let us shine the light of God’s love into a dark world. Our behavior, is the proof of our faith in Christ Jesus.

Why are we failing Millennial’s?

We need to disciple. Millenials want authentic mentoring that pours out your life into theirs. It denies selfish agendas, gives love & anchors their life to a living Christ.

It continues to baffle me when I hear that churches do not understand why they can’t reach young millennial’s. They continue to disregard them by listing their flaws but fail to see their real potential. This is not love. Love is viewing people as God does. God see’s the potential in us all. Young people today are wanting to be apart of a real movement of change. They want to do something that will change the world. God wants to change the world. Millennial’s desire transparency and truthfulness. God calls us to live a life of righteousness that reveals Christ and His truth. This generation wants to have deep, meaningful relationships. God is relational. So what seems to be the problem? These ideals are great! The problem is not millennial’s, the problem lies with the abandonment of Biblical principles.

Churches have abandoned discipleship. Discipleship is the process of reproducing the life of Christ that is in you, into the life of someone else. It teaches self denial and the reproduction of the fathers love to others.

Luke 9:23 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

One reason the world laughs at us is because of our hypocrisy. We love to quote scriptures but we fail to follow them. Many Christians condone behavior that God is against. We claim to love God, but relish in disobedience to His commandments. The biggest argument against the Church is that we love to sin to much. The world looks at our hypocrisy and laughs. We must deny the lusts of the world. This is not just sexual lusts, but any area that leads to selfishness. Our selfishness leads to our own deception; in which we cling to worldly things instead of Christ. We must deny ourselves, follow Jesus and prepare to die. When we truly live in Christ it leads to selfless love for others. This love changes the world.

John 13:34-35 New King James Version (NKJV)

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The second way we fail millennial’s is that we do not reproduce the love of Christ in others. The best way to influence and inspire is to genuinely love and care for the person that you are trying to reach. Find the common ground, demonstrate your love for them and shine Christ brightly. True love puts aside an agenda and invests time and energy necessary to cultivate an authentic relationship. To demonstrate Christ’s love, it requires a soft and gentle approach that meets the person where they are in life. This requires the Christian to remove all judgmental attitudes. Jesus always had compassion and reached people specifically to their needs and understanding. To truly love someone; you must be patient with them. After all, hasn’t God been patient with you? Discipleship is a #proofofyourfaith.

Christian Behavior in a Muslim World

For the follower of Christ, violence in never an option no matter the justification.

 

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.(1Peter 4:12-14)

When millions of Christians are suffering at the hands of Muslims one has to wonder how the follower of Jesus is to behave and react to this horrific persecution and genocide. For the follower of Christ, violence in never an option no matter the justification. Vengeance belongs to God so let us leave it with Him. How then, do we put aside our anger and indignation? How do we continue the ministry of the Gospel of  Christ with love and compassion to a world that hates this message of hope? I, like many of you, have been struggling  with anger and frustration over the atrocities that some Muslims are perpetuating against Christians throughout the world. I have had to pray often to God that He would deliver me from the anger I have  felt towards the Muslim community. This has been difficult and conflicting for me, I have cried before God and pleaded for Justice. (Ok, sometimes I have even demanded it.) I have struggled in the endeavor to deny my sinful nature and trust God with His greater plan. So I thought it would be a good time to share what God has been teaching me.

First Christ reminded me to, “Love your Enemies”.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” This is much easier to say than to do. Paul wrote in Romans, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14) For the follower of Christ we are not only to love those who want to inflict harm on us, but we must also bless and pray for them. Notice that Paul says not to curse. This love can only come from knowing Christ as your savior, because it comes from Him. Jesus not only fulfilled this on the cross, He demonstrated it. Jesus showed love to the thief on the cross by granting him salvation even after he mocked the Lord. Jesus prayed for those crucifying him and even offered the blessing of forgiveness. Christ showed His compassion when he prayed for them.

But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”(Luke 12:34a)

It is impossible show the love of Christ and demonstrate compassion when you hate. They cannot coexist. The disciple John fully understood this when he wrote: “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”(1John4:8)

Second, God reminded me to Pray

The Scriptures are full of examples of what to pray for. The fact is that we are to pray about everything and we are to pray without ceasing. When it comes to persecution here are the prayers I am learning.

1)Pray for those who are committing genocide.  Plead for God’s mercy and grace.                2)Pray for the endurance and peace of those being persecuted.                                      3)Pray that God overwhelms you with His enduring love and compassion for the Muslim community.

Third, God showed me that we are not to be in solidarity with the world.

You cannot serve to masters, or ideologies. Either you stand with Jesus, the cross, the Bible and the beleaguered Church; or you stand with the world.

I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of Your hand: for you have filled me with indignation.(Jeremiah 15:17)

The world is constantly trying to marginalize the message that Christianity brings. Some people have a big tent theory to their faith. They do not want to ruffle the feathers of other religions, they want to appease the world by sacrificing the message. In the process of diluting the Gospel they lose their very soul to religious conformity. Paul addressed this several times in the New Testament.

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? (2 Corinthians 6:14-15)   (Belial is a Hebrew word used in Jewish texts for the devil.)                                                                                                      

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (2 Corinthians 6:17)          

 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)

We should not mix the idea of religious solidarity with love. They are separate.  Jesus showed love and compassion, but His message often offended those around Him. He even informed His followers not to lose their salt. Our love needs to be bold and unconditional; but our support should always be with the followers of Jesus and the Gospel. We need to stand and Intercede with them. We should speak out against violence and do all that we can to help and minister to the needs of the oppressed and persecuted. We need to stand firm in our faith, not compromising. Love and compassion do not equate to compromising the message of the Bible or our commitment to Jesus. We are the salt of the earth!

When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. (Proverbs 16:7)

4th, The Body of Christ needs to be Active.

In the 1980’s Steve Camp wrote a song called, “What would the Devil Say About Your Life?” It begs the question every Christian should ask of themselves. Would satan see you as an ally or an enemy? Is he threatened by your relationship with God? For most people their is no action behind their faith. They hardly participate in the ministry of Christ. The life of a follower of Christ is meant to be active and full of struggles. The more trials, the more we experience the reality of God in our lives. We need to be active in prayer and in our knowledge of the Bible. We need to be active in our ministry to the poor and  to the oppressed. We need to be active in love and sharing the good news of what Jesus did for us on the Cross. We need to be active in sharing our faith and encouraging one another. We need to be active in promoting a unified body of Christ. How can we learn to love our enemies if we fail to love one another?

For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.  But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:23-25)

I encourage you to be bold in your faith. Let Jesus shine through to everyone. Let His love fill your life. May you grow  in Him as you travel the hard road ahead. Be the salt, long lasting in flavor. Your behavior towards others is a #proofofyourfaith