Tag Archives: Christianity

Five Reasons Why LOVE is the Greatest

Sometimes ideas can be baffling! And (sorry if this offends you!) the Bible itself can be the source of some pretty head-scratching concepts.

There are many reasons for this: authors were speaking to the people, cultures and issues of their day; language translation can provide extra challenges; and maybe the biggest of them all, the Bible is dealing with spiritual concepts (which can seem like foolishness to those who are outside of relationship with God).

LoveOne idea that was hard for me to understand for years is found in the final words of the Apostle Paul when wrapping up an amazing dialog on the topic of love captured in 1 Corinthians 13. He said:

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Why in the world is love the greatest? I suspect most people of faith would look at these three words (and their huge concepts) — faith, hope and love — and conclude that faith is the greatest. Isn’t that what following God is all about?

While you might want to add to this list, here are five reasons I’ve found that point toward why love is the greatest.

Love is the essence of:

1. God Himself: God IS love

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).

2. God’s promise: we ARE loved

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

3. Our worship: we are to RESPOND to God in love

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

4. Our mission: we are to ACT in love

“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30)

5. Our identity: we are to be KNOWN by our love

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35).

Why is love the greatest? It is only through love that our faith finds its true expression. And the opposite is also true: Whenever something is less than loving, its origin is not the good news of Jesus.

While the Bible may contain some concepts that are challenging to understand, this is quite clear.

“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar.
For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen,
cannot love God, whom he has not seen” (1 John 4:20).

And this…

” The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”
(Galatians 5:6).

These challenge me greatly, because like you, I’m a broken person who fails at this “loving” thing all the time. Envy, hate, jealousy and rage are all part of my nature that I must reject daily, even as I press on to grow in the likeness of Jesus. But because of his grace toward me — and you — he makes this pathway of love possible.

Let’s continue growing in love, even as we desire to grow in faith. It’s our only way forward.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Getting Ready to Dive

I have friends who are just about to make the leap of a lifetime. Their family is leaving behind the security of employment and familiarity to strike out into the unknown. And while they’ve sensed God tugging on their hearts to step into this new adventure, that doesn’t mean questions aren’t still pounding through their minds — small ones, like, “How will we feed our kids?!”

But I’m proud of them.

They are living lives of faith. They are putting their toes all the way off the end of the diving board, readying themselves for this risky, yet God-shaped adventure.

Embed from Getty Images

Their story also urges me forward. It’s so easy to slip into the normalcy of life, assuming that my biggest adventures are behind me; assuming that God won’t call me to lay everything down once again and take a “radical plunge” into the deep. Like my friends, I want to live in an ever-present willingness to leap from the (perceived) safety of my surroundings and live out a story worth telling.

How can we become more dive-ready?

1. Listen to the coach. One of the best ways to tune our ears to God is through the practice of fasting. Think of fasting as simply “unplugging” from the normal things that fuel us, in order to plug more fully into God. Fasting often includes food, but there are many other things we could lay aside for a season to heighten our awareness of what God has been whispering to us. What might we hear from our diving coach, the Holy Spirit, when we quiet our souls before him?

2. Build our faith muscles. Pastor and author, Jerry Cook, said, “Faith is living like God tells the truth.” Are there ways we’ve been living that aren’t consistent with what God has said? Are there patterns in our lives that (to an outside observer) would make it seem God isn’t completely who he said he is, or that he’s not quite able to uphold what he’s promised? As we confront our fears while on the long walk to the end of the diving board, we are realigning ourselves to the reality that God tells the truth.

3. Meditate on God’s Word. We can’t read more than a chapter or two before we’re confronted with direct statements and prophetic imagery that the Spirit has crafted to stir us to action. Try reading Hebrews 11 over and over until the words and stories are tattooed to your soul.

4. Hang out with the diving team. Spend time with others who have thrown caution to the wind and lived with reckless, faith-filled abandon. What can be learned from their stories? What about their successes and failures informs our view of what it looks like to live by faith?

5. Take the plunge. Actually take a faith-filled step: quit your job, sell your house, move across the country (or across the street), start a new business, launch a new non-profit — or start by going on a mission team, volunteering with a youth sports team, or attending your first AA meeting. Just do something new that’s inspired by your faith. Diving requires momentum. Even a small step will help propel you forward.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. — Helen Keller

In their book, The Faith of Leap, authors Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch make this painfully clear statement:

“When our need for security becomes obsessive, we remove ourselves from the journey of discipleship. By then we have given in to insecurity, and the price is a high one — it becomes an enslaving idol. Making ourselves ever more secure will not keep the fear of insecurity from becoming a possessive demon. The hold of the idol can be broken only by acting directly against it.” (p. 33)

So dive. Crush the idols of fears and false assumptions, and warn all onlookers to prepare for a big splash!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Letting Go of the Rope (My Struggle with Forgiveness)

When I was a kid and would get into arguments with my younger brother or sister, my mom enacted swift justice. She’d pronounce guilt, then immediately make the offending party (usually me) say to the one who’d been aggrieved: “You were right. I was wrong.”

Then, whether we wanted to or not, the other would have to respond: “I forgive you.”

That was it. Clean and simple. I might have still been seething inside, wanting to throttle my sibling (either because the court of family justice had once again let me down, or because I really hadn’t forgiven anything), but it was done. Time to move on. This must simply be how forgiveness works.

Gripping the Rope

While life did move on, my views of forgiveness didn’t. I continued to deal with petty failures (others or my own) through this same kind of framework for forgiveness: one party admits fault, the other says all is forgiven, and you just move on.

That seemed to work until about 11 years ago.

Over the course of about a year we could tell that my dad was slowly imploding. He saw his worldwide marriage ministry taking significant hits, and life seemed to be crashing in around him. So, battling depression and feelings of deep rejection, after more than 30 years of ministry and 40 years of marriage, my dad split.

It was a very public and hurtful divorce. It quickly became an illustration in multiple news sources of “another minister who couldn’t keep his own marriage together.”

I was livid. As a son, I watched my mom go through incredible pain and embarrassment; as a father, I watched my three young children go through deep sadness and questioning; and as a person, I had my own hurt and anger to deal with. Lots of anger.

After two emotionally charged phone calls with my dad, we stopped talking altogether. We resorted to lengthy diatribes via email in which I was furiously attempting to prove his wrongness and he was just as forcefully defending his decision. We were at a bitter impasse—one that, after several weeks, was literally making me sick.

I discovered that the deeper my hurt, the tighter I wanted to squeeze the life out of the one who had caused my pain. I felt it was my right (maybe even my duty) to keep a choke hold on my dad until it either killed him or forced him to admit his sin.

Then along came a friend, a counselor, who began to gently probe around the edges of my wounds. As he graciously helped me process my anger, he had me imagine what forgiveness might look like in my situation. At first I didn’t even think it was possible—after all, my dad hadn’t said the magic words: “I was wrong. You were right.” Without the admission of his guilt, what was there to forgive?

But the pain in my soul urged me forward and I began investigating the concept of forgiveness. In the weeks that followed I began deconstructing my old, immature views of forgiveness, while building a new, transformative understanding of this life-giving process.

Two things helped more than any other.

First, I turned to Jesus’ words and discovered I’d been ignorant as to what forgiveness truly meant. As I went to the root meaning of the words he’d used to talk about forgiveness, I found they literally meant: “Let go.”

There are many examples of this truth, but one that rocked me started in Luke 6:37. The exact word Jesus used when he said, “Forgive, and you will be forgiven,” was also used by Pilate before he sentenced Jesus to death. In John 19:10, Pilate said “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

This concept revolutionized my thinking about forgiveness, especially because my hands were so tightly gripping my dad’s throat (figuratively, but barely). Like Pilate, I could extend either freedom or death. It was in my power to forgive, whether or not my dad ever acknowledged any wrongdoing.

I could feel God gently asking me to let him go—not pretending my dad hadn’t caused real pain—but urging me to loosen my grip so I could release him (and my hurts) to God.

I found it came down to an issue of trust. Did I trust Jesus to handle this situation, or did I trust myself more? Did I trust God to judge my dad and bring any needed correction, or did I assume I would do a better job as judge and jailer?

I chose to trust the Lord with my dad, and slowly began the process of letting go. Forgiveness had begun.

The second thing that helped me greatly was coming across an illustration about forgiveness from 20th Century saint, Corrie ten Boom. Corrie’s family members had all died at the hands of the Nazi’s during the Second World War—she was the lone survivor. But her realization that God’s grace is greater than any evil allowed her to become a beacon of hope for millions in the decades after the war.

Corrie said this about forgiveness: “If you have ever seen a country church with a bell in the steeple, you will remember that to get the bell ringing you have to tug awhile. Once it has begun to ring, you merely maintain the momentum. As long as you keep pulling, the bell keeps ringing. Forgiveness is letting go of the rope. It is just that simple. But when you do so, the bell keeps ringing. Momentum is still at work. However, if you keep your hands off the rope, the bell will begin to slow and eventually stop.”

Corrie’s words not only affirmed the reality that forgiveness means letting go, but also clarified that this wasn’t simply a one-time act that would immediately free me from all pain. Forgiveness was going to be a daily commitment to keep my hands off my dad’s throat, and that eventually the pain would subside. She was right.

While the pain I went through with my parent’s divorce doesn’t scratch the surface of what many have endured, others have let me know that these concepts about letting go have helped them as well.

Can you imagine what forgiveness might look like in your situation? Whose throat are you squeezing? Could you trust Jesus with your pain and those who caused it? Who do you need to let go of to find peace for your soul?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Love at First Sight

When you first encounter someone, what’s your normal reaction?

For me, I’ve been realizing that my reactions have often been far less than positive. With too much regularity I’ve tended to be:

  • Indifferent — really not caring much about this new person who’s come across my path.
  • Critical — analyzing them from a negative perspective, and usually finding fault.

EyesI was caught by this reality when a particular story about Jesus was brought to my attention a couple months ago. It’s the story about a rich young man who comes to Jesus seeking an answer about eternal life (you can read it here). While I’d read this many times before, I’d missed one very important insight about how Jesus saw this man.

In the story we learn that this guy was very wealthy and had been living quite righteously as well. But we discover that he wasn’t willing to part with his wealth in order to follow after God. Jesus discerned this and challenged him to let go of the idol he’d made of his riches. But he doesn’t — and the story ends tragically with the man, in great disappointment, turning and walking away. He just couldn’t let go of this idol. It was more important to him than following Jesus.

But the part of the story I’d always missed was how Jesus felt about this man before he challenged him. It says:

Jesus looked at him and loved him.

What?! Jesus, you’re God. You know this guy is going to reject you. You know he’s going to put the idol of his riches in front of any relationship he’ll have with you. Why didn’t you turn and walk away from him?

Somehow, Jesus, even knowing this encounter wasn’t going to end well, loved this rich young man anyway. This newly discovered reality has really tweaked me — in a positive way.

Over the past months I’ve been asking myself a couple hard questions, especially when I’m in settings where I’m about to meet someone new:

  • Will I love this person first, before they give me any “reason” to love them?
  • Will I love this person even if they seem to reject me?

I don’t have a perfect record on this — but it has truly made a difference. I’ve found that when I choose to love first it influences my words, my body language, and any responses I might give. It shifts my outlook entirely.

And even if an initial encounter with someone ends less than positively, hopefully it won’t be because I was an idiot. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll still know that I respect them, I care about them, and that my love for them as a person is genuine.

I’m writing this as a challenge and reminder to myself: I can choose to love at first sight.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

More than Voting

Here’s a good reminder for 2012…from over 150 years ago.

“The fate of the country does not depend on how you vote at the polls — the worst man is as strong as the best at that game; it does not depend on what kind of paper you drop into the ballot-box once a year, but on what kind of man you drop from your chamber into the street every morning.” Henry David Thoreau, July 4, 1854

Simply stated…

Our country’s destiny depends more on our daily choices than who we cast our vote for once every four years.

I think the Apostle Paul would have agreed with Thoreau on that point. While he probably wasn’t reflecting on voting when he wrote to the people of Rome, in Romans 12 he lays out a civics lesson for the ages. Here’s what he says (in part) it should look like when Christ-followers are good citizens.

  • Love must be sincere — no hypocrisy…no platitudes…love truly.
  • Hate what is evil — don’t play footsies with something that will kill you.
  • Honor one another above yourselves — put others first.
  • Keep your spiritual fervor — love God passionately.
  • Practice hospitality — my neighbors matter…all of them.
  • Live in harmony with one another — unity is essential…it’s worth fighting for.
  • Do not be proud — maybe others’ points of view (even political!) have real validity.
  • Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good — this isn’t just the goal, this is possible with God.

What would our world look like if we dropped ourselves into the street every morning embodying these qualities?

So let’s vote…then let’s do what’s more important: live our lives in humble, evil-resisting, passionate, love. Every day.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: