Category Archives: Love

A Question of Beauty


Looking in the mirror it’s hard sometimes not to see our flaws and imperfections as they stare back at us. Maybe it’s a little bit of the world around us with its ever changing standards, not so subtly pushing us towards its own perceptions of beauty. It imposes itself on us, flooding us with images and ideas of what it means to be pretty or handsome. It tries to take and mold those who do not fit those standards, trying to make and re-make them in its own image until finally, in a sense of deeper conformity, it pushes people to meet with that image.

Yet the truth is, for as much as that may be the case, it has more to do with us than it does anything else. After all, we are the ones looking and seeing, wanting to somehow be different than we are, using whatever these standards are as a measure of ourselves to try and change, to want to change, somehow thinking there’s something wrong with us.

You see, what we need to remember is that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) in the image of our Heavenly Father. (Genesis 1:26) Still, even amidst that, each of us are as unique and as special as the love that God has for us, formed by the wonders of His touch and with the gifts that He intended for us. That’s what makes us truly special, it’s what makes the truest beauty, and the most wondrous of elegance.

It is the image that we see when we look in our hearts, when we look at our deeds, not necessarily the one that we see when we look in the mirror. After all, that can be deceiving and can be trapped in vanity. It can be fleeting, soon to disappear as it washes away with the tides of time. (Proverbs 30:21) It can hide a heart that is cold and hurtful.

That isn’t to say that all who are by the standards around us considered beautiful, are that way. There is no question that they can, and do have a radiance that shines from within their hearts. That though is their most real and sincere beauty and they realize it too, knowing that when everything else in the world starts to fade that’s what they have to count on.

It’s that it’s important to remember that the truest standard of beauty that we can have, the most stunning of grace that can take hold of us is judged by the love in our hearts, the hope in our spirits, and the wonders we make use of in our souls. It lies in how we look at the world, at those who are in need around us and strive to help them, how we edify and uplift our fellow man making their lives just a little bit better. It’s the sense of charity and faith that guides us to imitate our Blessed Savior in the healing power of His touch, seeking to be more to those around us.

Sometimes this is hard for us to remember when we are bombarded with images of the perfect smile, the perfect body, the perfect hair, or whatever else it may be. We think life will just be that much easier, we will be able to get whatever it is that we want or feel that we need if we are a little thinner or a little better looking, if we have a little more hair on our head or whatever else it may be. Yet, in the end, when these things fade, we either end up struggling with the fact that they are slipping away from us, or we have the love and the hope in our hearts that guided us to be better people, to be stronger and more courageous of people.

Rather than trying to obtain beauty, be beautiful with a light that shines forth from your heart. Rather than seeing flaws or imperfections, see a person who has a chance to do more and be more with themselves today, knowing the gifts your Heavenly Father gave you, and using them to change the world around you rather than trying to change yourself for the world. You’re only as beautiful as you let yourself be, the question becomes how beautiful do you want to be?

God judges not by the physical appearance but by the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7) What will He see when He looks in yours? Will it be the beauty of your love blooming? Or will it be a preoccupation with being exactly as you perceive you need to look?

Find your beauty within, and bring it out through love, hope, faith and charity. When you do, everything else will make sense in the wonders that it hold.

Wounded Yet Not Slain

There’s an old poem, I think it was by John Dryden, that I’ve heard used, recited over and over at the end of a hard fought battle, at the end of a loss that has one damaged and hurt, that left them wondering and in pain. It goes a little something like, “I am sore wounded, but I am not slain, I’ll lay me down to bleed a while, then I’ll rise to fight again.”

I always liked that verse. In a life that is filled with trials, where triumph and victories are never quite assured to us, where they are never really promised to us, something about it always spoke to me. It always seemed to say that whatever life throws, whatever challenges it may have, it may damage us a little, but in the end, we are not dead until that moment when we are put in the ground or our ashes are spread around us. In a sense it becomes a question of how much fight is left within us when the moments of adversity hit.

After all, as Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

This is something that our Heavenly Father, looking down on the lives of His precious children, understands all too well about this world, isn’t it?

It begs the question, what struggles are leaving you wounded in your daily life? What challenges are you facing? What is leaving you wounded amidst the hardships that you face? Does it seem like it is just too much for you to face? Is it seeming like it is more than you can handle as you lay to bleed, lacerated by the deeper perils of this world?

As disciples of Christ it seems like they are there, lurking around every corner: temptations, trials, tribulations that push on us with a force that bears down on us with a crippling weight. As we struggle not to be crushed, there are moments when we wonder if we can even go on. After all, everything seems to be changing around us and we can’t see the world in the same way again.

It’s in these moments when we need to draw on the comfort and the assurances of a God who loves us. After all, He isn’t just a distant figure who tells us that, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 11:1) No, He goes further than that, reminding us that, through Christ, all things are possible for us regardless of whatever challenges may be there. (Philippians 4:13) We just need to lay our burdens at the feet of our blessed Savior to find the miracles of hope, (Matthew 11:29-30) that hope that abides in faith to give us the perseverance to go on day by day.

Perhaps it may seem like it is too much. Perhaps, left wounded and bleeding, we can’t help but weep, wondering to ourselves how we can go on. We are not alone in those moments though, we never have been, regardless of how it may feel. Even as our troubles mount and we feel at times like nobody could ever understand what  we are going through, the truth is that God has, through the lives of His saints, seen it all. Job, David, Paul, Stephen, and countless others, even our Savior, Christ Jesus, have faced the deepest and most powerful of pains, and found their comfort in God to move forward even when it seemed as if all had been lost and the burdens  were too much for them. As the Apostle Paul put it, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

As the world wounds you, dear disciples, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, find a place of quiet rest and lay down in the peaceful mediation of the Lord, remembering the words of David, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:1-4) Faith, and a deeper understanding of it, a deeper trust in it, will let you abide in hope in the wonders of God’s blessed love and comfort, healing even the deepest of hurts and the most painful of scars, so that, with endurance, you shall have the chance to rise again.

Take that promise, take that love, and let it guide you in the wonders of the miracles that it offers you. In this world, with all of its battles, it is the surest weapon you have to protect you, the surest of medicines to heal you.

In Opposition

It’s hard at times, isn’t it? For as hard as one may try to live that good life, that example that is given in love and honesty, strengthened by the teachings of Christ, the truth is that it almost always seems as if someone somewhere is going to take exception to you. It’s one of those frustrating truths that sort of always seems to come out.

But then, can one really be that terribly surprised? If the perfect Son of God found Himself amidst the challenges of those who opposed Him (Matthew 22:15-22) despite all that He was and that He meant for humanity, suffering even unto His death, (Mark 14:53-65, Mark 15:21-41) then, in our own imperfect nature, what chance does any one of us have? If Christ Himself couldn’t please all of the people all of the time despite the fact that He had come to save all humanity, than how can we expect ourselves, in trying to live our lives, to find that we have any more of a chance?

No, the real challenge of Christian living, of being a disciple of Christ is not a question of if we meet opposition in our lives, it is not a question of whether or not we are challenged by those around us, if we are liked by those around us. The real question is a matter of how we meet them. It is a matter of how  we respond when it seems as if we are overwhelmed by the burdens of dealing with those who do not like us, who, for one reason or another, have taken exception to us.

The truth is that sometimes it is harder than others, sometimes it hits us harder than others. Sometimes it seems to pile up on us until finally we wonder exactly what is going on as we feel the pressure and the weight of it all. We don’t want it to affect us but, in a way, we just can’t seem to help it. After all, we are made to be social creatures, to exist with  companionship, whether it is marriage or relationships, friendships or acquaintanceships, with others. (Genesis 2:18)

God knows that we are going to have confrontations. Then again, it doesn’t take the Almighty, Omnipotent and Omnipresent sight of God to understand and to see that. Yet He also knows that, for as much as they may affect us, they aren’t what defines us. What defines us, what defines the love, the hope and the beauty of our souls is the way that we react to it. It is why, each and every step of the way, He seeks to show us the path towards righteousness, telling us that, though the race may be long, we need to run it with endurance, living with patience and love even towards those who have shown nothing but malice and hatred towards us. (Matthew 5:43-48)

You see, life is hardly going to be fair and there are times when it isn’t going to be right. It is during these moments when the only thing that can be done is that we live according to the people that God intended us to be, realizing that even though we are in this world we are not of it. (Romans 12:2) In other words, as the great Reformer Martin Luther once put it, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from making a nest in your hair.” For as negative as it may become, only you can let it have any power over you. Only you and you alone can let it wear you down or affect your mindset.

That doesn’t mean that you should not respond when you are attacked, or when the opposition you face comes to meet you head on. What it does mean is that the Disciple need to remember that whatever worries or stress it may cause, God is the one looking out for you, He is protecting you from trouble that it may be bring and, as such, it makes no sense in giving yourself grief over it. (Matthew 6:25-34) In the end it is going to be as it needs to be, for better or for worse, even as the Disciple comes to understand that the worst will always end up giving way to the better if they trust in the wondrous and divine nature of God’s grander design.

What opposition do you face in your daily walk? What challenges from others burden you? Lay them at Christ’s feet, go to God’s throne and kneel, praying that the hearts of those who may dislike you are changed, but also praying that your own heart is changed so that you are able to look past to the brighter future God has in store for you, realizing that sometimes life is just full of opposition but that is life and other people’s problem, not yours, even when they try to make it yours.

It is then that the peace that you seek will not be far behind as you focus yourself on the things you can change and trouble yourself not with those that you cannot.

Faith as Love

If, as James tells us, “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17) then it must be remembered by the disciple of Christ that faith, in its purest form, is an act of love. After all, “saved by faith, through grace, and not of our works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9), what is our redemption and the sacrifices that give it its power but an act of love strengthening and preserving us even unto life everlasting?

Considered rightly, in accordance with the teachings of our blessed Savior that admonishes us to love one another to show our life given to Him (John 13:34-35), the two are intrinsically bound together. In this what it offers to us is an understanding that teaches us that without love there can be no faith.

In this relationship love is more than a feeling. It is act, a commitment, a sense of duty that only really and truly exists through actions, through thought and deed that strive towards the individual call to do more with the gifts that have been given to us by the blessings of our Creator. It is the hope that we offer in the lives of others, hearing the words of Christ, living by His example, each and every step of the way seeking to uplift and edify others according to their needs as we hear the call to service.

You see every one of us, we have something to offer. The God who fearfully and wonderfully created us did so that our lives could and would be in service, offering to us strengths, talents and abilities that are meant to be used. (Luke 12:48) The question then for the disciple, living amidst a world where there is so much need, is what will I do to meet it? If our faith lives within us then, in love, we must ask ourselves what will I do to ensure the betterment of others?

Perhaps, in a busy and hectic life, we think to ourselves that we just don’t have the time. After all there is so much that could be done that to worry about it, to try and take it on, would be overwhelming. Yet the truth is that hope and love, it begins one life at a time. We don’t need to take on the world. If each disciple took it upon themselves to take up one cause, to effect change in one life that is in need, working to truly help one person before moving on to the next, true and lasting change could be made to significantly help others. All it takes is a little sacrifice on our part.

Consider, for a moment, the life of Christ, the one whose example we, in our faith, are to live by. (1 Corinthians 11:1) There was never a time He took on more than He could handle. Most of time He healed one or two at a time, He worked on the individual spirits and souls, body and minds before that great, encompassing sacrifice that saved us all. For us it serves as a lesson that teaches us that no person is expected to do more than they can, but they are expected to live according to a love that heals, that strengthens, and that calls others through the love that they have.

Look around, consider the lives of those who surround you and the need that is there. Give of your time and yourself to those who are struggling and find themselves in desperation. Be the disciple that God knows you can be, the disciple that He calls you to be. Take the time each day to consider the world around you, to think of those in your life who are struggling and how you can help them. Look for causes, worthy causes, that you can donate to, volunteer with, and help those who live in a constant battle find some sort of sense in their life.

In faith, our lives can be given to love that the blessings we have been endowed with can bring happiness, joy and strength to others. This can be our testimony that shines forth from hearts and souls if we are so inclined to hear the calling of Christ. The only question then left to ask is what sort of disciple will you be and how will your life offer of the love that saved you?

The Nature of True Beauty

With love and hope in our hearts how do we, as Disciples of Christ, measure beauty? How do we see it, not only in the world around us, but in the people who surround us?

When this question runs through my mind there’s a verse I often like to consider. It’s from the story of David, when the prophet Samuel sought to anoint a new king over Israel to replace Saul, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

You see, the shepherd boy, when placed side by side with the other sons of Jesse, standing beside his brothers, was not much to look at. In fact, when considered with them, it could hardly be thought that he would have the capacity to lead, to offer the strong guidance that the nation itself needed. Yet, in the eyes of the Lord, it wasn’t the strength, or the height or any of the outward appearances. After all, He had Saul, a mighty man of renown, strong and charismatic, as the chosen King and it had met with such disappointment as He had watched him waver to the point where his fall would become inevitable. Now the Lord sought a different sort of man to lead His people.

Still, it wasn’t hard for Samuel to fall into a trap that each of us can so easily find ourselves amidst, looking at the strongest, the best looking, the mightiest as the one who catches our eyes somehow believing that they have more to offer because of their appearance. We so often see beauty as an outward appearance, as only being significant and worthy of our attention if it somehow can merit a second look from our eyes. We see it as it is, by the standards of our present age, and by the focus that is given to it by society as a whole. It is there that we mark worth and assign value by what captivates our eyes and captures our attention.

Yet the truth is true beauty is marked by what is in our hearts, by the love, the hope and the inspiration that we offer in the courage and the perseverance of our spirits. It is in the wisdom that we show, it is in the way that we offer our hand to one another to be a force for good, edifying and uplifting them, by the charity that spurs on optimism despite whatever despair it may offer. Each of us, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) have, by the power of God, an enormous capacity to offer of ourselves through the gifts that we have. This is the true mark of beauty, the true mark of our strength.

Perhaps, at times, we don’t see ourselves as we should. We look in the mirror and we see our every physical imperfection, whether it is real or perceived. We hate our glasses, we’re not model thin, our hair is falling out, our body doesn’t look like we think it should. Perhaps, at times, we look at others, and we don’t necessarily see them for who they are. We see them for what we can only see with our eye. By this sight we don’t even always necessarily know what it is about their appearance, maybe it’s a little bit of everything, but we just find them to be unattractive.

As imitators of God, given to His love, captured by His grace, we need to strive to see more in ourselves and in others, to see beauty for what it really is. It is not in waist sizes or in hairlines or in any other physical standard that we can mark it by. It is in what is given, and the guiding presence of a spirit and a soul, a heart and a mind given to the greatest capacity we have to live in the image of God that we are created in. It comes through a God who is, in and of Himself, love. It is to take the lessons of Christ and to use it to create a spiritual makeover, one that focuses on the elegance and the strength of our inward appearances.

It is only in this way that we see true beauty for what it is as we let it encompass our being. It is being moved not by the vain eyes but by the pure heart in the wonders of all of God’s creation. In this we become more than we ever hoped to be as the character of our splendor is marked by the blessed exquisiteness of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who offered us the greatest example of what it truly means to be attractive.

Love Thy Enemy

There are a lot of teachings that our blessed Savior espoused that, for the faithful disciple, reflects a hard path, and a tough road to go down. Yet, even as we consider that, there is one that stands out with a sense of difficulty that is perhaps the most challenging: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

Contemplating it even now one has to wonder exactly what Christ meant. After all, we live in a world of struggles and adversity, one where so often, it would seem at least, when one challenge fades another arises to strike at us. As warriors for Christ (Ephesians 6:10-18) we are not meant to be doormats, to be the ones who are walked all over. To run the race with endurance (Hebrews 12:1) we have to be strong, and to assert ourselves in a world where the wisdom of God is so often viewed as foolishness.

How then can we properly love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? How can that be the ground we stand upon and find that we maintain our integrity?

Perhaps our best understand comes from the story of Saul of Tarsus. (Acts 9:1-19)

The great persecutor of the early church, there were few names that reached as far or struck as much fear as his. Any disciple who wished to preserve their life knew he was a force to be avoided. There were few who could be viewed as a greater enemy than him. Yet, on the road to Damascus, with a hatred in his heard, it would be the same man who would hear the thundering voice of God shake the earth around him, calling out to him.

The point is we never know who God is going to call, nor do we know the miracles that He is going to work. Yet what we do know is that if God truly is love, (1John 4:8) then there is no greater weapon against Him, nor any more powerful tool to be used against His will than our hatred and our fear. It breeds an animosity, a scornful tongue and a self-righteous spirit that does nothing more than hinder His plan and His design.

The disciple is called to love their enemy and to pray for those who persecute not because it is an easy task or a simple one, but because it is the right one. By failing in this teaching we let thoughts and ideas into our hearts and minds that have no rightful place there. We allow ourselves be tempted in a way that prevents our spiritual growth as we trust our own understanding more than that of God’s. After all, to hate is to believe that one is beyond redemption, beyond salvation and thereby of little value or worth. It is to dehumanize God’s creation when the truth is we need to hope on their redemption all the more, with a greater sense of purpose.

Failing to do this does nothing but harden our own hearts and the hearts of those who need love, who need to be guided by it all the more against us and the guidance they may need.

The truth is not all may have the road to Damascus conversion of Saul. Some may stand steadfast in their ways, guided in the belief that where they stand is right. That does not mean that we should hope any less, understanding where hope and love are, that is where faith begins. In doing this we show a greater trust in God and a better understanding of what his plan is.

Do not rejoice in the fall of others, nor hate any. It blinds you to love and charity, to hope and to faith. In doing this we create for ourselves a stumbling block that ensnares us in the challenges it offers. Be strong and courageous, realizing that, through Christ Jesus, there is no greater power that we possess in our lives than the power we have to love. It is then, and only then, that, as a disciple of our blessed Savior, Christ Jesus, we become the imitator of him that we were intended to be.

The Disciples Paradox of Hate and Love

The price of discipleship seems as if it would be a high one, doesn’t it? After all, it was our blessed Savior, Christ Jesus, who admonished, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) In a sense it almost seems contradictory to the nature of God, who is love, who taught us, for example, to honor our mother and our father, (Exodus 20:12) and who tells us that to live in hate is to live in death, devoid of the His grace. (1John 2:9-11)

How do we reconcile this to find the true nature of Christ’s calling? How do we look past the inherent ambiguity of this teaching, seeming so inconsistent with all that we have learned otherwise sitting at the feet of our Redeemer?

When Scripture speaks of the believer, it speaks of a person who is free of the yokes and the burdens of this world, telling us where the Spirit is, there is the truest of liberties. (2 Corinthians 3:17) Freedom, in its most basic sense, in its most fundamental of forms, does not and cannot exist in any form of hatred. Hatred is a chain that, when placed around our neck, strangles the life from us as surely as it kills faith itself. The healing that we have been called to is no longer possible, because, in the weakness that it brings, we have forsaken all that was meant to preserve sacred and strengthen life.

At the core of Christ’s teaching is not hatred, nor could it be if he truly is God, as we know him to be. God is, after all, love (1 John 4:8) and love itself is what is at the heart of the matter.

The two greatest commandments that fulfill all aspects of the law are that we love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, and souls and minds, and that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:36:40) Yet, even as we consider that teaching we must remember that Christ did not put these on equal footing. The first was to love the Lord, while the second was to love others. At the heart of the matter is that if we are to be faithful to God, if we are to truly follow Him with our whole heart, willing to be led as He would lead us then we can love nothing more than we love Him. Even in the context of the original Greek this is the meaning that lies behind the use of “Hate”, not as we so often think about it, but rather in terms of loving less.

Discipleship means that we must be willing to sacrifice. In love, it means a willingness to give everything and anything in love and hope for others. (John 15:14) When we love God, when we love Christ more than we love anything else, we are willing to give up what is necessary to serve our risen Savior in the hope, the faith, the strength, and the love he first taught us. (John 13:34-35) It means we are willing to offer all of who we are in healing as we find ourselves able to let go and let God lead us.

Perhaps this may be a burden for us, a cross that we must take up and carry. But, in a sense it is a trade, for when we trust God, when we look to Him, holding Him first, we cast the heavier burdens of this world, the self-doubt, the uncertainty for the future, the hurt of lose and the pain of longing far from us, and we take upon us the yoke of service that shines in hope, and dwells in a faith and a knowledge that though we may be affected by the course of this world, nothing will affect us much as it teaches us the value and the worth that truly rests in His creation and His plan.

As you are called to be a Disciple of Christ, God will never ask more of you than you can give, more of you than you can offer. Understanding that we must be willing to lay all of ourselves on the altar of God as a sacrifice, knowing that, as much is given to us in the grandness of His design much will be asked of us. Yet that price of discipleship should be one we are always willing to pay.

Judging

There are few greater controversies for the disciple than the question of judging others and the proper nature of it. After all, to read the words of Scripture, to read the words of our blessed Savior himself, we come to understand that there is an inherent evil that can come with the application of our judgment as we assess the nature of sin and apply to it our own understanding.

Does this mean though that we do not judge? What do passages such as “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her…” (John 8:7), “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:3) or the ever popular “Do not judge or you too will be judge…” (John 7:1) truly inform us of in our walk with Christ? What do they teach us of the true nature of discipleship and the way we observe others?

As with all things the truest measure of our judgment and the nature of our faith must be tempered with love. It must be met with a generous spirit given to hope and the edification of others, bearing the fruits of faith to nourish and strength the lives of others. The controversy itself was never meant to steer us away from assessing and evaluating the actions of others. It was meant to ensure that we look to ourselves, that we understand ourselves so that, in all that we do, we act in steadfast devotion to our brothers and sisters, not out of condemnation but out of affection for them.

You see, of the two greatest commandments given by Christ himself, the second is to love our neighbor, to love our fellow man, as we love ourselves. (Matthew 22:36-40) What this means is that we must not be like the Pharisee, the hypocrite who deems himself righteous without a careful examination of himself, while condemning those around us for wickedness. (Luke 18:9-14) Our lives, they have to be given to a close and studious scrutiny as we daily inspect our own walks with our Savior as we are given to the Spirit of the Lord. With this this though also comes the understanding that we must hold others to the same level of accountability as we hold ourselves.

What we must remember is that, if given in the right spirit, if shown with the right heart, there is nothing more loving than to look at others, and to help them get back on the right path. If done with in faith, and charity, guided by a hope for them, it is done in a manner that does not seek to judge but that wants nothing more than to ensure that they are right with God even as we try to ensure that we are right with Him ourselves.

In hope and love for others this never comes in the form of an attack, nor should it be intended as a condemnation. The thought of stoning others, of casting them away, despising them for whatever offense they may have caused should never cross our mind. There is, after all, no means of spiritual death that we can heap upon the lives of others quite like the hurt and the sorrow we can bring with harsh words on our lips, haughtiness in our hearts and hatred in our eyes.

As a faithful and devoted disciple of Christ, given in a life of service, we cannot falter in our love for others, in our hopes for them, just as we hope for ourselves. Look to your life as a means not to judge others but to equip them for the righteous path, to nourish them for the long road through this world. This, at times, means helping them understand errors so that they can learn from them. Yet any help offered must be given in a clean heart and a right spirit that you may serve them for their greatest growth in a testimony to God’s love for them.

When this is done, when this is our nature, there is no controversy, there is no challenge, there is only the strength we can find in unity with others, rather than the pain that comes in the division of scorn.

The Soul of Faith

Ultimately, for as much control as we may give God in our lives, for as much as we may say that He leads us, in free will, we are defined not by faith but by the worth we place on it in the love that we have. For though it is our faith that ultimately saves us, it is love that “covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

Over the ages, considerable time has been spent debating how one truly becomes the most effective disciple of Christ, the way that one can most successfully use their faith. After all, it is James who reminds us that our faith, if it is without works, is dead. It holds not the power to save us because it has grown as stagnant, as hard and as hollow as our hearts. Our works, they represent the spirit and the soul of our faith. (James 4:14-26)

Let us consider that for a moment. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” You see, the soul and the body represent a special relationship with each other. Though one may be able to exist without the other, the body is ultimately created as a vessel for the soul, yet it is not the body that defines the soul, but rather the soul that gives its value to everything the body does, and is. Faith can exist without works, yet those works, much like the soul to the body, give faith its inherent value, its intrinsic worth in the most basic and fundamental of ways.

For faith then to hold substance it must be the vessel of our works, not only bearing its fruits but containing them, carrying them, and offering them as the means by which we edify, strengthen and uplift others. Faith, to hold significance, must be expressed by a life given in love to others. Without it, we can speak with tongues, we can seek to understand, to fathom the mysteries that surround a great and mighty God, and eloquence can drip from our mouths in defense of faith, yet it is the shell of what it must be because it gains nothing and offers less. (1 Corinthians 13:1-13)

How then do we love? How then do we serve as the effective disciple? This itself is easily answered by our blessed Savior Himself, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.… whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:31-46) It is to look at the world, to see the need around you with clear eyes, and, as Christ Jesus Himself had done, answer the call in patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.

Though the ultimate act of love was the sacrifice of that Lamb of God who took away the sins of world, that was one example of Christ’s love amongst so many as great as it was. His ministry, His life would be eventually defined by that singular act of love in service to us, and yet it was a road paved by every act of healing, each act of giving, and the meaning that was behind it. It was a path that was laid down by His rejection of evil, hatred, slander and bitterness as we are taught the new commandment: to love one another as Christ Himself loved us. (John 13:34-35)

In the end, nothing can save us short of the faith that we have. Yet it is the character and the nature of our faith that it is the God who judges the heart who holds a power over us. Consider rightly the Lord’s admonition to the prophet, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13) Are we, as the disciples of a living God to define our own faith, and thereby seek to build our own vessels for it, ones that seek to hold faith but are cracked and broken, with the dwindling waters it holds stagnate? Or are we to pour forth living waters with fresh springs of the Lord that quench the longing thirst of the spirit and the soul?

Let your faith be a vessel for love and the works thereof. See the world as it is, a place in desperate need of healing and hope, and let the soul of your faith shine as the means of love for others. In this way we can be the effective disciple, the effective believer God and Christ intend for us to be through the power and the strength of the Spirit working through us.