Tag Archives: love

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?

Do Unto Others

The Commands of Jesus Series

 Matthew 7:12  “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.

What a huge saving that our country would have if we could all live a lifestyle full of kindness. We could shut down most of the courts and we could get rid of a bunch of the law makers in Washington, how about the size of the police force? What a big pile of money that we would have to use on more important things if we treated everybody that we come into contact with just as good as if we were treating ourselves.

Jesus gave us an awesome example of how to live and how to treat other people, it wasn’t enough to show us what to believe, he also showed us how to allow our beliefs to affect our lifestyle. Living by this simple rule will help you get rid of envy, slander, theft, adultery, we would become a lot more like our Savior.

Jeremiah 7:5 But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice.

It is time to stop the never-ending cycle, we all want to be treated good but somehow we don’t allow that to affect how we treat others, we want to receive mercy but we are slow to give it out.

Help us Lord to put aside our jealousy and envy and concentrate on treating the other people around us as well as you have treated us. After all you took better care of us than we ever deserved.

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 The Lord

The Commands of Jesus Series

Matthew 22:36-38  “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37  Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  38  This is the first and greatest commandment.

There are a lot of commands that talk about what you do on the outside but the number one command in the Bible talks about what is in the inside.

Loving the Lord “with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind” is  a command that only God can tell if you are truly doing it or not, we can look like it on the outside but it is what is in the heart that God is judging.

In the ten commandments God tells us:

  • No idol or image should be made to replace him
  • He is a jealous God
  • Obedience brings love, disobedience brings judgment
  • Don’t misuse his name
  • Keep the sabbath

God is asking me to make him number one and to give him the respect that he is due, the world is full of people that do not care at all about him or what he wants from us, as his child I have to be careful that I do not mistreat him and disrespect him.

You might like to read:
Who Is Your God?  //  God Will Get The Glory //  Are You God’s Friend? 

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.

Do good

True Christianity

Romans 12:10  Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.

Have you ever been part of a church that just didn’t feel like it was really living out the purposes of God?  When that happens it often starts with a lack in the love department.  If Christians can’t love each other, the fellow members of the body of Christ, then there will be no effective ministry.

Paul’s marks of a true Christian reflect not just how a Christian should act, but how Christians should treat each other.  These were not instructions on how to treat people “out there”, but how to treat people “in here” first.  Practicing the love of God and doing good works starts among family and then it spills out into the rest of our relationships.  We must first love and serve our fellow believers.

This is one of the key reasons to belong to a local church fellowship.  A church provides the opportunity to love and serve those who share a faith in Christ before going out and doing it among the people of the world.  A church is a place to be equipped for ministry, and that starts with love and service from and toward your fellow Christians.  Besides that, Christian unity is best perfected within the context of a gathering of believers who make up a family.

Love what is good, hate what is evil, love and serve your Christian brothers and sisters.

Love good

True Christianity

Romans 12:9  Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.

What are the marks of a true Christian?  We may sometimes wonder how to answer that question, but fortunately for us, the Apostle Paul already did in his letter to the Romans.  Paul lays out a criteria for the true Christian.  It’s not another set of rules to follow, and it’s not all-inclusive, but it’s worth taking a look at.

It’s no surprise that this outline of a true Christian starts with love.  A Christian without love is ineffective and doesn’t present a very good witness.  Paul commends his friends in Rome to be genuine in their love, to hate what is evil, and to hold on to what is good.  This is good advice, but sadly not what many of us think of when we define the Christian life.

Let love be genuine.  In the American church especially there is a tendency to put on a show that isn’t genuine when it comes to love and acceptance.  We want people to believe that we care about them even when we don’t.  But that’s not Christian love.  That’s hypocrisy.  Let your love be genuine.  Work at it.  If you’re struggling with showing someone love, focus on their good points and act out of that.

Hate what is evil.  Again, to pick on the American church, we have become very much a part of the culture around us, even in our churches.  We embrace the world’s things, even when they contradict the way of God.  The only think we’re told to hate as a command is evil and sin.  Instead we often love what is evil and hate what is good.  That has to change.

Hold on to what is good.  Keep focused on the things of God.  Love the things that fit His character, follow after the things that please Him.  This is the beginning of effective Christian living that presents a witness for Christ that others will want to know more about.

Sola Gratia

Romans 3:23-24 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus

Some ask how a loving God could allow anyone to go to hell.  Perhaps this is the wrong question though.  A better question is how a just God could allow any of us to go to heaven.  Even at our best, we still fail to live up to God’s standard for “good”.  Our very best attempts at righteousness are just filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).  This is true of every one of us.  The question then is not how God can send some of us to hell but how He can allow even one of us to enter into fellowship with Him.

Two words come to mind: love and grace.  God is all-knowing.  It was not a surprise to Him that man would fall short of the plan.  But even in spite of this, God created a way.  Through His Son we can know Him.  By His grace we have been delivered.  Only someone who is full of love could even conceive of forgiving His enemies and allowing them a place that only friends deserve.

God does not send people to hell, we’re all headed there on our own from birth.  Our loving God provides a way out, a way to Him.  We can never earn this.  It’s by grace alone.