Love Serves

love-serves-1I have blogged quite a bit about the tendency of our culture to be pragmatic. That is, people determine the rightness or wrongness of something based on how it feels to them. If it feels good,  or if they get something positive out of it, then it must be good; but if it feels bad, or if they don’t  get anything out of it, then it must be something they need to abandon.

True love is never pragmatic. Although culture tells us it is:

  • “You’ll know he’s the one by how he makes you feel.”
  • “We’ve fallen out of love.”
  • “There’s just no spark there any more.”
  • “He’s let me down one too many times.”
  • “You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling, oh that lovin’ feeling….”

“We dress ‘love’ in the fantasy of evening gowns and tuxedos, with silver and candelabras. But most of the time…love comes dressed in overalls—it is practical, down-to-earth, everyday hard work. It is really thinking of the other person and doing what the other person needs and being what the other person needs when he or she needs you to be there.” —Dr. Richard Dobbins

love-serves-2In writing to the church at Ephesus, Paul told them he became their servant—literally this means their waiter. But not so he could get something out of it. Instead it was a love completely focused on them…

  • the prisoner of Jesus Christ for the sake of you (Ephesians 3:1)
  • God’s grace was given to me for you (v. 2)
  • this grace was given to me to preach to [you] (v. 8)
  • my sufferings for you, which are your glory (v. 13)

Speaking to the Ephesian leaders as he was traveling to Jerusalem, he said…I served the Lord with great humility and with tears (Acts 20:19)

  • I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears (v. 31)
  • I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing (v. 33)
  • In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak (v. 35)

Dear Christian, is this the kind of love you demonstrate? Do you share God’s grace with the hurting? Do you walk alongside those who are limping or about to give up? Do you stand through the storms with those on the battlefield?

It’s not what I get out of it. 
Love focuses on the other person. 
Love is devoted by a solemn promise. 
Love doesn’t view “suffering” as something bad, but for the other person’s glory. 
Love doesn’t seek recognition or rewards. 
Love simply does what is important for the other person.

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2 Life-Changing Words

whose-you-areThere’s an interesting story recorded in Acts. Seven sons of a priest named Sceva attempt to cast out a demon by saying, “In the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches, come out!” To which the demon replies, “Jesus I know and Paul I know, but who are you?”

Not only was the demon not exorcised, but the seven men came running out of the house bloodied and naked from the beating they received!

Think about it: If you spoke to the devil and said, “Get away from me!” would he be afraid of you? The simple answer is “No!” Why? Because you have no power in yourself.

It’s not about who you are, it’s about Whose you are.

john-14-20Jesus talked about our place in Him in John 14:20. Notice the word “in” in this verse:

  • Jesus is in the Father
  • The Christian is in Jesus
  • The Spirit of Christ is in the Christian

Here are the two life-changing words for any Christian to remember…


The devil wants to get you second-guessing your identity. He wants you to be uncertain if you are worthy of coming into God’s presence. He wants you doubting if you are truly forgiven and worthy of God’s attention. He wants you unsure if you can stand up against him in a spiritual fight.

This uncertainty and doubt is erased by faith in this: I am IN CHRIST!

in-christ-i-amPlease print out this list from Ephesians of all the “in Christ” statements Paul shares with us. (You may download a PDF version by clicking here → in-christ-i-am)

Keep this list handy, and the next time satan whispers doubts in your ear like, “Jesus I know and Paul I know, but who are you?” say—

“It’s not who I am, but Whose I am! I am Christ’s. I am in Him and He is in me. I have been forgiven. I am a part of His family. I have a purpose. I am holy and blameless. I am the recipient of all God’s blessings. And you can never defeat me because I AM IN CHRIST!”

If you don’t have a home church, join us next week as we continue our series in the book of Ephesians called Sit Walk Stand.

A Unique Look At “Church”

gods-people-are-the-saintsHave you ever noticed that nowhere in the New Testament do we see an “order of service” for a church congregation? It’s simply not there.

Neither is there a list of acceptable songs, or the design of a church building, or how or when Communion is served, or even what clothing the pastor is supposed to wear. Yet we modern-day Christians seem to spend a lot of time not only arguing about these non-essentials, but even (gasp!) evaluating the “churchness” of a church based on these things.

It’s understandable, then, when someone says, “I enjoy being a Christian, but I really don’t like going to church.” Or even insisting that they can be a Christian without attending a church.

But here’s where those statements miss the mark: “Church” was never intended to be merely a group of people who met at a designated address once a week.

The Church that Jesus described—and the Church the apostles were a part of—was a living organism. It was fellow followers of Jesus Christ interacting with each other as they worshiped the Lord.

The Apostle Peter describes a gathering of Christians in just one verse. In this verse he gives five descriptors of how Church should be done. To stress the point that every gathering of Christians is unique, three of Peter’s five descriptors are found nowhere else in Scripture.

  1. Live in harmony with one another (the first unique word)

One translation has this as “one mind.” Paul has a similar thought in 1 Corinthians 14:20. The bottom line—get on the same page working toward the same goal. What’s that goal? Pointing people to Jesus!

      2.  Be sympathetic (the next unique word)

A definition we may better understand is “empathy.” This world literally means to “vibrate with others.” Be on in tune with what they’re going through that you can feel it just like it was happening to you.

      3.  Love as brothers

This is the Greek word philadelphos, which means to treat other Christians like they’re from the same womb as you.

      4.  Be compassionate

That is: be strong enough to step into other people’s stuff. Keep on increasing your capacity to carry a bigger load for someone else (Galatians 6:2).

      5.  Be humble (the last unique word)

The King James Version translates this “courteous.” Not just being strong enough to help, but gentle enough that your help will be accepted.

Let me repeat: The Church is not a physical address where we gather once per week. YOU are the temple of God’s presence, which is why Jesus said if just two of His followers get together, He is right there with them. That’s right—two Christians can have “church” wherever they happen to meet! 

Don’t just go to church, BE the church. Don’t miss an opportunity to encourage, pray with, instruct, or learn from another Christ-follower whenever and wherever you happen to meet.

Countercultural Marriage

my-thoughts-or-gods-thoughtsThe Apostle Peter uses an appropriate term for Christians living on Earth: “Aliens and strangers.” This means that those who call Jesus their Lord are to live a counter-cultural lifestyle. Not a lifestyle that changes with the popular culture, but one that stays true to God’s Word.

There probably has never been a more controversial subject in any day or culture than marriage and the relationship between the sexes. Why are these terms “controversial”? I suspect it is because we are naturally bent toward being pragmatic people.

In pragmatism, the outcome determines meaning. If I find something easy to do, convenient for me, and I seem to get applause from those around me, then what I did must be right. However, if it’s challenging to stick with something, and seemingly only a few people approve of how I do it, then it must be wrong. That is letting culture determine morality, instead of letting God determine it.

As Peter begins to address the topic of marriage, and the interaction between spouses, he uses two similar phrases—“Wives, in the same way … Husbands, in the same way (vv. 1, 7).”

In the same way as what? Actually, if you look at the five verses that come before this you will see that it’s not what but Whom. Those verses are talking about our example in Jesus. Peter points out that Jesus showed:

  • submission to God’s purpose—His prayer was, “Not My will, but Yours be done.
  • longsuffering—He did not retaliate nor threaten His persecutors, but for the joy set before Him, He endured the shame of the Cross.
  • servant-leadership—At the last meal He had with His followers before being crucified, He washed their feet, and told them He had given them an example of how they were to serve others.
  • respectful behavior—Jesus willingly suffered the penalty for the world’s sin. He fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah which said He remained silent before His accusers.
  • mercy—This always means not getting the penalty we deserve. Jesus came to save us when we were the least worthy of His love.
  • forgiveness—As the spikes were being driven through His wrists, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.

Pragmatism looks at God’s design and says, “Yes, I understand that, but….” Pragmatism tries to find an “out” or a “loophole” that let’s someone change a definition or skip out on doing something God’s way.

If anyone ever had the authority to say, “Yes, Father, I know what You want Me to do, but look how they’re treating Me” it was Jesus.

A wife with a difficult husband may want to say, “Yes, I know I’m supposed to submit to my husband, but….” A husband with a nagging wife may say, “Yes, I know I’m supposed to treat my wife with consideration and respect, but….”

But Peter says, “Wives and husbands, exhibit the same submission, longsuffering, servant-leadership, respectful behavior, mercy and forgiveness toward your spouse as Jesus exhibited toward you!” 

So the question we need to ask is: Am I thinking about marriage—a husband’s role, a wife’s role—in counter-cultural biblical terms or in popular cultural terms?

If I find I am thinking culture’s thoughts, am I willing to try God’s way?

Join me next Sunday as we look at this passage again, and see how a wife and husband can love and serve each other in a God-honoring, counter-cultural way.

Vegetables And Dessert

a-testimony-to-othersHave you ever noticed that kids would prefer to eat dessert more than vegetables? Well, maybe you’re an adult and you still feel the same way! But “veggies before dessert” is still a good motto to live by.


What happens if you eat only dessert? Do you eventually get healthier or are you setting yourself up for some unfavorable health conditions? What about if you only eat vegetables? The flavor may not be as good, but at least you’ll be getting healthier.

Jesus told His followers to expect the “veggie” times in time. He said, “In this world you will have trouble.” And He told us, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of Me.” There were no ifs or maybes in those statements!

As Christians living on Earth, the Apostle Peter calls us “aliens and strangers.” That means that both our attitude and our lifestyle should be, well, alien compared to Earthlings. Especially when we’re in a veggie time of life.

Jesus was the Perfect Man. He never said anything wrong, and He never did anything wrong. Yet He was insulted, persecuted, and eventually killed in the most horrific way imaginable. But here’s the amazing thing: Jesus went through all of this without retaliating or threatening judgment on His persecutors. Peter said that the way Jesus went through this was intended to be an example for us.

The writer of Hebrews agreedLet us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart

Notice it says, “for the joy set before Him.” Other translations say “because of the joy awaiting Him” or “He never lost sight of where He was headed” or “He never lost sight of the joy ahead of Him.” In other words, Jesus knew what God’s plan was from before the beginning of time, so He—as Peter said—kept on entrusting Himself to God.

We have to do the same thing!

I have to confess something. When I quoted the “veggie” part of a couple of verses earlier in this post, I left off the “dessert” part…

  • “I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
  • Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven….” (Matthew 5:10-12)

The way you handle your vegetable times—disease, insults, financial setbacks, outright persecution—can be a testimony to others. The way you go through these trials could help others turn to the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls.

Are you in a trial now? Keep on entrusting yourself to Him Whose plans cannot be thwarted

It might seem all “veggies” now, but you are getting healthier, and the “dessert” you cannot even imagine is on its way!

Religious Liberty In School

free-to-speakAs our students are heading back to their schools, it is a great time to be reminded of the religious liberties they have while in school. With all of the talk of so-called “separation of church and state,” I think many parents and students are reluctant to say anything that sounds remotely Christian, for fear of getting in trouble with the powers-that-be.

But we don’t have to tread so carefully!

Gateways To Better Education has some great resources. I ordered a couple hundred of their “Free To Speak” pamphlets. I gave them to our school superintendent, and as many parents as as I could. This short pamphlet summarizes the US Department of Education’s guidelines on what is allowed in school. In short, the Seven Freedoms are:

  1. Students can pray, read their Bibles or other religious material, and talk about their faith at school.
  2. Students can organize prayer groups and religious clubs, and announce their meetings like any other club.
  3. Students can express their faith in their class work and homework.
  4. Teachers can organize prayer groups with other teachers.
  5. Students may be able to go off campus to have religious studies during school hours.
  6. Students can express their faith at a school event.
  7. Students can express their faith at a graduation ceremony.

Don’t be intimidated. Don’t be uninformed. Know your rights as a US citizen.

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