The Greatest

What would you suppose would be the greatest virtue? We certainly live in an age of “virtue signaling”, something I don’t completely understand. From what I have seen, it seems to apply an “I am better than you” approach. “I am better than you” because I am “woke” about certain topics, or practice certain lifestyle choices (like veganism) or go out and protest that “black lives matter” even if I am white, yellow or red. To signal my virtues, I have to show you that I am virtuous, that I am better in certain areas of social choices, than you are. So it seems to me that “virtue signaling” is all about pride.

I don’t think pride is listed as a virtue. In fact, pride is listed as one of the things that God hates.

There are six things that the LORD hates, even seven things that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift to run to evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who spreads discord among family members.
(Pro 6:16-19)

Forgive me for saying this, but I think we’ve seen a lot of those six things over the past few days in the streets of American cities, all in the name of virtue signaling. I fear that our nation is destined for judgment, simply because we have replaced virtues with abominations.

How does the Lord define virtues? In the verse above, Paul outlines three primary virtues that every Christian ought to practice, faith, hope and love. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. We have faith that Jesus rose from the dead, even though we may not have seen it. We have faith we were saved at our conversion by the blood of Jesus and given the gift of the Holy Spirit. We exercise this hope that God keeps His promises, and His greatest promise, taking us home with Him when we die.

But the greatest of these Paul notes, is love. Why do you suppose that is? I think love, tempers the other two. Faith and the Faith are close cousins, that is to say, the strength and ability we possess to believe the revealed word of God and the content of that word. We can be a bit overzealous when it comes to faith. If faith outshone the other two, we would exercise and practice our faith without or with little compassion. If hope outshone the other two, we would be out sitting on a hill somewhere waiting for the end. But love compels us to exercise out faith in community, to practice out hope lived out in a life with others. Love requires others to be active. Love requires personal connection. Without love, what is the point of the other two?

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes [faith] in Him would not perish, but receive everlasting life [hope]. (Jn 3:16) It starts with love. God was motivated by love, His greatest virtue, to create us, and to save us. I read somewhere this week that we alone as human beings were created by God for His own sake. He didn’t make us out of necessity, or need, but simply because He wanted to. We are and have always been wanted. That speaks to me. I hope it does to you.

Thank you Lord for wanting us, wanting to make us so that You could love on us. Lord help me share that mighty love with others, not just everybody, but with every person I meet. May that love be real in me that I may share with others. Thank You Lord, In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

No Delight in Evil

Love, Evil and Truth are depicted in this verse as people who could potentially hang out together. I get the feeling that Evil tries to impress Love and fascinate her. Evil tries to make her feel good with all of his little contrivances and dalliances. But Love is not impressed. Love sees all that evil has to offer and takes no delight in any of it. She sees nothing there that she wants.

However, when Love sees truth, Truth is a completely different story. Truth tells her all the things he knows and she rejoices with him. She looks forward to meeting with Truth because Truth makes her happy. She would rather spend her time with Truth than with Evil.

Truth and Evil are not the opposites we expect. We expect Good to be the opposite of Evil and Lie to be the opposite of Truth. But neither of those characters is here. Rather, we get the end of Lie, which is Evil, and the end of Good, which is Truth. Love rejoices with Truth, but does not delight in Evil.

This little parable is intended to show us as Christians where we should spend our time. We should not delight in anything Evil has to offer. We are not Evil, because we represent Love. We were bought and paid for by Love, and practice Love as our chief commandments (love God, love Neighbor, love One Another). Our Love has no business hanging out with Evil, and should not delight in Evil things, deception, or pride.

Rather, Love rejoices with Truth. What is Truth? You know who He is. He will never lie to us. He will always be honest and straightforward with us. And there are times when Truth is more honest with us that we desire. Even when Truth exposes us, we rejoice because we have been found again. Truth can be harsh, but is only cruel when coupled with Evil. As Christians we speak the Truth in Love, intending for Truth to be restorative, not destructive. We ought to build one another up by Truth, because it is sure and lasting, far more than deception and lies.

In your speech and in your thoughts today, let Truth reign in you. Let Love speak with Truth and rejoice with Him. Let Love shun Evil and take no delight in Him. These are admittedly rather broad strokes on the canvas of our lives, but I encourage to work on the finer strokes yourself. See where Truth and Love take you today. Remember that Truth is God’s Truth, not one that we invent. Love is God’s Love, not one that works to satisfy itself.

Dear Lord, I pray for the guidance today to shoe me where Truth and Love meet and rejoice together. Help me realize Paul’s words in my own life. And help me shun the delights of Evil. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Growing in Love

Love needs to grow. Love can begin as naive and impressionable, it it needs to grow in knowledge and discernment. A Christian it seems ought not to love indiscriminately. To what end? So that we know whom we should not, and whom we shouldn’t? No, it seems the discrimination comes in the objects of love, those which are superior, pure and blameless, especially as revealed on the Day of Christ.

So what kinds of things are we talking about here? I know I am to love all people, especially those that are in the faith. I am to “love one another” as Jesus has loved us. So I don’t think we are talking necessarily about people here. We know we are to love God, but that seems to be a given, as we know He is superior, pure and blameless. So maybe this applies to godly people? Or godly activities? Since the verse calls out “things” specifically, what kinds of things are godly?

What is a godly thing? The Bible is a godly thing. The kinds of the things the Bible counsels is to do are godly things. Worship is a godly thing, as is prayer. A church can be a godly thing. Going there doubly so. It seems there is no shortage of godly things to do. Working to help your neighbor is godly, and is witnessing to them about what Christ has done for you. Standing up for faith in your community is a godly thing, as is being persecuted for it.

Love must grow and develop godly discernment, to know the difference between what is ungodly and what is godly. Pride and live stand at opposite ends. Love pursues that which opposes pride and self. Pursue love.

Thank you Lord for showing be a better way. Thank you that I am not lost in my self, but have your motivation and strength to hep me see a better life. I pray that I may grow in love, and pursue its ends over my own. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

The Gospel in a Nutshell

Well, that what my Dad calls it anyway. I used to resist what my Dad taught about Scripture, figuring myself the one who went to Bible college and learned stuff. But as I’ve grown up a bit, I find that everyone possesses a bit of wisdom when it comes to Scripture. Everyone brings their own life experience to the Bible, and the Bible reflects that back to them, speaking to each in a way each understands. Two people can read the same verse and find different emphases that touch them in different ways. Both are equally valid, and when shared, can be helpful to both.

One thing that strikes me about this verse is the “only” in front of “son.” I have two sons. I would not want to give up either of them. I certainly wouldn’t want to give them up to save someone else. Being a father myself, I know something now I didn’t when I was young. Fathers love their sons in ways they cannot know before they become fathers. This son is a reflection of your being and personality. This new person sometimes reflects your best qualities, sometimes not. Sometimes he is wiser than you. This person has your face, and eventually, your voice. This person is a younger version of you, and you have hopes for him you didn’t know you had. You want him to succeed. You want him to pursue things you did not, to overcome regrets you had for yourself. It isn’t fair to lay such a burden on him, but we do it anyway, if only subconsciously.

So to have such a person before you, and then to send that person to go and die for others. Sorry, that’s more love than I have. To send your special, unique, only son to die for a host of recalcitrant children who don’t care? This is the kind of love God has for us. This is the gospel in a nutshell, condensed into one verse. And I am so grateful that Jesus chose to fulfill this task, or I would not know the Father who so loved. I would not have known that kind of love without Him. Thank You Lord Jesus for showing us that love.

As we prepare our hearts for the Easter season, remember the love that was spent for you. Remember the One who loves you. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Lord God, help me today remember Your sacrifice of love on my account. You loved me so much that you gave your unique, special, only Son to die for my sin on that cruel cross. You in your infinite knowledge, despite knowing every ounce of agony of your blessed Son, still thought it worth the price of seeing me and my brothers and sisters into the Kingdom. Despite this, we still falter. We still sin. We still forget. Lord help me remember. Thank You Lord Jesus for your love for the brethren, to be made like us, to suffer for us, to rise again to lead us in hope into Your Kingdom! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

God Loves

We love because God first loved us. I just wanted to take a second look today at this passage, which is often employed as justification for giving money to the church, and in context, that’s what it is talking about. But I want to you take a little deeper look at it. It takes this single issue, giving your goods and monies to the church, and makes a statement about human free will and what God thinks about it.

God designed us with free will. That is, God engineered our being by installing with us the ability to reason out and make our own decisions. In God’s kingdom, in which this command is intended to be fulfilled, He expects each person to give, not out of compulsion, or reluctantly. Did you see that? He does not want us to give against our own free will. He does not want us to fulfill this command to give without our own will and purpose to do so. God wants us to give willingly. He wants us to give because we think it is a good idea. In this, God loves a cheerful giver.

God expects you to exercise your own free will. It is His desire to see your will become more like His own as He works to help you grow and mature. But He wants you to do so because you want to, not because you feel like you have to.

I’ve always been interested in robots and automata. I just think they are fascinating. And so, with the technology becoming what it is, there is an area of robotics that involves the simulacra of women. There is this whole sub-genre of robotics that involves building robots that satisfy human sexual desires, or do they? In a real human relationship, there is necessarily a give and take. In a robot-human relationship, there is only take. Between married couples, they find joy in one another. Why? Because through the process of maturity and growth, they have learned one another’s needs and desires, and they seek to mutually satisfy each other. It is not done out of compulsion, or reluctantly, but freely given, for the joy of seeing his or her spouse receive joy.

Not so with robotic companions, who neither experience joy, nor truly learn what their human counterpart really wants, because they can’t possibly understand the human being. I fear that many people will get sucked into this rabbit hole of self-satisfaction only to find themselves staring into emptiness. The robot cannot love you back. It has no free will, and can only give because it is commanded to give. It might be fun for a while, but like all sin, the pain of its consequences far outweighs the pleasure of the moment.

Our relationship with God is similar. Though we are not gods, we are made in His image, and I believe it to be in this particular way, the only way that matters, in that we are independent beings. We have free will. And in this, God would rather have us freely choose to love Him and give to Him, than like mindless robots, we give because we are ordered to. God would rather win us over than order us into submission.

God loves you. He wants to be with you at all times. But He wants you to choose Him. He has expressed His love for us in ways that far surpass flowers and candy. He sent us His own Son, Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:8 But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), Ro 5:8.

Do you love Him back?

Lord today my heart is darkened with sin. I struggle even to remember who I am today, that I am a child of God. Because You have called me, the One who has given so much for me, who has provided ample evidence of Your love for me, I love you. I cannot help it. Remind today of that love, of the height, width, breadth and depth of that love. Remind me that nothing in this world will ever prevent it. Remind me I pray that my choice is sure, that my Rock stands. That in all I need and want, You are at the center of my being. Remind of Your love again today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Love Comes From God

The darkness of the Old Testament judgment is countered by the grace and truth that comes through Jesus Christ. The Old Testament was Law. The New Testament is mercy. Jesus is the emphasis of both.

It may be hard to see how love is from God when we say that God is the same in the Old and New Testament. It seems God is very harsh with the sinners in the Old Testament, but very forgiving in the New. To this I would ask, did you read the text? Have you read Daniel, where time after time, God reaches out to Nebuchadnezzar to convince him to repent? Did you read Jonah, where he is sent to a nation of strangers to convince them to change their ways? And God forgave them and did not send His judgment? Did you read of the prophets who went to Israel and Judah to attempt to persuade them away from idols and back their their God? Have you read the Psalms to find one of the most precious words repeated over and over, “Your lovingkindness!”? God expressed His khesed, His lovingkindness to Judah and Israel again and again. God is love, and should you take the time to get to know Him, you will discover this yourself.

Jesus is God’s love, expressed on the cross for all to see, His arms spread wide to show how much He loves. Do you know Him?

Do Not Love

Of all the people in the world, we ought to be the most loving, most caring people on the planet, right? But here comes 1 John, who instead of encouraging us to love everyone and everything, actually cautions us against it. There are some things we ought not to love, namely the world and everything in it. That sounds like it excludes a lot, doesn’t it?

The world here is shorthand for the worldly system. Something that is worldly is typically not from God but from man and his sinful desires. So to love not the world is to not love sin and its effects. That’s a good thing. But that excludes an awful lot from our purview. We are not to love murder, sexual deviance, sinful pleasures, a whole host of things that derive their nature from the Enemy and his minions. We are to resist carnal lusts. We are to resist the pleasures of the flesh if they are delivered through sin. Sex outside of marriage, any sexual act or appearance of sex is to be avoided. We are not to love that.

You see as Christians we have been led into a trap by the world. We have been told since we are all about love, then we should be accepting of two people who love each other. We should be encouraging love of self. And we certainly can’t tell anyone what true love is, because love is love, no matter who experiences it. But it is. Lie, because that is ”love” without truth. We are not afforded the luxury of defining love for ourselves. We are not love. God is love. God sets the standard and definition. We do not have that authority. This when it comes to love, God is the authority on what it means. God set this standard by sending His own Son to be crucified for our sins. True, selfless, self-sacrifice is God’s standard of love. He tells us what relationships have His approval: heterosexual monogamy in marriage, friendship, family, and worship. All are experiences of love. He did not approve others.

God has the right to tell what to love and what not to love. As His creation, we have the right to obey or disobey. But there are always consequences. I hope you make fbe right choices.

Help me God to make good choices today in how and to whom I express love. Help me to enjoy your Creation without loving the world, because I know that sometimes it’s hard to know the difference. I love You Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Love Is . . .

Not what I thought it was. When you are growing up as a young man, you think when you finally find that woman of your dreams and marry her, it will be love all the time. We will be all over each other. I will never have to wonder about sex ever again. Well, not so much.

This year my wife and I will have been married 25 years. There have been days like I imagined, and there have been days from Hell. Not gonna lie here. There are days where we have hated each other and couldn’t imagine going another day, and days where we thought our love couldn’t get any better. Thankfully, we were wrong on both counts. Over the years, you learn a few things, and you mature. And that’s where I learned that love isn’t about the roses and the candy and sex. Love is about bonding, staying rooted in each other, being present for each other. Love is caring, sharing, enjoying each other’s company. Love is all that the Scripture promised it would be. Mature love, real love is patience and kindness and joy and peace. But love is also sharing suffering and pain, hurt and loss. Love is being fully invested in another person, in their wins and losses, in their joys and sorrows. Love is being there when no one else will. Love is selfless giving, not taking. Love is offering, not seizing. Love is expressed in sexual intimacy, to be sure, but it is also expressed in weeping, in prayer, in working alongside, in listening. And this kind of love never gets old, stale or hollow. In fact, this kind of love continues to grow. This love grows deeper with each day. This love wakes up in anticipation of seeing your wife every morning, no matter what she looks like, because this love is from the soul.

Love is amazing, and love is taught to us by our Loving Heavenly Father. May you enjoy and experience this deep transcendant love for your spouse today and everyday. Don’t wait for once a year.

Dear God! Thank you for showing up this kind of love! Thank you for loving us so much that You sent Your own Son to love us, to give His most precious Life for us, to show us just how much we mean to You. Dear God each and every day teach us how to love, especially in loving our spouse, but also to extend this love to the unlovable. Show us your vision of people who need the gospel, who need good news. Thank You Lord Jesus for Your indescribable gift! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

To Love is Our Command

Jesus our Lord orders us not to love Him, but one another. This is akin to a parent putting siblings in a get-along shirt, where each sibling get an armhole in a great big daddy shirt. This may be the hardest command He has ever given us.Today Christians exist in 1000 different denominations. Christians of different stripes have fought wars over doctrine with each other. Some Christians have rounded up other Christians just for printing Bibles. Even today some Christians are jealous because their church is smaller than their neighbor, or self-righteous because their church is smaller. Even when we have no reason to be petty with one another, we still find ways to dislike one another.

I think the kind of love Jesus is speaking of here is more than the toleration you have for family on Thanksgiving. It goes deeper than that. I think it may even be more like the love a parent has for a child who is addict, but who never gives up hope of their getting clean. Love is a hard taskmaster. It asks us to do things we don’t want to do, like get along.

The Methodist right now are going through these labor pains. They are looking to separate themselves one from another over the issue of homosexuality. Some want homosexuals to be their pastors. Others do not. As such, they are willing separate their common bond in Christ over the issue. For those who campaign that love must prevail, let me remind you that this is a truth that comes from Scripture. If you would honor the same God who commands us to love, you would also need to respect what else He has to say. You cannot take one piece out for your benefit and ignore the rest.

They should absolutely not separate. But as Paul once pointed, perhaps it is necessary to point out those who are Christ’s and those who are not. Christ also said, “if you love me, keep my commandments.” Jesus is very specific what constitutes the marriage relationship (Matthew 19). He tells us what relationship has the blessing and binding of God, and it not the homosexual one. This anyone who teaches and practices that homosexual relationships are okay by God is teaching blasphemy.

The basis for love in any relationship is and ought always to be truth. Without truth you do not have honesty. Without honesty there is no integrity and no stability in a relationship. As Christians, we need to be honest with one another, and stop hiding from one another. There is no such thing as “fine” in our world. No one is “fine” because we are all struggling. If you are in honest relationships with other Christians, you have found a rare jewel. Fight for it if you have to.

Heavenly Father, we have so totally messed up obeying this command that we don’t even know where to begin to obey it. We are scattered across a thousand denominations that can’t talk to each other. Father we have hurt each other, deeply. We have done the opposite of this command so many times. We repent Lord of the mess we have made. Show us Lord the path we would take to love our brother and our sister. We pray this in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Love and Sacrifice

In the many definitions of love, you rarely hear sacrifice. It is usually compassion for another, embracing and feeling close. But sacrifice is as natural as breathing when it comes to love. In the famous story, The Gift of the Magi, the young couple each sacrifices what is most precious to them to give good gifts to each other. It is a precious story in that it is a fitting parable for love. Love gives with little thought for itself. It is the new mother who gets up in the wee hours to care for a crying child. It is the father who sacrifices time with his family and those precious first moments so that he can provide for their needs in work. While love takes on many forms, one which we easily recognize is sacrifice.

So it is with our Christian family. Today is a test of your love. Will you sacrifice your time, energy, even comfort to express your love for the brethren by going to church this morning? Jesus came and died for you. That was a tremendous and powerful sacrifice. Men and women died for your right to worship freely in this nation. No one is stopping you from going to a church of your choosing. It may involve some sacrifice, but many have been given for you. You can give this much.

Love is expressed through sacrifice. Our Lord showed us this. We can do this for each other. God bless you today.