Tag Archives: love

Difficult people

Jesus taught that how we handle difficult people contributes either toward our lives collapsing or remaining firm. If we have sung the childhood song about the wise man who built his house upon a rock, then we realize just how serious Jesus is in the Sermon on the Mount.

What might not immediately come to mind are the many types of troublesome people Jesus described in that lesson. Jesus runs through a familiar list of faces. Continue reading Difficult people

Holding the world together

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by Michael E. Brooks

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1-3 NKJV).

On a bill-board just outside the international airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh is the following proud boast: “We hold the world together because we care.” The company making this claim is a manufacturer of zippers.

On first reading this I chuckled and applauded the company’s clever allusion to the nature of its product. Zippers are indeed used worldwide to hold things together. Further reflection however caused me some serious points of contention.

First, I question any commercial company’s claim to be doing business because they are so concerned about their customers’ well-being. For-profit corporations are in business for profit. They want to and must make money and that need / desire dominates virtually all decisions and activities. That is just the nature of the enterprise. Yes, they may be compassionate and show concern for the environment, humanity or other entities, but they are in the business of making money.

More importantly however, zippers don’t really hold the world together. I know the company was being cute and not seriously making that bold of a claim. However, it is easy for any person or organization to develop a magnified sense of their own worth. A company can grow large enough, and its products be popular enough, that it feels a sense of entitlement and importance far out of proportion to reality.

It is not an accident that the first requirement to a real personal relationship with God is humility. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). Whereas the world wants to exalt self and claim great importance, people of faith recognize that only God is great. We are his servants. Jesus taught, “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do'” (Luke 17:10).

Hebrews 1 makes a legitimate claim about holding the world together. Jesus, the Son of God, created all things and upholds them by the word of his power. And he really does hold it together because he cares. “For God so loved the world…” (John 3:16) explains all of his gracious gifts including but not limited to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

The most powerful and useful fastener ever developed is not a button, zipper, snap, or hook. It is love. The love of God sustains the created universe. Our love for him and for one another builds relationships, empowers families, and provides motivation for all of our productive activities.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

Zagura, Morocco (2006)

Have Christians found an acceptable racism?

You take a racial or ethnic group that you don’t like and find the worst behavior among them, extrapolating that to the entire group. Holding each person responsible for that behavior, you inwardly feel superior to them.

Surely any honest Christian would agree that these attitudes are unacceptable in the eyes of God. Continue reading Have Christians found an acceptable racism?

Make Jesus your life

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by Paula Harrington

I was on a church bus squeezed between two 2nd graders recently when one began showing me the sword he had made out of a large sheet of paper. Out of excitement, he began to stutter and I tried to hide my smile when he blurted, “Paper folding is my life!” My reply was cut short by the child sitting on the other side of me. With a motherly tone, she scolded, “Don’t say that! That’s not your life. Make church your life. Church is my life.”

Her response, even as sweet as it was, bothered me. Now, before you jump to any conclusions let me make myself clear. I love the church. I’ve written article after article on how the church has shaped me and, in some instances, even saved me. I know and respect her as the bride of Christ but when this statement was made, a thought came to mind.

A few weeks ago, this same little girl came to me after school one day very upset. A classmate had tripped her on the playground and knocked her down. I’ll never forget how through tears she stated, “And she goes to church!”

While sitting on the bus the other night, I reminded that precious girl of the incident on the playground and then suggested she make Jesus her life. Jesus won’t hurt her, trip her, or knock her down. He won’t disappoint or depress. I can’t promise her that others will handle her heart with such tender care.

As the bus bounced down the road, I thought about my own childhood. We were heavily affiliated with church but not so much with Christ. I thought about raising my own children and the difficulties of raising children in this day and age. And then, I pondered whether we could be losing our children to the world because for too long, we have been taking them to church instead of taking them to Christ?

Have we taught them that God doesn’t want rituals or traditions? He wants righteousness and truth.

Have we stressed that he doesn’t want our best clothes? He wants our best actions and reactions.

Have we preached that Christianity isn’t about attendance? It’s a complete life change where Christ calls the shots in our lives. Please don’t misunderstand me; church will be a huge part of that, but when we make it the main thing, we fail our children and miss our mission.

I pray that as we raise and influence our kids we will become radical in our desire to teach them about him. I hope that in a dark and broken world, we will not hesitate to take Jesus out of the building and into the brokenness.

It’s time to make Jesus our life and when we do, our young people will notice.

Why are Christians not more excited?

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by Richard Mansel

We cannot answer that question about each saint, but we can address some challenging ideas that are of great importance to the Lord’s Church. In the meantime, maybe we can ignite our own passion for the Lord.

It is easy to look around and think that the Church is dead because we’ve grown accustomed to showy, physical, emotional religion. However, we must dig deeper.

“The Pilgrim’s Regress” is C.S. Lewis’ allegorical novel recounting his conversion. His hero, John, meets many philosophical ideas designed to discourage his search for the Island, which represents heaven.

John finds a hermit who helps him discover the right path to the island. John asks why he can’t find any further craving for the island. He asked the hermit, “Why should it wear out?”

The hermit says, “Have you not heard men say that it is like human love?”

John wonders aloud, “What has that to do with it?”

The hermit’s reply is important.

“You wouldn’t ask that if you had been married. Do you not know the way it is with love? First comes delight, then pain, then fruit and then there is joy of the fruit but that is different again from the first delight. And mortal lovers must not try to remain at the first step. For lasting passion is the dream of a harlot and from it we wake in despair. He must not try to keep the raptures. They have done their work. Manna kept is worms.”

When we begin dating someone and fall in love, we are hopelessly giddy. We speak of our new love as often as we breathe. When we get married and embark on our honeymoon, that euphoria is intensified

After a decade of marriage, we’re no longer on a high, but our love for our spouse is much deeper. No one can maintain that emotional high forever. At some point, it will be replaced with a more mature perspective.

Seasoned Christians should not be expected to be perpetually giddy. They’ve settled into their spiritual lives like comfortable clothes. Visible excitement alone is an unwise barometer of love and devotion.

When we are immersed into Christ (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27; Acts 2:47), we must undergo a transformation (Romans 12:1-2). The process is not instantaneous because we must learn a new way of life.

We walk by the calling of Christ (Ephesians 4:1) and immerse ourselves in the Word (Psalm 119:105). If we’ll do that, and daily engage the Lord in prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17), we should be on the right path regardless of whether we are doing somersaults or not.

We must ask ourselves:

First, are we constantly growing as a Christian? Are we putting in the work necessary to mature spiritually?

Second, are we hesitant to have a visible faith because we are afraid of the world? The Lord said that we must not fear the faces of the evil ones (Jeremiah 1:8; Acts 5:29).

Third, are we too comfortable in a sinful world? (Amos 6:1).

Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality. It is the words that speak boldly of your intentions.”

We must pay the price of selflessness and be excited about being a child of God because the world is watching. If we aren’t happy being a Christian, what incentive does the world have to come to Christ?

A love that isn't human

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by Richard Mansel

We’re in love with love. Yet, English common usage renders it meaningless. Love, lust, fondness and hunger are jumbled together. In Christ we trade a fleshly love for one not of human origin.

Human love is measured, tentative, fickle and selfish while God offers a pure, perfect, selfless, sacrificial love that satisfies completely.

The Greeks have several words for love, but the greatest is agape. “As used by God, it expresses the deep & constant love of a perfect Being towards unworthy objects” [W.E. Vine].

With God, love cannot be separated from grace and mercy. He offers something we do not deserve and most often do not appreciate. His love is giving (John 3:16), while our love is receiving.

Humans end relationships if they do not meet their needs while Christ says, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). True love focuses on the receiver (1 Corinthians 13:4-7), while human love demands and denounces.

When we enter Christ through immersion (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27), we enter Christ’s body (Ephesians 1:22-23) and household (Ephesians 2:19). In his world and realm, hate doesn’t exist (1 John 4:20-21). Love is the only option.

We live in Christ and agape love is demanded of each of us without reservation (1 John 4:7-11,16-19). We love Christ because of his sacrifice and blessings and that gratitude propels us to accept his Word.

Obedience isn’t a question in agape love (John 13:34; 15:10). Every human conflict occurs because we’ve allowed fleshly ways to infiltrate the Kingdom. With God’s love, they will not exist because the kingdom was not made for them (1 John 1:5).

We must study and assimilate God’s teachings on love into our lives, because it is the only avenue to peace.

The condescending love of God

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by J. Randal Matheny, editor

In the practical and ethical section of his letter to the Romans, Paul lists the many marks of the true Christian. He starts with this phrase, “Love must be without hypocrisy” (Romans 12:9, NET). All the rest, as they say, is commentary.

At one point he writes, “do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Do not be conceited” (Romans 12:16b). Love means leaving self to the side and dropping one’s own interests and desires, in order to serve one’s neighbor.

Human ambition wants to scale the ladder of importance in the opinion of peers. Divine ambition descends to another’s need, ignoring and discounting exaltation.

“And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand” (1 Peter 5:5b-6).

Christ’s example outshines all the others. He gave up the heavenly glories in order to become human and bring salvation to humanity. His action was necessary to demonstrate God’s love.

“By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him” (1 John 4:9).

“Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father” (John 1:14).

John affirms that God’s glory is seen in him who left heaven and set up his tent –- his life -– as the meeting point between us and God.

Man’s invented gods, besides being stronger and greater than he, were remote and distant, often disinterested. In Sophocles’ “Oedipus at Colonus,” the king says that “the gods are slow, though they are sure,in visitation, when men scorn godliness, and turn to frenzy” (BGB 5:128).

The chorus in “Helen,” by Euripides, asks, “What mortal claims, by searching to the utmost limit, to have found out the nature of God…?” (BGB 5:308).

The true God, however, has always been near those who seek him. This was his trademark among Israel. In Leviticus, he appealed to Israel to be holy so that he could remain among them.

“I will walk among you, and I will be your God and you will be my people” (Leviticus 26:12).

But for exceptional moments, God did not take a human form in the Old Testament. Some scholars believe Jesus Christ appeared in temporary human form as the angel of the Lord, since he receives honor from men. Whether by Christ or the Father, they were brief appearances to individuals for specific purposes.

In Euripedes’ “The Bacchantes,” Dionysus opens by saying, “I have put off the god and taken human shape” (BGB 5:340). George Theodoridis translates it as, “Yes, I have taken the guise of a common man, me the god, Dionysos.” And a guise it is, since he uses his divine powers to take revenge on his family.

The true God became man, not as a temporary disguise to get the best of his creation, but to share his condition and rescue him from slighting his Maker.

In Philippians 2, Paul uses Christ’s incarnation (his coming to earth in human form) as an example of humility among Christians.

“Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well” (Philippians 2: 3-4).

To give extra punch to the commandment, he says,

“You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8).

I am a Christian because God came down in human form. He made himself a man in every way, in order to show his love. Such a love as this deserves our purest and complete devotion.

Westboro Baptist: Learning from a bad example

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by Richard Mansel

A soldier fighting terrorism dies a hero and an extremist group pickets his funeral to protest homosexuality.

What does his death have to do with homosexuality? Nothing at all, unless we’ve allowed hate to corrode our minds and hearts and make us irrational.

Westboro Baptist, a hate group from Kansas, protests military funerals to force the government to give up their support of homosexuality.

Ironically, Westboro’s delusional behavior brings sympathy for the sin they hate. In other words, Westboro Baptist is promoting homosexuality as much as anyone in America.

As New Testament Christians (Acts 2:38-47; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4), we combine the lessons learned from the world with a voracious study of Scripture and we become wiser in our walk for Christ.

We become like Westboro when we lose our perspective on reality. Homosexuality, child porn, abortion and pedophilia are repulsive sins but nothing should lead us to lose our spiritual focus (Romans 12:1-2).

We must never allow hatred for sin to open a door for Satan (1 Peter 5:8). The devil feeds that hate like a fire and we go from a Christian sharing what the Bible teaches to Eric Rudolph blowing up an abortion clinic.

Hate steals our soul and destroys everything in its path. It doesn’t care about anyone.

We must never forget that every sinner has a soul (Genesis 1:27; John 3:16) and we cannot close the door to them. We fight against God when we turn away souls.

Homosexuality is a sin (Romans 1:26-27), but hating homosexuals will condemn us to hell. God hates sin but he loves all sinners and wants them to be saved (2 Peter 3:9; 1 John 4).

We must never allow extremism to steal God from our hearts. The price is too high.

Oneness of humanity

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by John E. Werhan

From the garden of Eden, God has desired all humanity to be unified. He made Adam and Eve to live and take care of the garden provided for their substance (Genesis 1-2).

The problem of division arose when Satan lead Adam and Eve to sin against God (Genesis 3). Because of Satan, the unity of humanity was jeopardized.

This became evident with the division between Cain and Abel, which resulted in the first murder. Even today God desires humanity be unified but Satan’s influence is evident in the division that plagues our society.

Satan is active today in the division of humanity. Peter warned,

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Paul writing to the Galatian Christians noted the actions that promote such division, “…enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying…” (Galatians 5:20-21).

These eight actions are truly manifest in those who are currently promoting division in our own society. It seems that they either do not know or do not understand the outcome of their actions. Paul makes it clear in the Galatian letter,

“…that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:21)

God does not want division of humanity. This is why He sent His only Son to die for the sins of humanity. When one puts aside the actions of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) division will become unity. Paul wrote concerning the true Christian,

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:26-29).

If there is to be peace in our society, all humanity must turn from living for Satan to living for God. As long as individuals live for Satan and manifest the deeds of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21), we will have the destructive division that is plaguing out society.

Where has “agape” (Love) [the desire for the very best for others] gone? If “agape” (Love) was manifest by everyone in our society, we would not have all the troubles we are currently having.

May we all seek the true peace that comes from truly loving one another as taught in God’s inspired word.

Why affection is so important to marriage

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by Richard Mansel, manaaging editor

Thomas and Maggie sat in marriage counseling. Maggie dabbed at her swollen eyes as she cried about Thomas’ refusal to be affectionate to his wife of 32 years.

The counselor asked Thomas why he was cold towards her.

“That’s silly stuff. I won’t do it.”

“Maggie, did Thomas kiss you when you were dating?”

“All the time! I had to fight him off. Thomas even kissed me on our first date.”

“Did he hold your hand?”

Maggie smiled. “Absolutely! He was so romantic, bringing me flowers and candy.”

“Thomas, what changed?”

Thomas frowned. “Isn’t it obvious? I was a kid then. Look at me now!”

“Thomas, do you still love her?”

“Yeah.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“This is stupid. I’m leaving.”

Thomas slammed the door and Maggie was crushed.

A year later, the counselor saw Thomas in the park holding hands and kissing a new woman. Clearly, he had forgotten he was too old for affection.

A marriage without affection is like being frozen. We must be connected intimately with our spouse. Skin hunger is a very real thing.

Living without that connectivity leaves us empty. We cannot be one flesh with another person without affection. Being married roommates is desperately sad.

God commands us to be intimate. We are to be one in every way with our spouse (Genesis 2:18-25). Solomon begins his ode to passion in marriage, with the Shulamite woman saying, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” (Song of Solomon 1:2).

We must never let the passion die in our marriage. Marital love cannot breathe without affection. Our bodies are not ours and we must be fully engaged with our partner (1 Corinthians 7:1-5).

Start today with a touch, a hug and a kiss and rediscover what you have lost!