The Importance Of Genuine Love

Loving other people can be hard. I mean have you met people? Try to have relationship with them and you find out they’re flawed, messy, and might hurt you. Sure they can also be encouraging, positive, and fill your life with joy, but they’re not like that all the time.

Wouldn’t it be easier if you could just have a relationship with God and not deal with other people, at least the ones that are hard to love? It seems like a nice idea to some. “Just me and Jesus,” they say and think that’s all they need.

But that’s not how God means for His church to function. He wants an individual relationship with you, yes, but He also wants you to be part of a church that He collectively describes as the body of Christ and the temple of God. And He expects you to love everyone in that church even when it’s hard.

Because God Is Love

If a man says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who doesn’t love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? This commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should also love his brother. (1 John 4:20-21, WEB)

Those of us who claim to love God have to love the people around us as well. If we don’t love others it proves that we don’t really love God. The reason for this statement is clarified earlier in John’s letter:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God. He who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8, WEB)

Being born into God’s family and having a relationship with Him changes us. When we know the God of love, we learn to love as He does. If we can’t or won’t love other people the way God does, then we don’t really understand Him and haven’t really been born of God. Read more

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When God Gives You Something You Can’t Handle

Have you ever heard a Christian say that God won’t give you something you can’t handle? It’s a nice, cozy idea in theory but it quickly clashes with real life.

What about my two Christian friends who committed suicide? Should they have been able to “handle” it according to this reasoning? And what about all the families I know who are reeling in the wake of unanswered prayers for a child who died? Are they being punished because God knows they can “handle” such a tragic trial? Or what about my personal battle with anxiety and depression? Am I failing to “handle it” when I turn to a counselor for help?

While the idea that God won’t give you more than you can handle is taken from a scripture (1 Cor. 10:13), that’s not what that scripture actually says. Church people have twisted this verse into a feel-good platitude when there’s a lot more going on.

A Promise For Help And Protection

When God Gives You Something You Can't Handle | LikeAnAnchor.com
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In this part of 1 Corinthians, Paul is talking about what we can learn from Israel’s history. He talks about how Christ interacted with the ancient Israelites, the ways they displeased and tempted God, and the punishments they received (1 Cor. 10:1-10). Then he writes,

Now all these things happened to them by way of example, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful that he doesn’t fall.

No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Cor. 10:11-14, WEB)

The Greek word translated “temptation” is peirasmos (G3986). It means a trial or “putting to the test” of a person’s character. When used of God, it means proving someone by bringing them “through adversity and affliction in order to encourage and prove their faith and confidence in Him.” When used of the devil, it means he’s soliciting someone to sin for the purpose of making them fall (Zodhiates’ Complete WordStudy Dictionary of the NT).

In context, the verse we’re talking about isn’t a promise that God won’t give you more than you can handle on your own. It’s a promise that He won’t let you be in a situation where your fall into sin becomes inevitable. He never sets us up to fail. Read more

A Time To Move On

Sometimes reminders to grow come as a gentle nudge. Other times they smack you upside the head.

It’s sort of the same way that God sometimes speaks to you in a still small voice and other times He uses a trumpet blast.

This past weekend the Rabbi in my Messianic church gave a message about keeping your eyes on the end goal; on what the “song-writer” of your life has planned for you. The part of this message that really stood out to me is what he said about moving on from grief. He started by reading this verse:

Yahweh said to Samuel, “How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite; for I have provided a king for myself among his sons.” (1 Sam. 16:1, WEB)

Because of Saul’s disobedience and pride, God rejected him and moved on to the next step in His plan. He gave the prophet Samuel time to grieve Saul, since there is “a time to mourn” (Ecc. 3:4), but now God expected him to move on. Similarly, in our lives, there is a season to mourn when something bad happens. However, we’re not meant to stay there.

I was already thinking about my breakup that happened 4 months ago when the rabbi started talking about this subject, and then he specifically used a relationship ending as an example. So when he said, “There are a few people here who really need to hear this message” I felt like I was definitely one of them.

How long will you keep grieving over something that is past and can’t be fixed or recovered? he asked. We need to look to the end, trusting God has better plans and a new season waiting for us. There are times when our situations have to come to a point where things look dead before God can raise up something else that will produce fruit. And all of this ties-in to my own blog post from Saturday, “Are You Growing Or Shrinking?”

I’m starting to feel like God’s trying to get my attention. Read more

Are You Growing Or Shrinking?

A couple weeks ago, a speaker in one of my church groups asked, “Are you using major disruptions in your life to grow or to shrink?”

This question really hit me. As my regular readers know, I’ve had some major disruptions in my life over the past year. They’ve been prompting lots of personal growth, but they also come with the temptation to hide from that growth. There are days when the last thing I want to do is keep going. I want to curl up small in a nest of fluffy blankets and let the whole world go by without noticing me.

One of the main reasons God lets us go through trials is to give us opportunities for growth. In scripture, this is often refereed to as a testing or refining process designed to make us more like God. He doesn’t expect us to fully become like Him in this life. But He does want us to keep growing toward that goal, not shrinking away.

Growth-Ready Mindset

When I say we shouldn’t be “shrinking” I don’t mean that we have to be big, excessively confident, loud, or something of that sort. God can use people like that, sure, but He also uses the quiet, small, “little people.” He works equally well with meek Moses and brash Peter.

God likes working with people who can recognize they’re not complete yet. Everyone must be brought to a point of humility — a place where we know how much we need God — before we can start growing. Read more

Fighting Something You Can’t See

Choosing to follow God means we’re walking in harmony with Him. And that means we’ll be walking out-of-step with this world and with “the god of this world,” as Yahweh’s adversary is called (2 Cor. 4:4). In many ways, our Christian walk is one of warfare and struggle.

One of my ongoing struggles is with anxiety. My mind wants to loop through worst-case scenarios and imagine all the “what if?”s in a given situation. I’m often nervous, jumpy, and preoccupied with what’s going on in my head. My anxieties are something I can’t see, and unless I tell people about them or have a panic attack in public most wouldn’t have a clue how much it impacts my life (they call this “high functioning anxiety”).

Scriptures tell us that as Christians, the battles we face have spiritual components. These sorts of battles are difficult whether they’re visible to other people or not; whether they’re internal or external. But even when we feel like we’re battling something we can see — a nasty coworker, a disease, a failing relationship — Paul reminds us that we “do not wrestle with flesh and blood.” There are spiritual forces behind all the battles we face (Eph. 6:12). And we can’t see the full extent of our battles, or fight them effectively, without God’s help.

The Usual Type of Battle

It’s often a struggle for me to answer the question, “How’ve you been?” or “How was your week?” Unless something electronic breaks or someone I care about is going through something, my weeks would usually look pretty good from the outside. And I don’t want to tell most people that I’ve been struggling all week with something that’s only a problem inside my own head.

There’s a stigma against admitting you’re struggling. You might be seen as a saintly example of endurance if you’re facing a physical trial. But in many churches it’s a different story when you’re battling something mental or emotional. So many people see interior struggles as either a lack of faith or something that you could just “get over” if you prayed about it enough. However, there’s a passage in 2 Corinthians where Paul makes it sound like struggles within ourselves are the kinds of battles Christians usually face.

For though we walk in the flesh, we don’t wage war according to the flesh; for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the throwing down of strongholds, throwing down imaginations and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5, WEB)

Our warfare isn’t primarily a physical battle. It’s a spiritual and internal one that can also spill over into our outer lives. Even when the Adversary uses outside attacks it’s still part of a battle for our minds, hearts and spirits. It’s well past time for Christians to recognize this and start supporting each other through the invisible battles we all face. Read more

Under God’s Authority

I thought last week’s post was going to be my last one on the topic of authority. But we still haven’t really talked about the big reason for Christians to use authority rightly (part one), to respond well to authority in the church (part two), and to respect worldly authorities (part three). We’re to do all this because we’re under God’s authority.

Any time we rebel against or balk at one of of God’s commands (including the ones about respecting positions of authority), we’re questioning God’s authority. We’re rebelling against His right to tell us how we’re supposed to live. And that’s not something people who describe themselves as Christ-followers should be doing. We should be in awe of our God and treat Him with the utmost respect.

His Authority As Lord

Once you acknowledge Yahweh as your God, you should also recognize His rights as creator and ultimate authority in the universe. When we call Jesus Lord, we’re saying He’s our owner, master, and ruler (kurios, G2962). And if we’re going to call ourselves Christians, we need to live as if we really believe this is true.

Woe to the one who strives with his maker, a potsherd among potsherds of earth! Does the clay say to the one who fashions it, ‘What are you making?’ and ‘Your work has no hands’? (Is. 45:9, LEB)

Not only does God have claim on us as our creator, He also claims the rights of a redeemer. You are part of “the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28, KJV).

Or don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:19-20, WEB)

We belong to God and He has absolute authority over every human life, whether we acknowledge His rights or not. And for those of us who do know Yahweh as our God, we need to make sure we respect His authority. Read more