True love doesn’t wait

Back when I was a teenager, the True Love Waits movement took youth groups by storm. All over North America, teens were filling churches, halls, and stadiums making a commitment to stay pure (virgins—gasp!) until marriage. I have no issue at all with saving oneself for marriage. I myself have made the commitment—as countercultural and archaic as the idea may be. What I do have a bit of an issue with is the title given to the movement. It would imply that,you must wait in order to truly love someone. Nothing could be further from the truth!

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Luke 10:25-28 (NIV)

Who is the neighbour in this situation? The original text refers to anyone who is nearby, not just those who live within physical proximity. In this case, anyone and everyone you come into contact with on a daily basis can, and should, be considered your neighbour. J.A. Findlay said that the question is not “Who is my neighbor?” but “To whom can I show myself a neighbor?”

But before we can love our neighbour, we must first love God.

No one will ever love God and his neighbour with any measure of pure, spiritual love, who is not made a partaker of converting grace.

Matthew Henry

It is impossible to truly love anyone without first loving God and allowing our hearts to be changed by Him.

What then does true love look like?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

Jesus followed up is explanation to the expert in the law with the parable of the good Samaritan. In this case, his neighbour was his enemy. But that didn’t stop the Samaritan from showing love. There was nothing in it for him, and that is the foundation of true love. As soon as we make the offer of love expecting something in return, it is no longer true.

True love, the godly kind of love, the love that is patient and kind, does not wait. It should not wait. It should readily spring forth from a heart that is overflowing with love for and from God. The act of loving one another is not something for which we need a specific instruction from the Lord. It is something we’ve already been commanded to do. So don’t wait. Love. Love truly.

Read: Judges 18-19, Luke 10:25-42 

Tongues of fire

John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Luke 3:16-17 (NIV)

Water cleans.

John’s baptism was and still is symbolic of a spiritual cleansing, but it could never be anything more. We use water baptism as an outward symbol of an inner change. Our minds and our souls (mind, will, and emotions) must be engaged when we make the choice to be baptised in water. It is a sign of commitment to Christ.

Fire purifies.

It is only the baptism of the Holy Spirit that brings about true purification. All three parts of our being—body, soul, and spirit—must be engaged to receive this baptism. It is a sign of reliance on Christ.

Anyone can be baptised in water. Some experience great change and profess to feel something more than wet when they resurface. To some, it is merely a public declaration of their commitment to Jesus.

Anyone can be baptised in the Holy Spirit, but not everyone will display the evidence of it—tongues.

They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 2:3-4 (NIV)

Holy Spirit baptism connects us to the Father in a way that nothing else can. The fire of the Spirit, the one John spoke of in the Gospel of Luke, cleanses us from within. If we allow it, it will burn away the impurities from our lives. But the key is submission and complete reliance. So long as we fight for control, we will never allow the Spirit to work in us.

There are those who would seek to tame and control the power of the Holy Spirit, but it is not ours to control. Rather, we must give ourselves over to His control. As contradictory as it may seem, there is no greater freedom to be found than when we give over control of our lives to the Spirit of God. It is only then that we have an even greater bond with the Father and an ability to pray His perfect will.

Neither water baptism nor baptism in the Holy Spirit are required of us to gain entrance into Heaven. But if God has provided for us a way to be even closer to Him, why would we not jump at the opportunity?

Read: Joshua 9-10, Luke 3

16x

Read: Leviticus 18-19, Matthew 27:32-66

Some days, I have the memory of an elephant. I remember minute details about things that happened over a decade ago that never really mattered, even while they were happening. Other days, my memory has the lifespan of a gnat. I think that, for the most part, the Israelites fell into this latter category.

Through much of the Pentateuch, Israel gets reminder after reminder. Sometimes I read a passage and have to go look back because I am positive I’ve read it already. Today is no different.

Leviticus 19:2

After this verse, the words the Lord your God are repeated fifteen more times within the chapter. Sixteen times within thirty-seven verses, Israel is reminded that the Lord is their God. If repeating something three times is important, how important is sixteen?

The number sixteen in the Bible is often associate with love. In the Old Testament, sixteen of the various names and titles for God specifically signify His constant, never-ending love for the children of Israel. In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul lists sixteen distinct qualities of love.

When questioned about the most important commandment, Jesus wraps it all up.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Mark 12:30 (NIV)

I find it interesting that, for as many qualities as Paul uses to describe love, God reminds His people that He is their Lord. Far more than God wanted Israel to follow a strict set of rules, He wanted them to love Him. From a pure love, obedience flows. God wants the very same for us.

Even as I write this study, I wonder for myself how much would change in my life if I were to intentionally remind myself daily of God’s lordship in my life. The Lord is my God. He is my Lord. I believe that this is what God was doing with Israel. He was working to renew their minds to His way of thinking.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2 (NIV)

Our love for God should be, like Jesus stated, with our whole being. But it all starts in our spirit, followed by our mind. If the mind does not conform to the spirit, our strength cannot follow suit. Our spirits know and love God, but it is the daily reminder of His lordship in our lives that will cause everything else to conform.

So remind yourself that God is your God. He is your Lord. Do it sixteen times if you have to.

Isolate

Read: Leviticus 13, Matthew 26:20-54

Leviticus 13 is probably one of the most disgusting chapters in the Bible. I don’t mean that in a Hey man, that was totally disgusting! (which really means cool) kind of way. I mean it’s gross. It’s an entire chapter on rashes, boils, pus, and other infections that I’d rather not read about in such detail. But it’s important.

In a practical sense, removing from the camp those with infections was helpful to the entire nation. Left to fester, a person could end up infecting a high percentage of the population over a period of time.

In a spiritual sense, we can take away a few things. If we take the concept of an infection and apply it to our spiritual lives, those infections become ideas. Some ideas are good and, like a nasty rash, some are bad and can spread in a hurry. So what can we do?

  1. Identify. Is my perceived issue really an issue at all? Are the ideas rolling around in my head just ideas or are they more? Do they have the potential to create bigger issues down the road if left unchecked? If you’re not sure about some thoughts or ideas you’ve been entertaining, check with the Word of God. 2 Corinthians 10:5 says that we demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. Once you’ve identified whether a thought is obedient to Christ or not, we can move on.
  2. Incubate. Some ideas never go beyond an initial thought. They come and go. Others may need more time to fully form so that they can be weighed against the Bible. Leviticus describes some skin rashes that either healed over a period of seven days or began to fester and spread. Some thoughts will be brought into line simply by renewing our minds while others may start to get out of control if not reined in.
  3. Isolate. If a thought or idea that you’ve been entertaining proves to be set against the knowledge of God, it’s time to isolate. When a person was found to have an infectious skin disease, they were isolated until they were healed and could once again be made ceremonially clean. If the infection persisted, these people were forced to live outside the camp to prevent the infection from spreading to others. If you find your thoughts leading you astray, isolate them. Take them captive. Don’t entertain them. Don’t spread them.

Leviticus 13:46

Ideas, when they become words, are like an infection. Once they’re out there, it’s pretty difficult to take them back without a great deal of effort and energy. By dealing with issues before they ever get to the contagious stage, we could solve a lot of issues in the church. Our standard always has been and should be the Word of God. If what we think or say is not for God, it is against Him. And it is up to us to keep ourselves and each other in line—even if it means taking the time to correct our thought patterns. Better to live in isolation for while than to have to live outside the camp and fellowship of other believers.

Difficult? Maybe. But we have the mind of Christ according to 1 Corinthians 2:16.

Completely different

If I asked you to picture God, what would He look like? Maybe a decrepit old man with a long white beard and glowing white robes? In your mind, He probably looks pretty human and more than likely not in the prime of his life.

“My thoughts are completely different than yours,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)

When we try to picture God with our natural human minds. we are bound to fail. Miserably. We cannot even begin to comprehend what God may look like because our brains are not wired to do so. So why do we even bother trying? Why must we put a natural face and physique on a supernatural God?

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.

Romans 12:2a (NLT)

It seems like I go back to this verse every other day. But it’s applicable every day. So long as our view of God is bound by our natural thinking, so we will be bound to natural results. But as we allow God to transform us, we will be changed to His way of thinking—which is completely different than ours. It may not make sense to us. It probably won’t. But once we leave our natural thinking behind and conform our thoughts to God’s thoughts, we will start getting supernatural results.

When God begins to change your way of thinking, don’t try to rationalise it. Don’t try to make sense of it with your natural mind. Because God’s thoughts are completely different than yours. Don’t expect the supernatural to make sense in the natural. I’ts not supposed to. That’s why God is God and you are not.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 53-55, 1 Thessalonians 2

A word of encouragement

Who doesn’t need or want a little encouragement every once in a while (or all the time)? We feel good when someone gives us a pat on the back, tells us we’re doing a good job, or sends a text just to say they’re thinking about us. But what about those days when those things don’t happen? What about the days when we could really use that encouraging word and it doesn’t come? What then?

It sure would be nice if our frame of mind wasn’t so dependant on outside reassurance.

I will praise the Lord at all times.
I will constantly speak his praises.
I will boast only in the Lord;
let all who are discouraged take heart.
Come, let us tell of the Lord’s greatness;
let us exalt his name together.

Psalm 34:1-3 (NLT)

It’s interesting that, in all these lines about praising God, David inserts something about the discouraged. He saw a relationship between praising God and a happy heart.

What if, when we’re feeling a little down and tend to focus more inwardly, we turned it around? What if we took the focus completely off of ourselves? Think about this, when you’re worshipping God, praising Him, speaking about His greatness, what’s your mental state like? Do you feel burdened, in need of a pick-me-up? No. It’s pretty difficult to stay down when you’re lifting God up.

When we turn our focus on to God and His greatness, first of all, our troubles become very small. Second, we allow our spirits to commune with His Spirit—our helper and comforter. Our affirmation doesn’t need to come from outside sources—it shouldn’t come from outside sources. We have the ability to lift ourselves out of the gloom and into the glorious light of God.

How can we be anything but encouraged when we shift our focus from our inward troubles and outwardly praise the Lord, speak His praises, boast in Him, tell of His greatness, and exalt His name?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 34-35, Acts 22

Confidence

Let’s keep going with some word study. Confidence is a word we use with a certain amount of regularity, but do we use it with it’s full meaning behind it?

CON’FIDENCE, noun. A trusting, or reliance; an assurance of mind or firm belief in the integrity, stability or veracity of another, or in the truth and reality of a fact.

In how many situations do you have an assurance of mind? How often does that apply to the stability of another? How often does this really apply to you and your confidence in your salvation?

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

Hebrews 10:35 (ESV)

This confidence that is being referred to is in the promise of the covenant Jesus made for and with us. It is complete trust that, in any and every situation, our covenant with Jesus stands firm and that we will receive what has been promised to us. But it may not be easy.

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

Hebrews 10:36 (ESV)

Be encouraged, though.

But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.

Hebrews 10:39 (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 7-9, Hebrews 10:24-39