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 

Grip

Read: Numbers 28-29, Mark 9:1-29

Once upon a time, I wasn’t a believer. You weren’t a believer. And, sometimes, I’m still not a believer. Neither are you. Very few people in this world can claim to go through life with complete and unwavering faith. I am not one of those people. Odds are that you aren’t either. But that’s not the end of the world. Actually, the sooner we all come to that realisation, the sooner we can do something about it.

Mark 9-24.jpg

The man who spoke these words was going through a bit of a tough time.—that’s putting it lightly. For most of his life, his son had been suffering from convulsions caused by an evil spirit. Hearing that Jesus and his disciples were able to cast out demons, the man brought his son to them. Jesus was unavailable at the moment (being deep in conversation with Moses and Elijah) so the disciples gave it a go. They’d been at this for a while now and had experienced great success. But success was not to be found with this case.

Eventually, Jesus returned, rebuked his disciples for their unbelief and told the father that anything was possible if he’d only believe. First he states he believes and then asks Jesus to help his unbelief. Which was it? Did he believe or didn’t he?

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I win him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me he can do nothing.

John 5:5 (NIV)

In John, Jesus had a lengthy discussion about vines and branches. Any branch that doesn’t bear fruit gets cut off and burned up. How does a vine stay connected to the branch? How does a branch bear fruit? How can we keep from getting cut off and tossed into the fire?

Since vines don’t have to devote effort and energy to producing strong stems to hold them upright, they use their energy to grow outward. Vines are among the fastest growing landscape plants.

When it comes to training vines, gardeners often do not realize how important it is to direct growth from the time the vine is planted and throughout its life in the garden.

Dan Gill, Training Garden Vines Right the First Time

I had a Bible school teacher say that faith is our grip on God; grace is His grip on us.

Let’s put all of this information together.

  • I do believe. We have all been given a measure of faith. We’ve been grafted into the vine as branches. Since Jesus is the vine, we gain our strength from him. Our energy doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t be) be spent trying to support ourselves.
  • Help me overcome my unbelief. Just because we’ve been given faith and grafted in doesn’t mean that we immediately become amazing, fruit-bearing vines. It takes work. It takes coaxing. It takes training. God, as the vinedresser, prods us and guides us in the direction He wants us to go. He places us where we can be most fruitful and grow the strongest. Taking our strength from the main vine—Jesus—and holding on to the supports that take us higher, we can grow strong and fruitful.

Faith isn’t a mystical power. Some may say it’s a muscle we have to train. I disagree. I believe that a stronger faith is merely the result of a stronger relationship with the Father. Vines don’t worry about where to grow, they simply flourish where they are placed by the vinedresser. When we know and trust in the one who is training us, faith will come easy.

Let me leave you with a story from Charles Spurgeon.

There was once a good woman who was well known among her circle for her simple faith, and her great calmness in the midst of many trials. Another woman, living at a distance, hearing of her, said, “I must go and see that woman, and learn the secret of her holy, happy life.” She went, and accosting the woman, said, “Are you the woman with the great faith?” “No,” replied she, “I am not the woman with the great faith; but I am the woman with a little faith in the great God.”

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.

Strength in numbers

Read: Exodus 9-10, Matthew 18:1-20

For some Christians, asking them to pray is akin to letting them know that you’ve booked them in for a five hour dentist appointment. When it comes time to commune with our Father and bring our needs as well as thanks to Him, these people are nowhere to be found. Perhaps they don’t like to pray in front of other people. Maybe they feel their prayers are better said in private. It could be that they don’t even like to pray at all (at which point I would begin to question their claim to salvation). No matter what their reason, these people are missing out. And, not only are they missing out on the benefit of corporate prayer, but they are robbing everyone else of their contribution.

Matthew 18:19-20

If one can put a thousand to flight and two can put ten thousand to flight, how much more could three or four or eighty-nine or three thousand accomplish? One person believing that their presence won’t be missed in prayer is sorely mistaken. Biblically speaking, numbers tend to expand exponentially. When you add one, you add nine thousand. So my question to those who withhold their agreement in prayer is this: why would you want to rob your brothers and sisters in Christ of the strength you can add to their prayers?

Everything Jesus taught was for the benefit of believers, to bring them together, to strengthen them. He didn’t give commands to flex his authority, but gave them for the benefit of all. When he told his disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel, it was for the benefit of all. When he commanded them to go heal people and cast out demons, it was for the benefit of all. When he said that it’s a good idea for two or three to stand in agreement together, it is for the benefit of all.

In the book of Acts, the more people that joined the church, the more people were drawn in. Like a magnet pulling in another then another, soon you have a stack of magnets that is far stronger than one or two on their own. The more we, as the active body of Christ, draw close to, work with, and pray in agreement with one another, the stronger we will be.

I believe that the more we can all come in agreement not only in prayer, but as a church body—a family, the greater our results will be. I think we should all be able to agree that our strength is in our numbers.

Stuck in the middle

There are two sides to every coin. Two sides to every story. Two sides of the fence. There are two sides to many things and we use a lot of them as analogies and, more often than not, the truth is somewhere in the middle—neither one side nor the other.

There are some that would say building the Kingdom of God is nothing but hard work. Work. Work. Work. And then more work. Others may say that we just have to wait on God. He’ll to it all for us. Like the coin, the story, and the fence, the truth is stuck somewhere in the middle.

Building the Kingdom of God using brute strength alone will only build something that can crumble. Nothing man makes on his own will ever be eternal.

It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit says the Lord Almighty.

Zechariah 4:6b (NLT)

Yet, we cannot just sit on our rear ends and do nothing, expecting the Holy Spirit to do it all for us.

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.

Zechariah 4:10a (NLT)

God cannot work through us unless there is work to work through. He needs our hands and our feet to accomplish His will on this earth. Sometimes that means getting dirty and maybe even sweaty. But we don’t have to do it all on our own.

And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again.

Philippians 1:6 (NLT)

It is not within God’s nature to start a job and leave it unfinished. If He has called you to a work, He will be with you, helping you, until the work is finished.

What comes from the grace of God, may, in faith, be committed to the grace of God, for he will not forsake the work of his own hands.

Matthew Henry

So, don’t get stuck on one side or the other. Find that middle ground between work and the Spirit. There is no better place to be than stuck in the middle with God.

Daily Bible reading: Zechariah 4-6, Revelation 18

 

Ready and willing

Ready and willing. If you haven’t said that you are, you’d probably like to think you are when it comes to obeying God. Here am I, Lord, send me! We think we really mean it. But most of us probably haven’t taken the time to think through all of the consequences of what it means to be ready and willing.

But as for me, I am filled with power and the Spirit of the Lord. I am filled with justice and might…

Micah 3:8a (NLT)

Filled with power, justice and might! Yes! I want all of those things!

…fearlessly pointing out Israel’s sin and rebellion.

Micah 3:8b (NLT)

Now, wait a minute, I’m not so sure I want to be the one to have to make that point.

The point is this: being ready and willing includes far more than just the good news and the blessings. Micah stood alone in his time. He was just a peasant from a town on the outskirts of the territory. He was a nobody telling the priests and prophets that they were a bunch of lying scoundrels. That’s not a very comfortable conversation to have with anyone. To be ready and willing means to be ready to have the uncomfortable conversations.

And on the other side of the same coin, as ready as we must be to initiate those difficult encounters, we must also be ready and willing to be on the receiving end.

Ready and willing is not a physical place, but a spiritual posture. If we want to proclaim the Good News, we may also have to give a hard word. If we want to be blessed, we must also be able to be a blessing. To be ready and willing means to be prepared for whatever God has for us—the good, the hard, and the uncomfortable.

Those who act honestly, may act boldly. And those who come to hear the word of God, must be willing to be told of their faults, must take it kindly, and be thankful.

Matthew Henry

Like Micah, when our true strength comes from the power of the Holy Spirit within us, we can willingly give and receive the truth no matter what package it comes in.

Daily Bible reading: Micah 1-3, Revelation 10

The beginning and the end

They said,

“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom
and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength
belong to our God forever and forever,
Amen!

Revelation 7:12 (NLT)

This chorus of saints and angels will sing in perpetual praise around the throne of God. Notice the beginning and the end. Amen!

This is the message from the one who is Amen—the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.

Revelation 3:14b (NLT)

The source of all creation, Jesus, is the Amen. He should now and forever be both the beginning and ending of our praise, our worship, our adoration. Through him all things began and he will be there until the end and through eternity. How fitting that the choir of all creation would recognise his place—to confirm, establish, and verify the Truth.

Daily Bible reading: Amos 7-9, Revelation 7