Category Archives: love

The Good of the Church

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.
Psalm 122:9

David sought the good of Jerusalem because within it was the tabernacle, the place which the presence of God Himself inhabited.

We should seek the good of the Church because God Himself inhabits her. We should seek the good of our communities because the Church – God’s people and the very vessel of His presence – resides in them.

God cares about peace and unity within His church and within our cities. He expects from His children reverence for the Church because it is the body and bride of Christ. It is the instrument of His redemption and authority in the world.

The Church should be a source of gladness for us because it is the gathering of His people for His glory.

For the sake of God, we must seek the peace, unity, prosperity of the Church. For the sake of the church, we should seek the peace and prosperity of our community and the world.

Sometimes, we struggle to respect and love the Church. We forget, because of her many shortcomings – and because of our many shortcomings – that she is the instrument of God’s work, power, glory, authority, and redemption in this world. She is the vessel in which His presence resides.

She belongs to Christ and should be loved and respected as His body and bride.

We resent the church when we are hurt by her. We lose hope for her when she or a part of her (especially her human leadership) fails. We separate her completely from the world, though she exists in it for its good.
I should remember, too, that as a member and leader in the Church, I have a need for all her members to seek the peace, unity, and prosperity of the Church.

Let’s pray this way:

God renew my love for the universal Church and for my church, because Your presence resides in her. Give me a love for my community because Your church resides in her. Give me a love for the world because You love the world and placed Your Church in it for its good.

Imagine if there were no resentment, anger, hatred toward the Church in your heart or mine ever again. Because she is the body of Christ, we’d work tirelessly for her good and the good of the communities and the world in which our churches reside.

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The Least of These

“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:40‬ ‭NASB
‬‬

When we believers care for the poor, the sick, the hungry, the thirsty, the prisoner – all those in need – it is as though we are doing these things for Jesus. We show that we are believers, that our faith is real. Those who live this way are true Christ followers. Those who don’t are not.He cares for the needy. He cares about our physical needs. He cares for the physical needs of His creatures because He loves them. He expects us to reflect His character by loving and caring for the physical needs of others as well. These are the works of true faith.

Do you reflect God’s love like this? Do you have time for the needy? Do you want to?

When we serve others, sacrifice for others, love others, we serve and sacrifice for and love Jesus.

We become comfortable and content with our self-centeredness. We so often live lives of isolation that are focused entirely on “me and mine,” but our lives should not be this way. We desperately need to care for the material and physical needs of others as outward evidence of a real faith.

Pray something like this:

God, I know that I need to change. I know that I need to release this self-centeredness and live outside myself. I have told You honestly that I want to be more like Christ. But in this way, honestly, I don’t, and I don’t know how to be different. God, I need You just to give me the desire to care for the needy, for anyone outside my immediate, close circle.

 

Without His grace, this cannot happen in us, but He wants to transform us.

Christ’s True Greatness

But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:25-28

If we seek greatness in the body of Christ, we must be servants just as He was. Though He was and is the Lord of all and could rightfully expect to be served, He came into this world instead to serve His Father and humanity by giving His life to redeem us. Greatness in God’s kingdom is the exact opposite of greatness in this world. He proves His own greatness by making the ultimate sacrifice for our deepest need.

Jesus is humble. He loves us, which He showed by putting our greatest need before His own comfort, before even His own rights. He expects the same, love, humility, service from His children.

Like the sons of Zebedee (v. 20-23), our natural inclination is to put self first. I may not seek a position of power or authority quite like they did, but I still put myself first in many other ways. My mindset must be changed to that of Christ: my purpose – the purpose of all followers of Christ – is to serve, to submit, to love God and others.

We are called to follow the ultimate example: Christ Himself. He committed the ultimate act of service on the cross, thus proving His greatness.

He commands us to serve just as He did, and we to often don’t, putting ourselves first.

When we forget what true greatness is – the greatness Jesus showed us – the result is pride, self-centeredness, clinging to our “rights.”

But we needed to be saved, and Christ committed the ultimate act of service for us to save us. We need to follow His example. We need to count Him and others as more important than ourselves. We need to serve, to submit to, to love God and our brothers and sisters.

Join me in praying that God will take away our pride, that He give us His humility, a heart to serve others and not just please ourselves.

We’re not capable of being completely selfless, of always submitting, of always serving and loving others – or even God Himself. Our nature must be changed. We must be transformed into the image of Christ, and only He can do this in us.

Your life and mine would then be lives of greatness as God defines it, not as man does.

Really Christ’s

For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother. – Matthew 12:50

Whoever is a true follower of Christ, whoever is obedient to the will of God, that person is closer to Jesus than biological or earthly family.

Relationship with Christ is defined by obedience to the will of God the Father, and obedience is the result of heart condition. Obedience is more important to God than heritage. God desires our obedience.

Closeness to Christ requires obedience. Without obedience, we will not be claimed as His. True relationship with Christ, true salvation, is evidenced by obedience to the will of God the Father. If we aren’t obedient to the will of the Father, we’re not really Christ’s.

God wants closeness with us. He wants our obedience, and our obedience is the result of His saving work, of His changing our hearts to want to obey, to want intimacy with Him.

We are not saved by works, but works are evidence of our salvation. When we forget this truth, we treat Jesus like fire insurance. We forget that what He really desires is all of us. If we have given all of ourselves to Him, then we will obey Him.

Deeper Change

He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. – Matthew 10:37-39

The one who loves even that which is most precious – father, mother, son, or daughter – more than one loves Christ, one who loves even one’s own life more than one loves Christ is not worthy of Christ. You will certainly lose your life, but if you lose it for Christ’s sake, you will find true life.

God expects everything from us. He expects us love Him with everything we are. Anything less than this is as though we do not love Him at all. No one and nothing is worthy of greater love than He is. He should be the most important thing in our lives – more significant to us than our very lives.

If we’re honest, we’ll admit that we love many people, many things more than we love Christ. We have not taken up our crosses.

We have to submit all of ourselves to Him – every relationship, every possession, every desire, every thought, every breath. Otherwise, we’re not worthy of Him.

He calls me to love Him with everything, and He is worthy of everything.

We think that we’re okay living a life of mediocre faith, but until we have taken up our crosses and followed Him – walked with Him regardless of the risk – we’re not worthy of Him. We must become like Him, and that should be enough for us (v. 25).

We are not capable of this. We need great grace: His grace.

Many of us, even those of us who have believed for most of our lives, have never been like this, never come close. We want to be, but, oh God, there must be deep change in us. Deeper change than we may even be aware of.

 

Freed from the Darkness

Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,
– Luke 1:68

Bless the Lord! Praise Him because He has come to us and redeemed us, saved us.

God saves. He is merciful. He forgives sins. He guides us into the way of peace. God is faithful to keep his promises. Salvation in Christ comes from God and is the fulfillment of His covenant with Abraham. He, and He only, accomplishes salvation.

We need salvation. We need His mercy and faithfulness and forgiveness. We need His guidance. Before salvation, we sat “in darkness and the shadow of death (v. 79).” Now, He is guiding us on the way of peace.

We should praise Him. Bless Him. He has accomplished salvation. He has kept His promise to Israel and the nations through the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

We, His people, are no longer in darkness, under the oppression of death, because He has been faithful to save us by grace through faith in Christ.

We often do not trust in His faithfulness. We often still live like we’re in darkness. We do not give Him the praise and blessing due Him.

We live in darkness though we have been freed from it by God’s faithfulness, mercy, grace, forgiveness. We need Him to guide us away from the darkness, the oppression of sin and death.

It is by His grace we are forgiven – our sin, our old nature is crucified with Him – and it is by His grace that we are raised with Him new creatures, in His image, free from darkness and the shadow of death.

God, You have already faithfully, mercifully done the work required to free us from darkness and the shadow of death. We don’t want to sit in it anymore. Please change us so that we “might serve [You] without fear, in holiness and righteousness before [You] all [our] days (v. 74-75).”

My Only Possession

Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, That I may tell of all Your works.
– Psalm 73:25-28

There is nothing and no one in heaven or on earth worth desiring but God. He destroys the wicked who are far from Him, but He is a refuge for those who draw close to Him. If our bodies and our hearts fail us, could we say with the psalmist that God is everything and will sustain us? Will we tell of His great works?

When we’re envious of the wicked who do whatever they want seemingly without repercussion, He still forgives us. It’s by His grace the wicked don’t suffer now. One day, they will.

But for His grace given through Christ, we are among the wicked. But because we sought Him (also by His grace) He has forgiven us. He has become our refuge from His own wrath, from the consequences of our own sin.

Do not envy those who are wicked without consequence. You are a sinner as well. God shows each of us grace. One day, all will face the consequence of their wickedness or will find Christ. Either way, God’s wrath and justice are satisfied, and the price for sin is paid. But the latter results in a soul saved.

Our sin deserves His wrath. We should not wonder why the wicked aren’t punished: God is just, but He is also merciful and gracious.

We place value on so many worldly things, but in the end, He is all we have.

When we forget this truth, we become bitter and envious. We become materialistic. We pity ourselves.

We need to focus on God and His kingdom, not the things of this world because those things are temporary. God is eternal, and, in truth, He is all we have.

God, please don’t let our minds be conformed to this world any longer. Renew them, and transform us so that we don’t become envious and bitter. But rather, let us seek refuge in You, our portion, our only possession.