The Greatest of These…

I’ve taken a few weeks to write about the two “theological virtues” of faith and hope, but now I want to take some time to focus on love.  If you were ask Jesus or the New Testament authors what the most important characteristic of a disciple is, I’m pretty confident that love would be the answer:

IMG_0599“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” Matthew 5:43-44

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

“…whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” Romans 13:9-10

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” 1 John 4:7-8

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More than Wishful Thinking

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Photo Credit: pol sifter via Compfight cc

Hope is a powerful word. When you hear stories of people who made it through terrible trials, you often hear them say that they had hope or that they tried to not lose hope. It’s one of the words that helped propel President Obama to win his election. It’s also a very important word in the pages of scripture. It is a word that is supposed to describe God’s people, but what is it?

Much like faith, we use the word hope frequently and to some extent have missed the deeper meaning of the word. Especially in the case of hope, we often tend to water down the word so that when we see it in scripture it doesn’t have the power that it ought to have. If you’re like me most of the time, most of the time that you hear the word hope it’s wishful thinking, something that you would like to come to pass but it may not happen. Hope in scripture has a different meaning. It’s not wishful thinking. It’s confidence. Continue reading

Cultivating a life of Faith

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Photo Credit: Zaprittsky via Compfight cc

There’s a scene in the movie Princess Bride where Inigo Montoya, Vizzini, and Fezzik are looking out over a cliff as the masked man dangles from the rock face even though they just cut the rope that he was climbing. Vizzini says, “He didn’t fall? Inconceivable!” To which Inigo replies, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.” That’s the way I feel sometimes about the way that we use faith.

Faith is considered one of the three theological virtues along with Hope and Love. Of the three, however, I think faith may be the one that is the fuzziest. I think it’s the one we use the most and define about the least. Many people will say that they have faith, meaning that they believe in God or that they hold to a particular “Faith” like Christianity or Judaism. We are told to have faith or encouraged to come to faith in Jesus, but what does that really mean? Continue reading

Change of Actions or Change of Heart

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Photo Credit: Lawrence OP via Compfight cc

I don’t know if it’s an epidemic in the American church. I don’t know if it has to do with our culture, but I do know that there is something that a lot of us struggle with, including myself, when it comes to living as a follower of Christ. We wrestle with the thought that we’re just not doing enough or that we’re just not good enough. We’re trying really hard and we could just do better then we’d be better Christians. The fact of the matter is, however, that our live of following Christ is not primarily about doing good things, it’s about being formed into a good person. Continue reading

You don’t have to be afraid of discipleship

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Photo Credit: mharrsch via Compfight cc

Words can be very intimidating, especially if you don’t know what they mean. You may have experienced this when going to the doctor. A while ago, our daughter was sick and we took her to the pediatrician. When the doctor examined her, she told us that she had a virus and then gave us the name of that virus. For a split second, this this is scary, that is until she said that by the end of the week she’d be over it and she’d just have a sore throat.

Sometimes being a Christian can be the same way. People may use unfamiliar words to talk about being a Christian that if left undefined can seem intimidating or even scary. Disciple and discipleship fall under that category. They’re simply not words that we use on a regular basis outside of church and considering that the meaning of disciple in the Bible is somewhat rooted in what it meant to be a disciple of a teacher in the 1st century, it can be even harder for us to grasp. Continue reading

On Marriage, Faith, & Discipleship

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Photo Credit: justindc via Compfight cc

If you are on social media at all, you have witnessed the explosion of posts that followed the SCOTUS ruling on Same-Sex marriage. Many words, both loving and hateful, have been posted, shared, and tweeted about what people think about marriage. When I read the posts from my brothers and sisters in Christ, I think that often they saying more about their faith and view of discipleship than their view of marriage.

Faith

In Seminary, the primary focus of my thesis was Faith and the work of James Fowler. Fowler created a faith development theory and at the heart of that theory is a very helpful way of understanding faith. Faith is ultimately about trust and whatever you find at the center of that trust becomes the foundation of your worldview. If God is at the center of your faith, then God is the foundation on which you build your worldview. If you, money, power, sex, or anything else is at the center of your faith, then that is what your world is built around. To have faith means to order your world and life around that person. Continue reading

How would Jesus use His Money?

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Photo Credit: tehusagent via Compfight cc

Of all the stories that Jesus told, the Parable of the Shrewd Manager in Luke 16 is probably the most difficult one to understand. Most of the others are somewhat straight forward. This one, however, is tough because Jesus seems to be siding with the bad guy. He picks the guy who does wrong and is dismissed by his employer. The point of the story, however, isn’t that the manager was bad, it was how he used his master’s money to make sure he still had friends after he was let go. Jesus says that the lesson in the story is to, “Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.” [1] Continue reading

A Culture in Need of Forgiveness

I believe that as a culture we’ve entered into dangerous territory. If you don’t believe just watch the news. Whenever something bad is done by someone, see how people react. Most of the time now, the reaction is the same. People want swift justice and without forgiveness. What we have seen in South Carolina is exception to the rule. The victims chose to forgive Dylann Roof. Their actions, however, are rare. Typically see the opposite reaction.

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Photo Credit: ivoras via Compfight cc

A little while ago, the news broke that a college fraternity was caught on a video singing a song with racist lyrics. This was discovered because video showed up on the internet. Whatever station I was watching was interviewing students on campus. They asked an African American student a very important question and his answer showed that we have crossed a line.

The reporter asked him if he would forgive the students involved if they asked. His answer was, “No.” Continue reading

There aren’t Life Hacks for following Jesus

This is actually a useful "lifehack."  Photo Credit: drbakker via Compfight cc
A helpful “lifehack”
Photo Credit: drbakker via Compfight cc

I grew up in the 90’s so whenever I hear the terms hack, hacker, or hacking, I immediately think of someone typing really fast on a computer trying to break through some sort of firewall. The term “hacking” however has evolved over the past decade and now share their latest “life hack” on Facebook. If you’re not familiar with the term “Life hacking” it “refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life.” [1] There’s even a website called Lifehacker.com. Now to be honest, there are a lot of neat tips and tricks out there for making life easier, but when it comes to following Jesus there aren’t any life hacks. Continue reading

Disciple, Know Thyself

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Photo Credit: graceinhim via Compfight cc

This last weekend I had the opportunity to preach alongside our executive pastor at Westbrook (you can listen to the sermon here). We are in the middle of the Freeway series from People of the Second Chance, and Rob and I preached on taking the step of discovery. As we shared in our message, the point of discovery is facing our past in order to move forward.

For many of us, this is probably counterintuitive to what we have been taught and believe about becoming a Christian. We are “new creations” in Christ! Our former way of life is in the past. In one sense this is true. You have been freed from the power of sin and from what you were slave to in the past, but now you are also called to keep in step with the spirit. New life in Christ means that we have to learn to walk in the ways of Jesus through the Holy Spirit and not continue to walk in the ways of our culture or family. If you have listened to or watched Peter Scazzero, author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, you’ve probably heard him say, “Jesus may be in your heart, but grandpa is in your bones.” Continue reading