Category: Love (Page 1 of 7)

God is Love

“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

God is love and we are not. We are selfish creatures. We think first and most about ourselves. It’s wired into us to behave like this. We’re human. It’s natural. We’re born this way. Think about it. You never have to teach a young child how to be selfish or greedy or to want his own way.

Our God knows this about us. He knows our tendencies as humans to look out first for our own needs and desires. That’s why God commands us to love.

Our God is not shy about demanding that we love. He’s not subtle, either. Scripture never one time backs down anywhere from the insistence that we love Because it is grounded in the very nature of our God who IS love.

God is love. That means God’s will is love. His character is love. His motivation for every action is love. His very names as he reveals it to us throughout the Bible is abounding love.

To do something other than love is to do something other than God’s will. And against God’s name. To say or do something unloving, to write or forward anything that’s unloving, about anybody in any context in any format, is ungodly.

Because God is love.

Peace,

Allan

Lavish

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” ~1 John 3:1

Our God does not measure his love to us. He doesn’t weigh it on the scales or scoop it out with a spoon. He doesn’t give us just enough of his love to get us by or just as much of his love as we might deserve. He floods us with his love! We have more of his love than we could ever ask for or imagine! That’s the one thing you can ask God to do that’s just impossible – God, will you love me more? Nope. Can’t. Impossible. He lavishes us with his love.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” ~Ephesians 1:7-8

Our Father lavishes us with his grace. We sing about it. God’s amazing grace. God’s matchless grace. God’s grace that reaches even me!

God’s forgiveness is over the top. It’s not that you’re forgiven of some of your sins or you’re forgiven of most of your sins or all the little sins or every sin except that one sin. It’s not that you’re forgiven if you do this one thing or keep these sets of rules or say this particular creed. In Jesus Christ, God’s forgiveness is total and complete and forever! In Jesus, every single one of your sins – all of ’em, name ’em! – are all gone forever. They are removed from you as far as the east is from the west. They are hurled to the bottom of the sea, never to be dredged up again. God doesn’t put your sins up on the top shelf in the corner of a dark closet just so he can pull them out and hold them against you at the worst possible time. God’s forgiveness is lavish and complete.

Lavish love. Limitless grace. Inexhaustible forgiveness. Unmerited favor. Eternal glory. Our God is passionate about you and me. And he holds nothing back.

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I’m not writing anything here today about the Mavericks. I don’t want to jinx it.

Peace,

Allan

Rugged Commitment

My great friend Jim Martin posted this in his weekly email encouragement to a bunch of us ministers who rely on him for regular shots of wisdom and strength. I’m re-posting it here word for word.

I was getting ready to officiate at a wedding in Central Texas. Preparing for this event caused me to think about marriage in general and my own marriage in particular. Beyond this, I had already been thinking about some of the fragile relationships within congregations and the relational challenges we have faced over the last year.

Some of these challenges have resulted in the fragmentation of relationships within congregations. Church members argued about the pandemic, wearing masks, getting vaccinated, the presidential election, racial issues, etc. For many, this has been quite painful.

Yet, as we look to the future of our congregations, it is important that we recommit to one another by loving with a rugged commitment. By “rugged commitment,” I mean a love that is willing to do what is hard and messy. This is a love for another that is much like the steadfast love of the Lord toward his children. This is a love that is willing to go the distance for another.

Can we love each other with a rugged commitment so that we forebear one another in love, even when we strongly disagree?

Can we love each other with a rugged commitment so that we seek to lighten the load of church leaders instead of making life so difficult for them?

Can we love each other with a rugged commitment so that we put our identity in Jesus above any other identity?

This rugged commitment is necessary for a lasting friendship, for a growing marriage, and for any congregation that wishes to stay together, in spite of the pressures that threaten to rip it apart.

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Our outdoor movie night set for tomorrow at Bivins Elementary has been moved because of all the rain – more than five inches in the past seven days and more on the way. Our Children’s Minister described the field at the school today as “swampy.” It looks like a playa lake. The event has been moved now to our west parking lot here at Central. We’re inviting the entire Bivins Elementary community and our whole church family to park on the south side, bring your lawn chairs and blankets, and enjoy Disney’s Moana at 630pm. We’ll be passing out the candy and popcorn and hoping that whatever is forecast for Friday night misses us.

Lesson learned: If we ever want rain in Amarillo, we need only to schedule an outdoor church event.

Peace,

Allan

The Primary Command

Few things are as thrilling in sports as a tied NHL Stanley Cup playoff game in the third period.  Only overtime. And the Stars outlasted the Predators Monday night in an edge-of-your-seat overtime slugfest to advance to the second round. My heart has just now this morning returned to its normal rhythms. Overtime in an NHL playoff game is the only true “sudden death” in sports. And it’s incredible.

One of the great things about a Stars game on TV is the running color commentary provided by Daryl “Razor” Reaugh. Every 90-seconds or so during every single game, Razor says something that makes me giggle. The guy’s a genius. Monday night he referred to the Stars’ six-foot-seven goalie Ben Bishop as the “net-minding mastadon.” After a wild flurry of saves late in the second period, Razor called Bishop a “brilliant rubber regurgitator.” He described a save by Nashville’s goaltender as “a sassy glove grab.” When the game was over and the American Airlines Center crowd was celebrating the series win, Razor reminded all the TV viewers back home that “the singular of confetti is confetto.”

Their second round series against the Blues begins in St. Louis tomorrow night.

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The world expects Christians to show love. That’s why people rip into the Church and rail against us when we don’t show love. That’s why they criticize us.

People don’t cuss at the beach because it’s sandy; it’s supposed to be sandy. We don’t complain when rain is wet; it’s supposed to be wet. we don’t gripe when the wind blows in Amarillo; it’s supposed to blow. That’s what we expect. And the world expects followers of Jesus to love. So, they rightfully call us out when we don’t.

(Sometimes we gripe when the wind blows in Amarillo. Let’s be honest.)

Scripture tells us plainly that, for children of God and disciples of Christ, the primary command is to love. From the Old Testament law and prophets to Jesus and his apostles, loving other people is the primary response and the natural reflection of God’s love that’s been so undeservedly showered on us

According to the Bible, if you’re not a loving person, you don’t know God. If you’re not showing love to others, you haven’t truly received God’s love for yourself.

Nobody in the world will listen to you talk about God if they experience you as an unloving person. You’ve got no credibility. It’s obvious you don’t know who you’re talking about. At Texas Dodge, they don’t let their salespeople drive Fords or Chevys. The president of PETA doesn’t run the membership drive for the NRA. And you’re not going to influence anybody for Christ if you’re not a loving person. You’ll push people away.

The Church is fractured and our witness to the world is compromised because we keep getting this one thing out of order. Instead of loving first, we judge first. We condemn first. We yell first. We whine and complain first. We forward the email first. We insult first, and then love comes somewhere after that. It’s out of order.

We put socioeconomic boundaries first. We put racial differences first. We prioritize parties, platforms, and politicians. We make denominational distinctions primary. We figure out our theology, doctrine, and church structures first, then decide later where, when, and how to show love.

Yes, there are difficult passages in the Bible that must be figured out and there are parts of Scripture about which followers of Jesus can legitimately disagree. But the command to love as the most important command and the one that trumps all the other commands is not one of them.

The apostle Paul tells us that a Christian who doesn’t love is like “a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” Eugene Peterson’s Message translates it “the creaking of a rusty gate.” Someone else might say “fingernails on a chalkboard.” In other words, a Christian or a church like that is irritating. It gets on people’s nerves. It’s outwardly obnoxious.

If love doesn’t come first, if love is not the origin and the energy behind and through what you’re doing, it’s not good. A Christian or a church that prioritizes love over everything else fills the world with the hope and healing and joy of our Lord. Without love, a Christian or a church is a tree that bears no fruit, a cloud that produces no rain. Obnoxious.

This is a critical time in the Church. Theologians, historians, and sociologists have been telling us for four decades that we are going through the greatest transition in the last 500 years of Church history. And what you do matters. It matters to you and your family, it matters to your friends and your city, it matters to this country and to the whole world.

Anger is acceptable now in our culture, but that’s not who you are. Discord and division are society’s tools, but not yours. The culture encourages you to look out for yourself first, but that’s not proper for Christians. Asserting myself, my rights, and my personality is not my priority as a follower of Jesus. We don’t go along with the world on this. We don’t say, “Well, that’s just the way things are.” To somehow justify not loving other people, no matter the reason, is to squash our creativity and insult God’s grace and ignore the command of Jesus.

No person in the world who runs into a Christian should ever have to wonder if that Christian is a safe person who will love them. No server at a restaurant, no teller at a bank, no classmate at your school, no neighbor on your street, and no member of your church should ever spend one minute wondering if love has disappeared from the earth. People who run into you, people who experience you, should believe in love.

Peace,

Allan

First Things First

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” ~Deuteronomy 6:4-9

This passage is called the Shema. That’s the Hebrew word for “hear,” the first word in these famous ancient words. For more than four-thousand years the Israelites and Jews have recited these words out loud at least twice a day. Orthodox Jews today recite this passage out loud during their morning and evening prayers. These words are vitally important in both Jewish and Christian history, they’re so foundational for our faith.

Who is the God of Israel? Who is our God? Who are we loyal to? How many gods are we going to have?

“The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.”

This is truly first things first. Before we cross the Jordan River, before we settle in the new land, before we become lights to these people and God’s image-bearers in the world, before we do anything… are we going to be devoted to the Lord? Will we be faithful to the Lord exclusively, or are we going to be seduced by the pagan gods of this new country?

By reciting this statement day after day, year after year, century after century, God’s people declare their complete and unqualified devotion to the Lord. This is not just a monotheistic confession. It’s not “This God is one God.” It’s “This God is our one and only God! We will not serve any other God!” This is a foundational pledge of allegiance. This is an affirmation of a dead-serious commitment. This statement is all about who we are and to whom we belong. First things first.

In order to consider the depth of what’s being confessed, I want to break this passage down into four parts this week.  First, today, you love the Lord with your whole person.

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

That’s interesting, isn’t it? Can you command somebody to love? Isn’t love a mysterious feeling that just appears and sometimes disappears? Isn’t love just an emotion and it’s either here or it’s not? No, not according to Scripture. The Bible teaches that love is an act of the will. Love is more about intentional action than accidental feelings. Each one of us decides whether to love or not. In the ancient Hebrew language, the word for “heart” here actually means your heart and your mind; this is your entire inner being. This is where you feel and think. It’s both.

The literal word for “soul” here is “throat” or “gullet.” It means your appetites, your desires, who you are as a person who does things and interacts with the world and other people.

And then “strength.” This Hebrew word is translated in the Greek Old Testament as “dynamis.” That means “power.” Dynamite, right? Hebrew scholars say this is about any power you have to accomplish something — maybe “resources” would be a better word. Physical strength, yes; but also economic or social strength, maybe even the things you own like tools or livestock or your house.

The point is: you love the Lord your God with your whole person, without reservation. No loopholes. A covenant commitment to the Lord that’s rooted in your heart, but extends to every level of your being. Jesus quotes this verse and says this is the most important thing. This is primary, the first thing! Love the Lord with your whole person.

Peace,

Allan

The Power of Jesus to Heal

TV game shows have two audiences. The studio audience is the primary audience. They’re right there in the room. They’re seeing and hearing everything, up close, in real time. They’re actually participating, cheering and clapping and trying to help the contestants. If it’s The Price is Right, the people in the primary audience may even be called up to play the game. It’s quite exciting, I guess.

But there’s also a secondary audience, the TV audience, the people watching at home. You’re watching from your couch, you’re watching from a long way off. You’re learning how the game is played, you’re getting to know the host and the contestants, and pretty soon you find yourself wanting to be a part of the show. That looks like fun. Hey, I think I could do that.

Then you start to visualize yourself on the show, you can actually see yourself participating. And winning. Come on! Everybody knows the coffee creamer costs more than the ketchup! I could win that Ford Focus and the patio furniture!

Next thing you know, you really are participating in the show, out loud, from your living room. You’re yelling at the TV. What is Bismarck? $935! Come on, baby, light my fire!

I think the Gospels are supposed to work the same way. I think we are intended to see ourselves in these stories, to see ourselves in the scenes with Jesus.

In Luke 5, you are the leper on the side of the road and you beg Jesus: “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” And Jesus looks you right in the eye. “If I’m willing? Yes! I am willing!” And Jesus reaches out his hand and he touches you. “Be clean!” Is there anything more wonderful, more Good News, than Jesus looking at your deepest hurt and saying, “I am willing.”

In Mark 4, we’re in the boat with those disciples. The storm comes, the boat’s about to sink, and the disciples are freaking out. Jesus says, “Quiet! Be still!” And everything’s fixed. And he says to his followers, “Why are you so afraid? Where’s your faith?” And I wonder: Is he smiling? Is he upset?  Is he disappointed? Maybe he’s amused. “Why are you so afraid? Yes, I control nature, I control everything! I’m willing for you to be clean and I’m able to make it happen. I want you to be well and protected and safe and whole. I have the power. Trust me. Give yourself to me.”

Jairus’ daughter has just died. Jairus’ servants say it’s too late. Tell Jesus not to come. Jesus ignores them and says, “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.” He walks through all the people crying and wailing loudly. “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead, she’s asleep.”

The world sees one thing. Jesus sees something different. He wants you to see different, too. He wants you to see yourself with him and give yourself to it. “Don’t be afraid. Just believe. My child, I say to you, get up.”

And she did.

Peace,

Allan

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