Love First

1 John, Christ & Culture, Love No Comments »

We all know what’s happening in our world, in this country. It’s not new. It’s just amped up to eleven on the ten-point scale and it’s louder than normal and it’s all around us all the time. There is division and strife and conflict. You can’t get away from it. Black and white, left and right, Republican and Democrat, liberal and conservative — it’s splashed across every screen and blaring from every set of speakers. You can’t eat a Twix bar without being forced to choose left or right. And you can’t turn on a football game on Sunday afternoon to escape from it.

And we’re all experiencing this together — all of God’s children, all of Christ’s disciples, all asking the same questions.

How do we handle this? What are we supposed to do? How do Christians engage this volatile culture? What do we say? How do we act?

I think most of us wish there was a third option, a different way, a way to be above all the conflict but still engage what’s happening in ways that matter.

May I suggest love?

Completely love. Love completely. Sharing the immeasurable love of God with others lifts us above the strife.

The world is squeezing us to make a choice between two options and we get in trouble when we don’t recognize that third way, that third and very different option that takes us high above anything else being offered: Love. Committing to love as our guiding principle, as our continuous posture, actually fulfills or completes God’s purposes for the love he’s lavished on us.

The Bible says we love because he first loved us. We love completely because we are so completely loved.

Peace,

Allan

Completely Love

1 John, Central Church Family, Love No Comments »

It’s Missions Month here at Central — probably my favorite recurring season on our local church calendar — and our focus during these five Sundays is on the purpose of God’s great love.

“If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.” ~1 John 4:12
“Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete in us.” ~1 John 4:16-17

God’s love is what saves us. The matchless love of God transcends the barriers of time and space to reach into our hearts and draw us in to a righteous relationship with him. God’s love achieves for us total forgiveness and absolute peace. Praise God! But God’s love, which existed for us “before the foundations of the world,” only realizes its true mission, it only accomplishes its eternal purpose, when you and I show that same divine love to others.

That’s the cycle. That’s the ultimate point of God’s great love for us.

This divine love that’s existed for all time comes from God. It is showered lavishly on us through Jesus Christ. We experience that love, we are saved by that love. But that love isn’t complete until we show that same love to other people. Or, to say it positively, like John: The whole point of God’s perfect love is fulfilled — it’s made complete — when we live to love others.

We love completely because we’ve been completely loved.

“We love because he first loved us.” ~1 John 4:19

When the world is hurting, God’s people should be healing. When the world is afraid, disciples of Jesus should be bold. When the world is confused, the Church should be clear. When people are surrounded by hate, we should be where they encounter God’s love. Completely.

Peace,

Allan

Preaching with Tucker

1 Thessalonians, Central Church Family, Intergenerational, Love 1 Comment »

A text this morning from a friend wondered if I had developed some carpel tunnel issues. Yes, it’s been a while since I wrote in this space. No, it has nothing to do with the health of my fingers. I have been out of town three of the past four weeks — in Malibu for the Pepperdine Lectures, on a sabbatical in a nice apartment near the bottom of Ceta Canyon, and in Austin for the annual Sermon Seminar at Austin Grad. I even mixed in a weekend trip to Edmond for my nephew Asa’s high school graduation. So, I appreciate the concern for my physical well-being. Thank you. Consider me back in the groove.

Yesterday marked our summer kickoff here at Central when all our 5th graders are officially promoted into the student ministry. The day is highlighted by the gifting of Bibles and blessings, lunch and a slide show, swimming and bowling, and an all-in youth meeting. But, for me, the best part of my Sunday was preaching with Tucker Haynes.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re a multi-generational church at Central and we are continuously on the lookout for creative ways to experience intergenerational relationships. We want to model and practice church as family. Christian community. Doing life together in Christ. So Sunday we had all of our incoming 6th graders participating in the leading of our worship assembly. Noah Hartman helped Kevin lead our singing. Several of the students read Scripture. And Tucker helped me preach.

The text was 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12: “Now about brotherly love…” Tucker worked especially hard the past two weeks on the Greek word for brotherly love, philadelphia, and what exactly Paul means when he tells the Christians in Thessalonica that God has already taught them how to love. And he nailed it! He and I went back and forth — me, trying to remember my memorized manuscript while Tucker read his expertly crafted lines. Tucker had the whole congregation eating out of his hand when he confessed frankly that “brothers and sisters can be annoying.” Then he pulled the rug out from under us with his observation that “We don’t get to pick our brothers and sisters; they are a gift from God.”

Oh, yeah. Central ate him up with a spoon. He was excellent!

I really enjoyed my time with Tucker on Friday, finalizing together everything we were going to do.  I asked him questions about the text and about his relationships with his older brother and sisters.  I listened while he wrestled with using a personal illustration to both connect with the listeners and explain the text. We did a mic check together in the worship center early Sunday morning and prayed together in my office fifteen minutes before the assembly began — he was distracted by the 2011 World Series program on my table and couldn’t hardly pray for lamenting the Cardinals and Nelson Cruz.

Tucker, you were terrific, brother. I’m so blessed by God that you and I are adelphus. And I’d be honored to preach with you any day.

Peace,

Allan

 

Leadership: Love

1 Thessalonians, Leadership, Love No Comments »

“We were gentle among you , like a mother caring for her little children.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 2:7

Is it weird that Paul describes himself as a mother? What does a mother know about leadership? Well, dads, have you ever watched your wife with your kids? Generally speaking, they’ve got a gentleness and a sensitivity that we just don’t. I think children find the most comfort and security with their moms. I remember with our girls — I could play with them for hours, do fun things for them and with them all day long. But when they got hurt, where did they run? Straight to mom. Every time.

Actually, that word “caring” is more correctly translated “nursing.” “Nursing her children” gives us an image of Christian leaders actually feeding and giving nourishment to the congregation.

“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.” ~1 Thessalonians 2:8

A mother teaches her children how to cross the street, how to eat at the table, and how to match pony tail holders with shirts. But she also pours her heart and her soul into her kids. Because she loves them so much. To lead with love is a lot more than just teaching. It means being intimately involved in people’s lives. And it takes time and effort and it leads to disappointment. But, like Paul, our love compels us to do it.

We’re in each other’s homes, we’re praying together, rejoicing and mourning together, genuinely and actively interested and involved in each other’s lives. That kind of love is sacrificial.

Bill Hybels says, “Tell me how to show love without spending time, money, or energy, and I’ll gladly sign up. Tell me that love means sacrifice, however, and I’m reluctant to commit.”

It’s basically following the model of Jesus who did it first and best. Christ’s priority was in giving, not getting; on serving, not being served; on loving, not necessarily being loved.

Peace,

Allan

Salt

Christ & Culture, Evangelism, Love, Matthew No Comments »

“You are the salt of the earth.” ~Matthew 5:13

SaltShakerNot pepper. Some of us act like Jesus called us to be pepper. Some Christians feel like they’re called to behave in such a way as to irritate people. Some followers of Jesus just walk into a room and people’s eyes begin to water. Some Christians cause people to make funny faces and start sneezing.

No, we’re supposed to be salt. We bring out the very best of what’s already there. We bring out what’s possible. We season life and the situations around us so there’s more flavor. More to savor. By our lives we help make everything around us as good as our God always intended it to be.

So, when the world acts to condemn, we move to forgive. When the culture says you don’t matter, we say you’re a child of God. When society says I don’t care about you, we say what can I do for you? Where the world seeks to injure, we seek to heal. When the culture declares I hate you, we say I love you.

Everywhere we go, everywhere we are, we shine the light of love and forgiveness, we bring the Kingdom of grace and hope. In a culture of hate and violence and lies, the light of Jesus shines in us and through us with love and mercy and truth.

We bring it. We live it. And people around us are blessed and the world is changed.

We are the salt of the earth. Not pepper.

Peace,

Allan

Forever Loved by God

Love No Comments »

LoveIn all the chaotic mess of uncertainty that swirls around us and, at times, threatens to overwhelm us, there is one thing we know for sure. There is one indisputable, undeniable truth that always has been, is today, and will be forever:

We are loved by God.

We know we are loved by God because of the past. God created us in love. Christ Jesus came to earth to live and die and was raised again because he loves us. We know we are loved by God because of the present. God lives inside us and empowers us. He protects us and guides us by his Holy Spirit. And we know we are loved by God because of the future. We look forward to that future with great anticipation when, at the end of time, we’ll experience forever the incredible joy of face-to-face communion with our Father and God, the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

Those great blessings of divine love are experienced every day in our Christian community. We are initiated by our baptisms into a fellowship of mutual love and selfless service for one another. And that message of love is proclaimed to the whole world out of our deep relationships with each other.

We don’t know what’s going to happen with the federal government on Friday. We don’t know when we’re going to die. You don’t know exactly what’s going on with your neighbors, your news organizations, your kids, or your investments. But you do know without a doubt that you are loved. You are forever loved by God.

Peace,

Allan