Category Archives: Loving God

Head and Heart flip side

Information is the means to transformation. Over and over in scripture God declares His desire to “be known”! The apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesians (chapter 1) “asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.

The greatest commandment, to “love the Lord your God with all your…mind” highlights the essential nature of knowledge in our pursuit of God. When Jesus talked with the Samaritan woman at the well, He told her, “You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews,” John 4:22. To worship God in ignorance is to worship a god of our own making. We move right back to idolatry in this mode.

When you love someone, you become filled with wonder at all of the mysteries to be discovered in that other person. When I counsel couples before marriage, I always tell them to be students of one another and never stop learning about one another. That is love! This is also why God said, “If you seek for me, you will find me when you search for me with all your heart,” Jeremiah 29:13.

The mind and heart are not enemies. They are allies. To love God is to know God — to know God is to love God. So go ahead and keep asking questions. Don’t get into the mode of simply defending your current understanding of God. He is infinite, incomprehensible, and beyond finding out. Whatever understandings we have of Him today is less than we should have of Him tomorrow. Be filled with a holy curiosity. Be driven by divine wonder. God wants us to completely love him…”with all our mind”.

Head and Heart

I was a guest presenter in a local high school yesterday. Religions class. I was on a panel of four — a Catholic priest, conservative Lutheran priest, Episcopal priest, and myself. Just to give you a feel of things — they all had their nice clothes and white collars on. I was in blue jeans, a nice dress shirt, and flip flops. I didn’t get much respect from the other panelists, but I think the teens were OK with it.

During the course of our presentations and answering questions, I was reminded of a primary difference between myself and many others in vocational ministry. Their focus was theology, mine was biblical application. I say that with some reservations, because I also know the essential value of theology. Knowledge is good and absolutely essential in order to live in a right relationship with God. Still–there are limitations to how far theology can take us. There must be a careful and balanced weaving of theology and practice in order to be in a right relationship with God.

The Pharisees are a clear example of those who focused so much on acquiring knowledge that they overlooked living out the heart of the gospel in their lives. They devoted their lives to learning, and even application in that motif, but got so lost in the details of that information that they missed the Provider of transformation.

One of our common evangelical fallacies is that knowledge equals spiritual maturity. Yes–if we can just learn more, we will be more pleasing to God. This is simply not true. We need to get past this. We need to see that real spirituality is not so much based on knowledge, but rather, the living out of what God has told us to do.

Jesus made that abundantly clear when He said to the pompous Pharisees, “You honor me with your lips, but your heart is far from me.” It is not only knowing about God, but more importantly, knowing God that really matters. Living a life-style of authentically and sacrificially loving God must be the result of whatever theology we embrace.

A seasoned sage once said to me, “My problem is not that I need to know more. My problem is that I need to start living what I already know.” I can relate very well…

Spiritual Blindness

Spiritual blindness is a devastating disease. Those that have it rarely know they’re afflicted with it.

John 9 contains the compelling story of a man born blind, but miraculously given sight by Jesus. Of course, this amazing feat was performed on a Sabbath — a day on which nothing like this should happen according the legalistic Pharisees. They had come to a conclusion about Jesus based on “rut thinking” — deeply entrenched patterns of what’s right or wrong based more on tradition than upon truth.

  • They were convinced that God would never perform even a good work on a Sabbath.
  • They were adamant that Jesus could never be from God — He was too far removed from their idea of what was “godly”. As stated in verse 24, the Pharisees confidently asserted, “God should get the glory for this, because we know this man Jesus is a sinner.”
  • They were unwilling to consider truth from anyone of lesser status than them…at least in their hierarchy of things.  “You were born a total sinner!” they answered. “Are you trying to teach us?” And they threw him out of the synagogue.

Of tremendous importance to us, even today, is the need to embrace truth and question tradition. Some traditions are good and add tremendous value to our life together as the Body of Christ. However, when tradition replaces truth, we become traditionalists…the idolization of entrenched beliefs over God-given truth. We fall into this trap so easily and embrace it so comfortably. The danger is that it usually leads to spiritual blindness. We can rarely see that we have this disease.

The cure for spiritual blindness is to completely, honestly, and humbly seek truth from the core of your being. Set aside the stuff that you most like to hold on to and ask God to refresh you with new insight, understandings, and practices that will bring wholeness, health, and truth into your life like a life-giving tsunami.

The Pharisees only held onto what they believed from generation to generation. They failed to be passionate seekers of truth. They missed Jesus. They missed the Spirit’s coming. They missed the grace of God. They missed forgiveness. They missed God’s blessing. They missed partnering with God. They missed LIFE.

Spiritual blindness is a devastating disease. Those that have it rarely know they’re afflicted with it.

Honoring God

The only instance where tithing (giving a tenth) is found in the New Testament is when Jesus makes a statement to the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:23-24: (It’s also in Luke 11:42)

23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 “You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”

It is important to note that Jesus is totally in favor of tithing when, even of the garden herbs, He states, “these you should have done”. Of course, Jesus is really teaching about the “weightier provisions” that are more about issues of character rather than just the details of the law.

Jesus emphasized the condition of the heart over and over much more than a rule to obey. Tithing was a benchmark set long before the law when Abraham gave a tenth of everything to Melchizidek as an act of grateful worship. In later years, the law of the tithe was implemented to make sure that a priority was placed on getting God’s work done through the temple service. This standard was set by God to make sure we knew what was reasonable and right.

In tandem with the tithing emphasis is the admonition to give the first part, often called the first fruits in Israel’s agricultural environment. As an example, Proverbs 3:9-10:

Honor the LORD from your wealth,
And from the first of all your produce;
So your barns will be filled with plenty,
And your vats will overflow with new wine.

In cultures all around the world, honor is woven into the fabric of their daily life. This is not the case in the United States. We’ve lost the concept of honor somehow. So, when scripture talks about honoring, we can easily overlook this and miss a critical piece of what it means to be in relation to God. We are to honor Him — to revere, yield to His position and person, and give respectful expressions to. And how do we do that? By giving Him the FIRST PART of everything we accrue.

And when we honor God, His heart is open toward us. Just look at the second half of the above scripture passage! Wow! I would love to have God’s favor directed toward me like that! Yes–it is ours as we honor Him with our first portions.

As I look at the New Testament, it’s not so much about obeying a particular number, but rather living with generosity in your heart. What is generous? Is 10%? For some people, absolutely. For others it would seem to be a very good starting point. Whatever the case, make sure you honor God, both by the amount you give and in what priority you give it.

New Beginnings

The spring season is upon in full bloom! Especially in Minnesota, spring is a welcomed friend. It brings new life, the promise of warmth, and fresh beauty every where.

God often works in our personal lives through seasons…and does so with churches too. I’m excited about the season that God has been preparing for Edinbrook Church. This will be a season of hope, new life, fresh starts, and meaningful commitments. We are awaiting a QUAKE of life-rattling proportions.

The golden voiced preacher of Great Britain’s  1800’s, Charles Spurgeon, has talked about new beginnings and fresh commitments. Read it carefully…

We should not only let our troubles confirm our dedication to God, but our prosperity should do the same. If we ever meet with occasions which deserve to be called “crowning mercies” then, surely, if he hath crowned us, we ought also to crown our God; let us bring forth anew all the jewels of the divine regalia which have been stored in the jewel-closet of our heart, and let our God sit upon the throne of our love, arrayed in royal apparel.
If we would learn to profit by our prosperity, we should not need so much adversity. If we would gather from a kiss all the good it might confer upon us, we should not so often smart under the rod. Have we lately received some blessing which we little expected? Has the Lord put our feet in a large room? Can we sing of mercies multiplied? Then this is the day to put our hand upon the horns of the altar, and say, “Bind me here, my God; bind me here with cords, even for ever.”

QUAKE, which begins this coming Monday, has the potential to draw us to God’s altar with new commitments and fresh resolve. If you have still not signed up for a QUAKE Group, so so today at https://edinbrook.ccbchurch.com/app/w_form_response.php?form_id=146

Let the QUAKE begin!

Be Like Jesus

The selfless nature of Jesus is to also characterize the the Christ-follower.  Consider Philippians 2:

3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

6 Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges

Since the “greatest commandment” is to love God and love people, we must make sure that this “love” we are living is not a phantom love. We tend to love God in our heads…that is, we believe that God is, that He loves us, that He cares for us — you know, all the stuff that church-going people believe. We have these feelings of love, but lack the proof in our actions and lifestyles. We can live in the realm of selfish love (which isn’t love at all) and think we’re A-OK.

I’m convinced that this is one of the reasons Jesus talked about money so often. As Mark Batterson has stated, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” True “agapeeseis”, which was presented yesterday, is demonstrated through selfless and generous action.

How can we honestly claim to love the Lord when we are unwilling to give Him a portion back of what He has given us? How can we say, “You’re number one, God!” if we are unwilling to slaughter the god of materialism or greed on the altar of generosity?

We choose to love or not love God and people every day by the choices we make — even in the grocery store, department store, venues of entertainment and decisions we make about our resources. Jesus doesn’t want us to live google-eyed in a world of phantom love.

Be like Jesus. Be generous. That’s the kind of love God is looking for.

Agapeeseis

“Agapeeseis” is the greek word used for love when Jesus talks about loving God and loving people. This is the verb form of “agape” love — God-kind of love. It’s the love explained in 1Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter, when it lists some of its most outstanding characteristics:

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

“Agapeeseis”, however, emphasizes a love of action, decision, sacrifice, intentionality, and selflessness. This kind of love goes far beyond the nice feelings one may have about another. This love kicks into action simply because another human being is present. As a result, Jesus tells us on numerous occasions to “love our enemy”. This is ludicrous unless God enables us with some kind of super-human divinely infused love. Yes, through God’s presence in us, we become the very presence of Jesus in our world as we let Him live His life through us! That’s what it means to walk in the Spirit. This is one of the results of being filled with the Spirit. We agapeeseis others.

Remember now — Jesus didn’t say this is important, or something we need to work at, or something that would be a good idea. Scripture tells us that this is THE most important thing we MUST do. We must selflessly and sacrificially love God — and we do this by selflessly and sacrificially loving others…whether they deserve it or not.

Can you imagine the impact, just in your little corner of the world, if you actually began living this way?

Oh why not? Let’s just do it! Infuse us, LORD…

God Among Us

Jesus stated that when you interact and minister to others, you are doing it to Him — ‘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.”

Is this really what it means? Does the very essence of God reside in the presence of each individual?

A critical element of the gospel has been lost over the years of Christendom. In current Christianity, we tend to see fallen people as completely sinful. In other words, if they are not believers, they are wretched, fallen, dirty, unholy, and of the world. As a result, we have a whole stream of Christians who separate themselves from the world and the very ones who desperately need God’s holy salt and light. These sin-entities in fallen people are totally true, but we unfortunately overlook a very essential other truth — that every individual is created in the image of God! This means that no matter how depraved, sinful, despicable, or distant from God, a person is still precious and highly valued because they are the height of God’s creation — and created in Jehovah’s very image. The Creator-Artist has carefully fashioned each person to His desired design, investing His creative energies…and love (because God IS love) into the very essence of each person.

The human race, and with that, every single human being, is an extension of God somehow. This is true so much that scripture repeatedly tells us that “as we have done it to the least of these, we have done it to God.”

So–if you really want to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, you better learn how to love your neighbor. Now if that doesn’t bring it right down to real life, I don’t know what does.

Go ahead — love God today in some very practical ways…


homoia

“But when the Pharisees heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they gathered themselves together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.'” Matthew 22:35-40
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When Jesus clarified that the greatest commandment was to love God, He also hitched another partnering commandment with it — “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The connecting word between the first part and the second part of this “greatest commandment” is the Greek word “homoia”. This word means that these two statements are of like nature, same essence, and intimately related. In other words, these are not two separate commands, but are “two sides of the same coin”. To accomplish one, you must do the other.

To love God with all that you are (heart, soul, mind), you must love your neighbor — referring to those that are close around you. To love your neighbor, you must love God.

How can this be?

Stick with me this week. What a fascinating study to see how God is found in people — that when we love people, we are loving God. Just to get you started thinking on this track, let Matthew 25:37-40 sink in…

“Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?”

“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.”

Back to the Basics

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples…” Here we have the last words of Jesus summarizing as succinctly as possible what it means to be the church.  Let me remind you – there are a number of statements Jesus did not make, like “Go and develop creative programs,” or “Go and be comfortable,” or “Go and develop your own little culture.”  No, Jesus told us to make disciples – the daring adventure of helping people become whole-hearted followers of Jesus Christ.  Certainly this will take a strategy of programs brimming with creativity.  This commission often means that facilities and tools will be needed to accomplish the task.  However, the bottom line is changed lives.

At Edinbrook Church, we need to be sure we are still about helping people find the real Jesus.

What a great reminder, especially when pure and undefiled Christianity unsuspectingly becomes diluted to a mere shadow of Jesus’ design.  At Edinbrook Church, we need to be sure we are still about helping people find the real Jesus.  We are not about buildings (even though we need them) or programs (even though they are a vital means to our mission) or niceties (the false assumption that Christianity should make life nice).  We are about mission – the daring task of treading into unknown territory for the cause of Christ!  That unknown territory may be that trying co-worker, mysterious neighbor, or long-time friend.  It’s becoming the presence of Christ to these people for the sake of making disciples!

A quick word about evangelism: You rarely need to force Christianity on someone.  Your task is to make people thirsty.  If people become genuinely thirsty, they will drink.  Of course, you must have the living water ready for their consumption, but enough of this pressure-type evangelism.  It has done a great disservice to the kingdom of God.  Listen to one atheist’s words about Christians:

“…as soon as people find out I don’t believe in God, they tell me I am going to hell.  One woman said, ‘You cannot possibly have good morals if you don’t believe.’  This is nonsense.  I know plenty of ‘God-fearing church-going folk’ who have rotten moral standards. They drink, smoke, do drugs, lie, steal and cheat on their spouses.  How can I get these well-meaning people off my back?”  from Ann Landers, Star/Tribune, 2-22-02

I assure you, this is only one of thousands who will never submit to Christ, partially because well-meaning Christians forgot how appealing, gentle, and understanding Jesus was when He offered the “water of life.”

Now, let’s go back to Jesus’ Great Commission.  We are to make disciples “of all nations.”  This is a big job without limits.  It has a way of nixing the old statement, “numbers aren’t important.”  Let me tell you the truth: I hope Edinbrook Church grows bigger than any of us expect!  Not for fame, fortune, ego, or recognition, but for the thousands of people in our community (and around the world) who need a dynamic encounter with the living Christ.  We have something to offer!  We need to figure out how to help as many people as possible.