Love is a Risky Business – Part 3

Love is a Risky Business Pt 3

In Part 1 we discussed why we love…

  1. Jesus commanded us to love others because He knows that loving others does not come naturally—even with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He also wants us to learn to love the way that He loves—sacrificially.
  2. Loving others the way Jesus did drives us to trust and depend on Him for the results.

In Part 2 we discussed how to create a loving culture in the church…

  1. Breaking down walls within the local churches.
  2. Create real Cross-Connections with those outside of our cliques and our factions.
  3. Help newer and less connected folks to connect with the church’s vision and purpose, and more importantly, with the Savior–not just bring them into our clique or group.
  4. Cultivate a Kingdom-Building Culture—ambassadors for Christ.
  5. Develop a Culture of Service—equip the saints to do the work of the ministry.

Now let’s discuss how to love. In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul uses both adjectives and verbs to explain what love is and what love does (e.g. love is kind and love bears all things), as well as what love is not and what love does not do (e.g. love is not puffed up and love does not behave rudely). So we get the idea that love is active and it acts a certain way. It’s not just something you feel or something you say, but it is also something you do. But what about some specific guidelines on how to love?

I find it interesting that I see no record of Jesus saying, “I love you,” in the New Testament. Yet I know He loves us. The Disciples knew it too. In John 15:12-14 Jesus commanded us to follow His example and again He spoke about “loving as He loved” after the foot washing in John 13. When our kids were young I used to kiss them goodbye and say, “Daddy loves you,” every morning before I left the house to go to work. Yes it is good to remind folks that we love them but those words are just words if they are not backed up by a willingness to act. Every time I said those words I felt like I meant them. More importantly I never hesitated to put my kid’s genuine needs ahead of my own. Sometimes my kids would automatically reply, “I love you too Daddy,” but there were times when they did not act like they loved me. Especially when I did not give them their way. I wonder if we in the church are sometimes like that too. We say we love one another, and we feel like we mean it, but do we act like it?

16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. (The New King James Version. (1982). (1 Jn 3:16–18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.)

John reminds us that to love like Jesus is sacrificial. It’s obvious that Christians should be willing to meet needs and provide materials goods to our brethren who need them if we can. I think this also applies to our time and our attention. But notice that John adds that we should also love in truth. I think it is just as important, if not more, not to shut up our hearts when it may cost us something. That word for heart in v.17 could be rendered as compassion. We want to be hilarious givers not grumpy givers. We also want to remember to give in such a way that it brings glory to God and not to us. I think we all struggle with these things at one time or another.

Next time we will take a look at Philippians 1:9-11. In that passage the Apostle Paul prays that the Philippian’s love may abound in “knowledge” and “all discernment.”

Love is a Risky Business – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series

we discussed how love can be a very risky endeavor. Why is love risky? Because when we dare to love others there’s a possibility that we will be hurt by the ones we love. When it comes to loving a spouse, a family member, a brother (or sister) from church, or an old friend, most of us are willing to take that chance for the people we care about because we already care about them. But what about those people from whom we have nothing to gain by loving them? Jesus makes it clear we have a duty to love others, and that duty is not contingent upon what we receive in return, but rather on who we are in Christ. Hence the command to love even our enemies. Yes… “Our enemies.”  That command is reminiscent of when Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who were cursing Him on the Cross as He was literally dying on their behalf.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;” Matthew 5:43-45a

Being more loving requires time, energy, and intentionality but my selfish nature wants to be comfortable and to take the path of least resistance. So naturally there is a struggle to invest such precious commodities into people who may not reciprocate our love. It is much easier to love those who love us back, to love those who are part of our group, but Jesus says that anybody can do that. As children of God we have received God’s grace and forgiveness, and with that comes a duty to do more than what comes natural to us.

“…for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  Matt 5:45b-48

Just as God’s “common grace” benefits all of mankind (just and unjust) and draws unbelievers to repentance, so we are to love everyone in this world in order to accomplish a greater, eternal purpose. We are to follow God’s example of loving in such a way that those outside of our “group” will benefit from our love and be drawn to the Savior.

So how do we become effective vessels of God’s grace and love? I think we start by breaking down walls within the local churches.

  • Create real Cross-Connections with those outside of our cliques and our factions.
  • Help newer and less connected folks to connect with the church’s vision and purpose, and more importantly with the Savior–not just bring them into our clique or group.
  • Build a Kingdom-Building Culture—ambassadors for Christ.
  • Develop a Culture of Service—equip the saints to do the work of the ministry.

As we learn to love a wider array of people we will become more proficient at loving Christ because the Church is His Body. Of course there will always be some folks with whom we will have deeper relationships than others, but the breadth of our relationships will be broader. 

Love’s a Risky Business – Part 1

Every Spring I celebrate 2 milestones— my wedding anniversary and my birthday. As I enter my mid-fifties, I am trying not become a grumpy old man and I am also trying to learn to love better in regards to loving God and loving others. It’s not easy.
For instance…my wife and I recently celebrated 27 years of marriage. Overall, it’s been a very wonderful thing but we have definitely had our struggles at times. Over the years, we’ve learned that each of us holds great power to build up, or tear down, the other person like no one else in the entire world can with just a word. Because of this power, either spouse’s ego could easily get out of control and wreak havoc in the relationship. Thankfully the Bible teaches us that our relationship to Christ, and Christ’s relationship to us, is a model for marriage. Just as Christ gave Himself for the church, husbands are to sacrificially love their wives. And just as the church is subject to Christ, so wives should be submitting to their husband’s leadership. But this is a description of how two people who choose to be joined in holy matrimony should behave in relationship to each other. As a Christian couple we also have the Holy Spirit living inside of us and empowering us to submit to each other and to love one another. Yet it still takes a lot of work.
What about everyone else to whom we are not married to? The Christians we did not choose to include in our lives but we inherited when we became born-again and started attending church.
As Christians we are commanded to submit to one another and to love one another—not only my spouse but my brothers in Christ too. Most of the time that’s not so hard because my Christian brothers and sisters from church will be “out of sight” and “out of mind” shortly after the last worship song is over or shortly after we are done with lunch. So it’s pretty painless to hug a few people and tell them that I love them. But what about when the people sitting around me are hurting or in need? Should that concern me? What does it really mean to love others?
1 John 3:16-18
16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. The New King James Version. (1982). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
The type of love we learn about in the New Testament is described as unselfish, longsuffering, and not self-seeking but sacrificial. The problem is that we all are naturally selfish. My selfishness makes me reluctant to love others sacrificially because I want to know, “What’s in this for me?” Selfishness also creates unrealistic expectations of what I think others “loving me” should look like—“If you really loved me then_____.” Then there’s also the fear that the other person I show love to is going to be unappreciative, will possibly let me down when I need them, could treat me unfairly, or even hurt me. Love’s a Risky Business.
That’s why Jesus commanded us to love others. Because He knows that loving others does not come naturally—even with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He also wants us to learn to love the way that He loves. Loving others the way Jesus did drives us to trust and depend on Him for the results. Just like He obeyed, trusted and depended on the Father when He loved us to death, Jesus wants us to learn to do the same for others.
Romans 5:6-8
6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  The New King James Version. (1982). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

What Are We Doing This For?

Do you remember the story of Cain and Abel? In the Book of Genesis, Chapter 4, we read that Cain murdered his brother Abel after they both brought offerings to God.  God respected Abel’s offering but Cain’s, He did not respect. There is some debate as to why God respected Abel’s offering and not Cain’s. Some speculate that God must have previously communicated to them that animal sacrifice was the proper way to make a sin offering. Cain offered up fruit instead of offering an animal as God had prescribed and therefore Cain was being disobedient. That is a possibility but I don’t see that in the text. We don’t even really know the reason why they brought their offerings. The Hebrew word used for offering in the particular passage is a general term for offering or gift. According to Genesis 4:3-5 we know:

  • Both Cain & Abel brought something from the fruits of their Labor
  • Abel brought the firstborn of his flock and of their fat.
  • Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground.


Genesis 4:3-6 NKJV

“And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell. So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”   
I have my own theory about why God did not respect Cain’s offering. I do not think it was a matter of God laying out some rules and Cain not following the rules which resulted in God not respecting Cain or his offering.
  1. Cain was very angry and his countenance fell. If he did not care enough to follow some rules I don’t think he would have cared about the consequences.
  2. It seems like the issue had more to do with Cain’s attitude about the response that God had to his brother Abel’s offering than His response to his own.
  3. The text specifically mentions that Abel brought the firstborn and of their fat, and that God respected Abel and his offering. The implication seems to be that Abel thought highly enough of God to bring his best, but Cain did not think highly enough of God to bring his best.


Hebrews 11:4 NKJV

“By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.”

I think Cain made the same mistake that we, as Christians, still make today. Cain was born into a family of blame-shifters. Unfortunately, each of us were also born into a family of blame-shifters—the human family. Just as in Cain’s situation, sin is always stretching out its neck to ensnare us (sin “lies at the door”). For whatever reason, Cain started to compare himself to his brother instead of focusing on the goodness of the LORD. God warned him about it and He tried to help Cain think through the situation…”Why are you angry?”…”If you do well will you not be accepted?” But instead of heeding the voice of the LORD, Cain allowed a root of bitterness to infect his thinking and it grew deeper and deeper to the point that he hated his brother enough to kill him.


1 John 3:11-12

“For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.”

I know that a life of serving others can be very demanding. It can also be frustrating and disappointing during times where we stop thinking highly of the One whom we serve and start doing Cost (to me)-Benefit (to me) Analysis. When we start doing that we are using the wrong benchmarks to measure our success in ministry and we can become envious and angry toward others. Recently Pastor Jon suggested we read “On Being a Servant” by Warren Wiersbe in our Men’s Fellowship. I have found that book to be very helpful. It has reminded me that I cannot let my love for God stop being the motivation for my service. Although we may not go around literally killing each other, this Cain-type of attitude can suck the life out of a church and create divisions among its people. There is a much better way.

The True Christmas Light

The True Christmas Light


Who does not enjoy Christmas lights? Even at my age, I love to see the bright lights shining through the cold, dark nights of winter. I find it comforting to see. But I also find it a little depressing when the temporary lights of Christmas shine no more and we are left with nothing but darkness in our neighborhoods.


There is plenty of imagery of light and darkness in the Bible. In the beginning the earth was without form and void and darkness was on the face of the deep…Then God said let there be light and there was light. One of the first things God did was to introduce light into a dark and formless world. During their Egyptian captivity, God used darkness as a plague against Pharaoh, but He kept the dwellings of the Jews lighted. During their wilderness wanderings the children of Israel were led by a pillar of fire at night. These are Old Testament instances where God used physical light to help, aid, guide and protect His people in the midst of physical darkness. Furthermore, there are predictions of God bringing a Spiritual Light to save his children from Spiritual Darkness such as in Isaiah 4:5-7.

5 Thus says God the Lord,

Who created the heavens and stretched them out,

Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it,

Who gives breath to the people on it,

And spirit to those who walk on it:

“I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness,

And will hold Your hand;

I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,

As a light to the Gentiles,

To open blind eyes,

To bring out prisoners from the prison,

Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.


In the New Testament, God continued to use the Light motif as He used a light to guide the wise men to the Baby Jesus. Then in John 1:3–5 and 9-11, the Apostle John reveals to us that Jesus is the Source of Spiritual Life and the True Light that entered into a spiritually dark world.

3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.


The word for “comprehend” in the above passage is better translated “overcome.” You see, since the Fall of Mankind in the Garden, spiritual darkness has been trying to extinguish the True Spiritual Light, but the Light of Jesus cannot be overcome by the forces of darkness.


There are many religions that claim to provide spiritual Life and Light, but they are all temporary at best. No matter how dark our world gets, no matter how dark our circumstances become, the Light of Jesus is powerful enough to withstand the darkness that surrounds us. If we place our faith in Jesus, receive Him for who He is, and follow Him, we can become children of God. We can live in a Light that never stops shining. That Light will shine through us if we let it and we will never live in darkness again. That’s the true Christmas Light.

Be Salt & Light

In Matthew Chapters 5-7 our Lord delivered what we call the Sermon on the Mount. In Chapter 5 verses 13-16 He says about believers…

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14  “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matt 5:13-16)

How do we become salt and light? It happens when we place our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. It’s in our spiritual DNA. Believers are salt and light just because we are believers. What an amazing realization! We have the potential to season the world with grace, the power to preserve the world from total moral decay, and the opportunity to shine forth the light of God where ever we go. Salt and light are metaphors for how believers are to be engaging our world for Christ. Our world includes our homes, our workplaces, our families, our friends, our co-workers, etc. It’s anyplace we happen to be at any given time. When we are living as salt and light our lives tend to be more winsome and attractive to those around us. But Jesus warns that salt can lose its flavor. Take the salt in the Dead Sea for example. I’ve heard that it looks like regular salt, but it has so much other stuff mixed in with it that it is neither good for seasoning food or for meat preservation. Today it’s sold as Bath Salts over the Internet. Is it possible for the Christian to look like salt without actually being salt? The Christian runs the risk of losing his flavor when he loses sight of his purpose for living. Our purpose for living is to know God and to bring Him glory. So being salt and light is more than doing good works alone. We must be careful that our good works are done in such a way that folks see Whose Light is shining through us so that they might glorify God as a result.

A little further down in the sermon Jesus warns us about using outward performance alone to gauge our righteous standing before God…

20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:20) [Emphasis mine]

Even the Scribes and the Pharisees, the masters of keeping the outward requirements of the Moral Law, were falling short of its inward intent. Notice that Jesus did not minimize the importance of good works in the life of a believer. However, He said our righteousness should go deeper than just doing good works. He told His followers to go beyond the external and to cultivate the inner man. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were experts at doing good deeds but it caused them to become proud and self-righteous. Our Lord said that when we do our charitable deeds, when we pray, or when we fast that we should not do it as the hypocrites do (Matt 6: 2, 5, 16). He did not say not to do these things but He said not to do them “to be seen by men.” He assumed we would be doing good works, but our motivation should be love for God and love for one another. It’s interesting that in Matthew 5:1-9 that Jesus started off His Sermon by declaring that we are blessed when we possess certain characteristics. I believe these are the prerequisites to being salt and light…

Poor in spirit…Those who Mourn…Meek…Hungering and thirsting after righteousness…Merciful…Pure in Heart…The peacemakers

It is important to understand that our righteousness does not come from our good works. Our righteousness comes from our position “in Christ”. Our good works should flow from our connection to God as we practically live in light of the realization that we were lost and without any hope in this world (Ephesians 2:11-13). That realization should give us a deeper appreciation for what God has done for us and should create a humble spirit within the believer not a proud one.

As we see our world growing darker being salt and light becomes an even more vital part of our Christian Walk. Look at what else Jesus said we would be considered blessed for…

10Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt 5:10-12)

You have probably heard of the incidents in recent years where Public School policies and the religious freedoms of Christian Students have collided with one another. There have been children who were not allowed to read their Bible at school, Class Valedictorians who were not allowed to mention God in their Graduation Addresses, Cheerleaders who were not allowed to use Bible verses in their event banners, and children who were not allowed to pray over their meal in a school cafeteria. There have also been a number of cases of small businesses (e.g. a photography studio in New Mexico, a Floral Artist in Washington State, and a Bakery in Oregon) being punished because they chose not to participate in same sex wedding celebrations due to their “sincerely held” religious beliefs.

In 1 Peter (3:13-17 and 4:12-19) the Apostle tells us to expect persecution to come and the cases mentioned above show that it has arrived. But he also tells us to make sure that we don’t suffer persecution because we are evildoers who deserve it. That’s even more reason for us to be salt and light. Peter tells us to have compassion for one another, to love as brothers, to be tenderhearted, to be courteous, not to return evil for evil, and to be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. He wrote these things to a people that were in the midst of persecution. We know that many non-believers will love the darkness and hate the light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19-21). Peter’s expectation was that at least some of the non-belivers around us would want to know how we maintain our hope in the midst of such persecution and that we might have an opportunity to share the love of Christ with them. But that necessitates that we have not burned all our bridges with the unbelievers we live among.


Jesus taught that the two greatest commandments deal with our relationships (Matt 22:34) –loving God and loving our neighbors. Being salt and light improves the quality of all of our relationships. In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus tells his disciples to love our enemies…to do good to those who spitefully use us and persecute us…to bless those who curse us. That is radical! You may be asking “how do I do that”? The Apostle Paul in speaking about the dangers of relying on performance of good deeds for our justification before God said this 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Ga 2:20–21). Christ lives in us and He wants to live through us. We need to let Him.


I read an article about a study that discovered that Kindness and Generosity are the key ingredients to lasting relationships which make successful marriages. If those social scientists had read the New Testament they could have saved lots of time and money. Imagine the impact that being salt and light could have on our marriages and our families. My pastor once asked, while sharing that some politicians were quoted in the Media as warning against Religious Extremism of any kind…”Can you imagine what it would be like to live in a world full of people who love to the extreme”? That sounds good to me.