Tag Archive: love


Expand Your World

When someone asks you about the most significant part of your faith as a Christian (if you happen to be one), what comes to mind first? I think at least the majority of us, if not all, would point to our quiet time with God. To be a Christian seems so innately tied to that time when you can be alone with God – reading the Word, listening to praise music, praying, journaling – whatever it looks like. Is that it though?

Recently, I read a blog post by a guy named Tullian Tchividjian (whew, what a name!) on the Resurgence Blog, titled “Spirituality isn’t Inward.” (It’s a great post, so go give it a read!). This post rocked my world. I totally hadn’t even thought about the idea that the truest form of spirituality isn’t what I do in my quiet time with the Lord, but how my faith impacts and interacts with others. In the post, he references James 1:27, which states:

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world”

Woah. So God views my actions towards others and my actions with regard to sin to be the most “pure and undefiled” expression of my religion.

Tullian raised the point that “Sin turns us inward, the Gospel turns us outward.” Isn’t that so true? As I focus more and more upon myself and the inward pursuit of conquering sin and “growing” in my faith, I actually cease to “grow” and my world shrinks around myself. Jesus came and didn’t call us to a faith that causes us to be obsessed with ourselves and our inner triumphs and failures. He called us to a faith that actually does something. A faith that interacts with others, not just between myself and God.

Matthew 5:14-17 says: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Could it be said better than that? Don’t “put a bowl” over your faith, but let your world expand to include the lives of others. Don’t just focus upon yourself to the point of shrinking your world, but focus upon the lives of others as well, allowing your world to grow as you shine the light of Jesus to others.

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Love = Miracle Gro, Pt. 3

In this group of posts, we’ve been looking at Paul’s apostolic prayer found in Ephesians. At first, we began dissecting the passage, then we looked at the symbolism of plant growth (I spoke of a tree, but I don’t know exactly what was on Paul’s mind). Now, let’s look at what all of this means for us practically.

When looking at the passage, I’m struck by the level to which Paul emphasizes the size of Jesus’ love. It is as if Paul uses every dimension that he can think of in order to stress the size and scope of God’s love, and even with the use of as much hyperbole as possible, he still runs short of being able to explain “the love for us that is in Christ Jesus.”

With that said, you might be wondering, “Yes, but how does this work? I thought you were going to give some application here!” Let us not forget that this passage is a prayer. That means that the only thing that we can functionally do with it is to replicate it. We don’t pray a prayer like this and expect the answer to come from ourselves or others. Paul is asking for some work to be done here by the Holy Spirit.

Do any of us fully comprehend how much God loves us? Who of us would answer “yes” to that question? We need God himself (God the Holy Spirit) to enable us to further understand His (God the Father) love for us in Jesus (God the Son). Isn’t that crazy? We can, with God’s help, continually grow (see all the plant-ish connections?) to understand and grasp God’s love.

And since this is a prayer, we can ask this of God on behalf of others. We need to ask this on behalf of others. After all, if you were a plant, would you rather grow in rocky sand or in miracle gro?

 

This post is part of a series. To view the previous post, click here.

What Is Love?

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, ESV)

The word “love” is mentioned 235 times in the ESV New Testament (according to a quick biblegateway.com keyword search).  Clearly, love is something that God is quite concerned with.  In fact, when asked which was the greatest commandment in the Mosaic law, Jesus responded,  “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 first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39, ESV)  So, love is the thing we are to be concerned with.  Despite this, I think our society has tragically distorted and misunderstood the concept of love.  We tend to confuse it with other, similar terms that have very different meanings.  So then, what is love, and what is it not?

First of all, love is NOT…

  • Tolerance.  Much is made in current popular culture of tolerating those who are different from us, those we might disagree with.  So what does tolerance actually mean?  The Oxford English Dictionary says that “tolerate” means “allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference,” or “accept or endure (someone or something unpleasant or disliked) with forbearance” (www.oxforddictionaries.com).  It often carries the connotation of allowing something because you have no choice, such as “I don’t like olives, but I will tolerate them.”  But in Matthew 22:39, quoted above, Jesus does not call us to endure our neighbors, or to allow the existence of our neighbors without interference, but to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Quite a difference – one is almost begrudging of the existence of the thing to be tolerated, while one unconditionally cherishes it.
  • Condoning.  There is a common belief that to love someone means to support all of their actions and attitudes.   That idea falls apart pretty quickly, though; say a parent has a teenager who is dabbling in illegal drugs.  Is the parent loving if they support the kid’s habit or give him/her money to support it?  Absolutely not.  The loving parent will do anything they can to get the kid out of the situation and cleaned up.  Simply put, not everything we do is good for us; those who truly love us will correct us when we go astray and help lead us out of the darkness of sin.

Love IS…

  • Action.  Contrary to what chick flicks would have us believe, true love is not a warm, gooey feeling of affection toward someone.  True love is action – doing things for those you love.  We can say we love the poor, but unless we do something about it, what good is it to them?  Or to use a more personal example, I can feel what I think is love for Tyler, my boyfriend; but if I never actually do anything to show him that I love him, well, the relationship probably wouldn’t last very long.
  • Accountability.  If I love someone, I am sharing a piece of myself with them, and I am answerable if I let them down.  I can profess to love the homeless of Champaign-Urbana and volunteer at a soup kitchen every weekend in order to show my love for them.  But if I then start a campaign in the city to shut down these types of charities, you can bet the hypothetical soup kitchen patrons would hold me accountable for my actions.  As well they should – my campaign to shut down the soup kitchen is hurting the very people I claim to love and rendering my claim invalid.
Both of the “greatest commandments” involve love – for God and for our neighbor.  There are lots of misconceptions about love in American culture today; what it is, how to show it, its results.  Love is certainly not easy for us, but real love that does not trivialize or hinder is a rare and priceless gift to a hurting world.
For a different perspective on love, check out Adam’s series on love starting here.

Love = Miracle Gro, Pt. 2

In my previous post, I started to look at Paul’s Apostolic Prayer found in Ephesians 3:16-19. Here’s the passage:

Ephesians 3:16-19:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

I love the way in which the New International Version words this passage. Some words that stand out to me are: strengthen, rooted, established, love, wide, long, high, deep.

I think that Paul had an image in his mind of some spiritual reality when he prayed this prayer. There are two very clear possibilities that I see (though I’m sure there are more) for the image that is being presented by the phrase “rooted and established”: a tree and the foundation of a house. Whether we are speaking of  a house or  a tree, the “soil” around us is love.

I think that Paul had a tree in mind, and here are some reasons why I think so:

1. The ultimate purpose of being “rooted and established” is found in the final words of the verse: “…that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (emphasis mine). The language is one of drawing “power,” “Strength,” and, “the fullness of God” from God.

2. In the prayer, Paul is asking that the church in Ephesus be given stability by God. We know this because he asks that they may be strengthened. Houses don’t gain their stability as much from the soil as they do from their own foundations. Trees, however, gain almost all of their stability from the quality and depth of the soil. Without good soil, your roots will be ineffective.

In either case, Paul prays that we might be established in love.

My next question is: “Whose love is the soil?” At first glance, there is some ambiguity as to whether or not the love Paul speaks of is ours or Christ’s. Looking at verse 18 tells me that this love is Christ’s. There is deep, deep earth beneath our feet here. We aren’t being planted or built upon some sort of sandbox which is only a couple of feet deep. We’re being planted in the love of an infinite God. This love is wider, longer, higher, and deeper than we can even understand with God himself helping us to fathom it.

So, looking at the passage again, we see that the ideal “growth environment” for our faith is to know the love of Christ that is deep within our “inner being.” Our Spiritual “Miracle Gro” is Christ’s love.

Past all of the images and ideas, what does all of this look like? Well, look for my next post and you’ll find  out!

This post is part of a series. To view the previous post, click here. To view the next post, click here.

Love = Miracle Gro, Pt. 1

Ephesians 3:16-19:

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Recently I decided to take a look at the Apostolic Prayers of the New Testament. I chose to study eight of these passages. There are more prayers offered up by Paul and more prayers offered up by the other Apostles which are recorded in the New Testament, but I found these eight to be the most direct and easy to approach.

With that said, here are my thoughts upon the first one: Ephesians 3:16-19.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” (v 16-17a).”

From this I draw several conclusions.

First of all, our God is so kingly and so mighty that he uses riches, not resources. In human terms, God doesn’t deal in dimes and nickels. He’s the kind of guy who has a wallet stuffed with $100 bills. Not only this, but he can afford to just pay for things out of excess! If he went to a restaurant, he could just slap down four or five of his bills and effortlessly pick up the tab for the entire restaurant. And at the end, he would say “it’s ok, keep the $67.85 in change. I’m no where near running out of cash.” Only God can be loose with his spiritual money and not be guilty of wastefulness due to the treasure trove of riches he has at hand. And it is a looseness with his spiritual riches that Paul prays for here. That the Lord would literally dump “power through his Spirit in your inner being.”

Secondly, I want to ask the question, “what does it look like to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in our inner being?” The answer, I believe comes after Paul finishes his prayer, in verse 20: “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be the glory…” (Emphasis mine). I pray that we might develop the habit of looking introspectively on a regular basis to see where the Lord is at work within us. It is a Christian precept that the Holy Spirit abides within Christians. Paul is asking for a veritable explosion of powerful work by the Holy Spirit in the lives of the Ephesian Christians. In such a way that they would not be able to deny that something craaaaaazy was going on inside of themselves and that it was not their imagination; that they could see where they were and where the are now thanks to what God has done.

Finally, I want to look at the intent of this prayer (a brief glance will show that Ephesians 3:16-19 is comprised of three complementary prayers). Why? “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” The working model would look something like this: God sends his Spirit (the Holy Spirit, which IS power) into a believer’s life. The Spirit brings a both a significant internal transformation and a marked increase in spiritual power to a believer. The believer, seeing more and more what the Spirit is doing, will naturally have more and more faith (we are human and our faith is wobbly and weak at times). This whole process will strengthen the believer as a whole, which brings us back to the beginning of verse 16, “…he may strengthen you with power…” The end result being a believer (and a group of believers [“so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…”; “hearts” being plural]) who is experiencing an influx of supernatural power thanks to the work of the Holy Spirit and who responds to this influx with ever-strengthening trust not only in the existence of God, but in the reliability of God to help him when in times of trouble or adversity.

Whew! In the next post we’ll be looking at why I titled this series of posts “Love = Miracle Gro. Thanks for reading and I pray that the Lord would make this prayer of the Apostle Paul true in the life of anyone who reads this post!

This post is part of a series. To view the next post, click here.