Tag: Love Each Other (page 1 of 3)

Stop Obsessing Over your Call from God

Call

Like many Christians, I used to worry a lot about my “calling”. Most of the worry has to do with the pressure leaders place on the importance of finding and fulfilling that “one thing” we are supposed to do for God. These leaders never intend that to be the case. Most, if not all, simply want us to realize and accept the invitation that God extends to us to join Him in His work. Unfortunately, it can often come off in a way that it is the most important thing we need to figure out. Almost as if not figuring it out makes us ineffective in God’s kingdom.

So we wrestle with it and pray about it. Then we seek counsel on it and listen real hard to hear God call us. And we get frustrated because we do not hear it as clearly as Moses did with the burning bush thing. But the thing is, I think it is a lot easier than all that.

The Clarity of Our Call

In fact, I think He has pretty clearly outlined our calling in the bible. For the last few years I’ve had this conversation with people: lots of young adults, my kids, newly married couples, my middle-aged friends. After awhile I started to become more frustrated with how none of us realize how simple God has made it. So I decided to write a book about it. Well, the book is actually about how Jesus only gave us three specific commands and how one of them, I think, is the key to obeying the others. But, the undertone of the book deals with our calling as followers of Jesus. I’m hoping to have the book done by the end of August and ready for release by early spring 2018, but until then, I wanted to share this secret. Ready?

As Christians, we all have one calling. Yep, you read that correctly. We are all called to one singular thing and it is the same for all of us. Actually, to be fair, our calling is truly made up of a few different elements. Specifically it is made up of three commands and one commission. That is our calling, obedience to three commands and one commissioning. So what are they?

Three Commands and a Commission 

I know this seems too easy to be true, but it really is not. I am confident that God was clear about two things: 1) how to get to Him (spoiler, Jesus) and 2) what we are supposed to do after we confess Jesus, so others can get to Him. Number two is our calling. It is THE thing that God is calling us all into. We, as Christians, all share in the exact same call of Christ. Here they are:

He commands us to:

  • Love God – Matthew 22:37
  • Love Our Neighbor – Matthew 22:39
  • Love Other Christians – John 13:34

He commissions us to:

  • Be my Witness and Make Disciples – Matthew 28:19 & Acts 1:8

Jesus was pretty clear at the end of Matthew 22, after he acknowledged the two most important commands. In verse 40 He said, “All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.” He was saying that our obedience to everything in the Old Testament depends on our understanding of and obedience to these two commands. Then He gave His followers the new command to love each other. I think there is a lot in that, but you will need to get the book to read my thoughts on that. In the big picture those commands are not always easy to follow, but I think they are pretty simple to understand.

After identifying the commands that we ought to be obeying, He commissioned us to be His witnesses to an unbelieving world and teach others to obey those commands. That’s our calling. Simple, right? I know some of you are saying, “But, I know my calling is to youth ministry.” So let’s talk about that.

Your Call to Youth Ministry

Really it can be any call, youth, any other vocational pastorate, para-church ministry, or even Taco Bell. I am not suggesting that God is not calling you to any of those things; there is a high likelihood you are, again I am not arguing that. But, the context & setting in which we do “ministry” is inconsequential if we do not accept loving & going as our call. More and more, I am certain that when you understand and accept that this is what God is calling us to, He will direct that call toward a specific group or cause. Chances are you probably already care about the thing you feel “called” to; you just need to align it with what God has already commanded and commissioned us to do.

My hope is that this frees someone who feels like they are not doing something “impactful” for the Kingdom. Here is the truth, the most important thing you can do for God, and other people, is whatever you are doing for them right now, as long as it is done with a lovingness that introduces people to Jesus. If you are not doing anything right now, just pick something. What you do and where you do it is often of little concern. So, just do something that puts the love of Jesus on display for others to see and feel. That is your call.

 

photo: Flickr/Sean MacEntee

How Community Heals

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In the book of Mark, Jesus is asked: “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “…Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.Mark 12:28-31

I use to believe that obeying the Greatest Commandment, to love God and love your neighbor, began with learning how to love God and allowing that love to compel you to love your neighbor. This common model is one that many Christians operate under. I am not arguing that we shouldn’t live under them, we must. However, this two-fold commandment begins with learning to love God and then allowing that love to prompt us to love our neighbor.

Loving God as a singular command is fairly abstract. It may take some time to learn to love Someone that is invisible and intangible. And because figuring out how to love an intangible God can be difficult, we may approach loving our neighbor with an attitude of duty. I have seen this “attitude of duty” lead many Christians to burnout and frustration. So what could be the answer to learning to love our neighbor without an “attitude of duty?”

I believe the answer lies in Jesus’ new command, to love each other, and thus in community. In John 13:34 Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

Jesus could have asked us to do our best to love each other. He could have even left it at “love your neighbor” since that pretty much covers everyone. But instead, He made sure to tell us that He was giving His followers a new commandment. I’m confident that Jesus gave us this command (“…love one another”) so that we would have an environment to receive healing and be restored to wholeness – to equip us to obey His command to love God and love our neighbor.

Christian community allows us to learn to love others in the safety of the body of Christ. It is in this community where we practice the love Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 13. Community is where the fruit of the Spirit is cultivated. It is where we practice confession and healing prayer as instructed in James 5, in the company of our brothers and sisters.

The essential elements of community allow the Holy Spirit to bring us to a place of healing and wholeness. When we become healed and whole, we are able to love our Christian brothers and sisters as He desires. As we learn to love, we become better equipped to love our neighbor, which is the outward expression of our love for God; in essence we are loving the Lord our God, with all our heart, soul and mind. We are able to care for widows and orphans in their affliction, which becomes a natural outpouring of the love that exists in our community.

As we become the likeness of Christ, we become better equipped for every good work of His ministry (i.e. loving others.) Growing our love for God points to and glorifies Him. This is God restoring us to wholeness as a means for caring for others and for the purpose of lifting Him up.

And it is this “real religion” that honors God and reflects wholeness in Christ. It is here we begin to fulfill Christ’s declaration in John 13:35, “By this, all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” It is in that fulfillment that we reveal wholeness and invite others to receive the same.

Loved People, Love People. (2015)

loved people love peopleI messed up. When I wrote Monday’s post, Loved People, I was supposed to stick to the idea that although God loves everyone, as Christians we’re aware of this truth and we can find wholeness and peace in that. I didn’t. Instead, I went off on a tangent about how because we know we’re loved and we’ve experienced the joy of that, we ought to be compelled to love others. That should have been this post. But, I’m not sorry. Over the last few years I’ve gotten to a place where I can’t separate the two. In this post I’ll just expand on Monday’s.

The thing about love is that humans have turned it into a feeling. I’m convinced it’s not. Inarguably there are feelings that accompany love, but as a feeling all it’s own, that doesn’t do love justice. I say that for a couple reasons. The first is found in how feelings surrounding love change. The love I feel for my wife now, as opposed to when we first met, feels totally different. When I look at her now my love has solidarity and carries the weight and depth of years of struggle and success. I look at her differently. We talk with each other differently.  Our love for each other is more mature, though still maturing further, but it’s far more mature than it was on our wedding day. The second is that feelings ebb and flow based on circumstance. If love was simply a feeling, the cross might have looked different. But, for Jesus to still display love, while He hung there, torn to shreds, dying, surely that is more than a feeling. At the least, it was a conscious decision and the most, it’s something we can’t even understand, but still get to experience. I’ll agree that love is in part a collection of feelings, albeit different ones at different time, but what makes love actually love, is the action that accompanies those feelings.

In the Kingdom of Heaven, love begets love. If we are a loved people, and we know that, we have to love others. There’s no exception; Jesus doesn’t leave room for it. For those that are business, or even process minded, think of it in terms of Vision | Mission | Strategy.

Vision: 1 Timothy 2:3-4

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Mission: Matthew 28:19-20

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.

Strategy: Matthew 22:37-39 & John 13:35

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 first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

If God desires all to be saved and Jesus commissioned us to make disciples of all nations, teaching them all He commanded, so that they’ll teach it, then the strategy that He developed around that is love. His strategy is not just drenched in love, it is love. All that He taught revolved around healing, caring for others, turning the other cheek, goodness toward our neighbor in spite of their intent. And all of that requires love as the plan of action. What Jesus introduced was higher level thinking in the area of glorifying God. It revolved around acknowledging our inability to make good on our sins and instead reoriented our attention toward relieving the burden of others, through acts of love. It’s the only reason we’re still here and He hasn’t returned; that all might be saved.

Love is the foundation of Jesus’ ministry.

Tweet: Love is the foundation of Jesus’ ministry. #ApproachGod http://ctt.ec/hDXxu+ vis @bpags2

You can argue theology. You can twist scripture to support what and who you think God hates. You can even put your own spin on what is required for salvation (but, to be clear, it’s by grace through faith alone, both a gift from God). But, you cannot argue that Jesus was not a minister of love. If God is love and Jesus is God and Jesus is the cornerstone, then love is the cornerstone. Love is the foundation of Jesus’ ministry. As a Christian, it’s also yours. As a loved people, you’re expected, and ought to be compelled, to love people.

Loved people love people.

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