Category Archives: Christian Living

‘But the Greatest of these is Love’

Quick, name the central, resounding theme of the Bible.  What’s your guess?  If you said love, you’re right!  Maybe you thought the central them was God sending His Son Jesus to die for our sins.  Well you’d also be right, but God’s motivation for this, was love.  John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” 

When the disciples were gathered around Jesus they asked him, which is the greatest commandment?  Jesus replied, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Matthew 22:37-40 The two greatest commandments are for us to love.  In fact, it’s here where we see the ancient Greek word for Love, agapeo or Agape.  The word translated in English literally means unconditional love.  Let that sink in for a minute… unconditional… no matter what, God still loves us.  Romans 8:38-39 says, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  There is no separating God’s love from us.  The Apostle Paul speaks so strongly about love in I Corinthians 13:3, “If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.”  It’s in this chapter we find the eloquent portrayal of love used many times in weddings, in I Corinthians 13:4-8 and are told in verse 13, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Love is such a strong, overflowing concept in the Bible that it occurs 697 times in the New International Version.  Compare that to texts used by world religions, such as Islam, which mentions love (hubb) 69 times in the Koran.  Of the 99 different names given to “Allah”, there are no direct references to Allahu Muhibba or “God is Love”.  The Hindu religion has the word kama, but it refers to pleasurable (sexual) love as personified by one of their many gods.  They also have prema and bhakta as references to love, but none of which reflect an unconditional love of god towards man.  Buddhism has benevolent love, but it requires self-acceptance and is not reflective of a godly love.   It’s only in the Bible where we read of God’s love for us.  Take this to heart: The God of the universe loves you unconditionally!  I John 4:8 tells us, “Whoever does not love God does not know God, because God is love.”  All roads lead to the same God?  You decide, but I’ll place my faith in the God of unconditional love.

I’m certainly guilty of holding back love from people for one reason or another, but why is it so important for Christians to express love to everyone? The Bible teaches us to “Do everything in love” I Corinthians 16:4 , that love must be sincere Romans 12:9-10, and even goes so far as to say “love surpasses knowledge”. Ephesians 3:19  But perhaps the most important inspirational message for us to love one another, can be found in a song from when I was a kid.  That song had a chorus of “They’ll know we are Christians by our love“.  What a powerful witness to those who aren’t Christians, that they’ll know us by our love. 

I know with Valentine’s Day upon us, everything is all about “love” and we express that through flowers, cards, candy, and other gifts, but I just wanted to remind you of what true love is and that the Bible says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4:10

Have a Blessed Day!

 

 

 

What is Spirituality?

I started writing a response to a series of multi-part questions that were asked on the Facebook group page for this blog, http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#/group.php?gid=62075386824 , but I soon realized that the complexity of the questions might be overwhelming to read in just one post.  So what I decided to do was break down the questioning into its components.  Since spirituality was at the heart of the questions, I want to talk about it first.  Also I want to say that I do not think it was a coincidence that spirituality was the topic of Sunday’s sermon at my church.  Likewise, a passage I’ll refer to later was in my email inbox as K-LOVE’s inspirational verse of the day. www.klove.com 

So what is spirituality?  We hear this word a lot.  People throw it around like a buzz word.  According to Merrium-Webster’s dictionary, spirituality is defined as “concern with religious values; relating to or affecting the spirit; relating to supernatural beings.”  To help assist with this definition, I wanted to look up spirit.  It’s defined as “an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms; supernatural being or essence; temper or disposition of mind or outlook especially when vigorous or animated.”  But this still doesn’t explain what it is or how it applies to us.  Maybe we should look at what the world says about spirituality.  Oprah has an entire section devoted to it on her website with insight from multiple “religious” leaders.  In fact one of her New Age minister’s provides the follow quote on the subject, “So to be spiritual is to be in touch, connected with that dimension of depth in yourself.”  A second quote from her website on spirituality says the following, “Spirituality is where you lay claim to a ground of being within yourself where you say, ‘I want to be that. I really do. I want to be that person that I’m capable of being.’”  A third minister applies the following logic, “Spiritual practitioners must practice spirituality where we stop, take a breath, become still inside—that’s the act of meditation and contemplation,” he says. “It is the same in all of the religions.”  I will just tell you, all three of these quotes came from 3 different people with 3 different religious backgrounds.  Yet they all sound similar.  Primarily, each deals with self and what you can do for you.  On the surface, it sounds like a good idea although a selfish one, but for “religious” leaders where’s their religion?

The truth is the only religion is these quotes come from reliance on self.  There’s no deity, no ultimate authority, and definitely no presence of God (capital G).  Since “religion” had no offer for an answer on spirituality, what does Christianity say about spirituality?  Since I believe Christianity is less a “religion” and more a relationship with an engaged, personal, and powerful God through His Son Jesus, I’d like to discuss what the Bible says about spirituality.  First, spirituality is unattainable without accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior.  It’s through this repentance of sins and acceptance of Jesus that the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts and blesses us with spirituality.  To learn more about accepting Jesus as your Savior, go here http://voiceoftruthblog.com/?page_id=3  or click on the Knowing the Truth tab above.  When Jesus ascended into heaven after his death, burial, and resurrection, He promised the disciples he would send another to remind them (us) of the things He taught. John 14:25-27 With the planting of the seed in our hearts by accepting Jesus, the Holy Spirit offers us the nutrients and water that the seed needs to grow.  With that growth comes the Fruit of the Spirit or our spirituality.  Galatians 5:22-23 outlines the outward fruits that take place from our inward spirituality.  These fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  They don’t exactly reflect a reliance on self like the world’s “religions” do they?  Galatians 5:25 instructs us that, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”  This walk is reflected in our fruits. 

But spirituality does not stop there.  For Christians, we must continually grow our inward spirituality so that our fruits will be externally displayed.  The walk that I referred to earlier comes from living out three basic spiritual behaviors found in I Thessalonians 5:16-19.  This passage says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.”  So we see that the first of these behaviors is to “rejoice always”.  Again in Philippians 4:4 we are told, “Rejoice in the Lord always…”  This rejoicing is rooted in Christ.  It doesn’t come from a self-made happiness, but in a deep joy and peace in Jesus regardless of external happenings.  In the second spiritual behavior, the Apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6:18 to “pray without ceasing” and “in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 Christians are to be actively engaged with the Lord through prayer by creating an atmosphere of prayer.  The following quote epitomizes this sentiment, “The activity of prayer may be intermittent, but the atmosphere of prayer should be constant.”  For a deeper discussion of prayer go to http://voiceoftruthblog.com/?p=26  The third behavior necessary for growth of a Christian’s spirituality is, “in everything give thanks”.  Does any “religion” offer that as an example of spirituality?  The answer in short is no.  For them it’s all good as long as it’s all good.  Christian’s know that trials will come and the Apostle Paul’s petition for us to give thanks in everything regardless of our outward circumstances shows how important this idea is.  Last week’s blog “Trial by Fire” offers insight into giving thanks in difficult times, you can find it here: http://voiceoftruthblog.com/?p=178

Spirituality cannot be taken lightly, as the world would have you believe.  The world and her “religious” leaders tell us that spirituality is a reliance on self and is the same in all religions, but this simply isn’t true.  While Christianity in its structure is a religion, it’s a far more than that.  It offers a meaningful relationship with Jesus that leads to true spirituality through the presence of the Holy Spirit.  It’s only through the saving grace of Jesus by his death on the cross that we can experience these truths.

Have a Blessed Day!

By Faith

Essential to a Christian’s relationship with Jesus Christ is Faith. Faith that God created the world for His glory. Isaiah 43:7 Romans 1:20 Faith that God sent His Son to die on the cross for our sins. John 3:16 Faith that He rose again on the third day. I Corinthians 15:17 Faith that if we repent from our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9 Faith that our repentance and belief in the name of the Lord Jesus creates in us a new life. Ephesians 2:8-9 Romans 10:13 And faith that our Savior will return and reunite with His church. John 14:2-4

But what is faith? Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” KJV That’s a pretty profound verse! “The substance of things hoped for”, what does that mean? Well, we use faith in our every day lives, but probably don’t give it a second thought. When we put the key in the ignition of our car, we have faith it will start. Cross a bridge and have faith that the engineers designed it to not fail. Going to sit in that chair? Better have faith that it will support you. The “substance” of what we hope for in these instances is in their reliability to not fail us, even though we really have no evidence or proof that they won’t. The difference is that these “things” will eventually fail. It is a faith in man, in things of this world.  One day your car won’t start, that bridge won’t last forever, it’ll one day need repairs, and that chair’s likely lifespan is only a few years if you’re lucky.

The only thing worth having faith in, that will not fail, is the unconditional love of Jesus Christ. He is where the substance of our hope should rest. Even though we have not seen Him with our eyes, the evidence is all around us. The Bible tells us in I Corinthians 2:9, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” As Christians, the importance of faith cannot be understated. Proverbs 3:3 tells us, “Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” The Apostle Paul reminds us to prepare ourselves for spiritual battle with the Armor of God, which includes the Shield of Faith, to extinguish the fiery darts from the evil one. Ephesians 6:16 In military terms, the shield allows for attacks to be deflected and kept away from the body. In fact, the 2nd century Roman historian Cornelius Tacitus states, “To lose one’s shield is the basest of crimes.” What a beautiful analogy to apply to the Shield of Faith. Keep hold of it! Jesus tells us in Matthew 17:20 that faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain and that with it nothing is impossible. Hebrews 11 is filled with a history of faith that’s exhibited by a who’s who of biblical characters to complete many amazing feats. In fact, the word faith is mentioned 25 times (NIV) in this chapter alone. But for all of their faith, “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” Hebrews 11:39-40 The promise that they did receive because of their faith was eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Not only is it important to realize the power of strong faith, but it is perhaps even more important to realize that our God is faithful. As I alluded to earlier, if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive. I John 1:9 The Lord’s faithfulness is magnificent and worthy of praise. The psalmist, King David, sings of God’s faithfulness in Psalm 100:5, “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” David praises the Lord’s faithfulness throughout Psalms and does so elegantly in Psalm 57:10, “For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” The Lord wants us to understand that His faithfulness is unconditional, as is His love. He abounds with love and faithfulness and expects us to model our lives in the same manner.

Many times in our lives it’s easy to talk about faith, especially when things are going well. But it’s when we’re in the midst of a storm that faith is most important. It’s at our lowest point when we grab hold of our faith. How then do we achieve it? The Bible tells us, “So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Romans 10:17 Achieving faith goes back to our foundation on the Bible. http://voiceoftruthblog.com/?p=5 Paul’s description of the shield of faith was inclusive of the full Armor of God. Did warriors enter battle with a shield alone? No, it works in tandem with every piece of armor and we therefore are charged to, “…Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:13-18 Faith is so important in our daily lives. For Christians, we need only to open God’s word to increase our Faith. For non-Christians, you need to understand that faith in yourself, other people, and things of this world will inevitably fail you. The only infallible faith is that in Jesus Christ. It is available to you if you just reach out for it. In order to begin your journey into faith, you need only to step out of your worldly comfort zone and receive Christ as your Savior. To do so, simply click here http://voiceoftruthblog.com/?page_id=3 or click on the Knowing the Truth tab above.

Have a blessed day!