The Christian Life: Unfiltered

Scripture says that the one who has loved one another has fulfilled the law. Any other commandment is summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”

The sum of God’s purpose for human beings is to love one another. No filter is needed. You don’t have to run this through a denominational filter, or a political filter, or a theological filter, or a family filter, or a social media filter. This is a biblical directive, it is right there in black and white. The mark of Christianity is whether we are loving our neighbor as ourselves. You don’t need someone to tell you what this means and whether or not one thing counts as loving your neighbor and one thing doesn’t. If you are a Christian and you don’t know what love looks like, then you might need to start your faith over.

church sign

adam fagan

This past week in Houston, there have been many signs of this kind of love for neighbor. Volunteers in boats are saving people from their washed out homes, public service personnel are risking their lives and maybe even the protection of their own home and possessions to help others. And we are celebrating these acts of sacrifice and love. The stories about heroes are more present on social media than stories of destruction or loss. We can’t get enough of it. Why? Because, deep down we know the goodness that is found in this kind of love. We recognize the purity of helping another person simply because they need help.

May Christians return to this truest mark of the faith. Let us put away all of our filters that give us convenient excuses for not doing God’s will. Life is too short to not love, to not practice goodness.

Let us live a filterless life.

 

How To Make Serving Others Easy

I was talking to a Pastor friend of mine recently and he expressed the need for his church members to be more willing to help and volunteer for the various ministries of the church. His church had seen growth in numbers but not as much in willingness to serve and contribute to the work of the church.

Being a long time church member myself, I understood his frustration because I see it all the time. But as I was reading recently and was being directed to look at some of the great love chapters of the Bible, I discovered an important truth, as voiced by Curt Thompson in his book, Soul of Shame: “Love always has another move to make.”

The more we grow in love (the way, the action, the life, not just the feeling), the more creative, daring, observant, and sacrificial I become. As Thompson observes:

“…”love never fails.” It does not fail because it always has another move to make, another gesture toward connection. And there is no end to its movement. We never “arrive,” but rather are, and even in the new heaven and earth will be traveling, as C.S. Lewis bids us imagine, “further up and further in.” Where shame attempts to push us into static inertia, love bids us to move.”

divine servant

I have noticed in my own life that when my ability to love increases so does my ability to serve. In those times of truly being loving, the choice to serve or take action, isn’t a chore but as easy and natural as can be.

Through growth in love, both of God and for others, comes this unstoppable movement toward doing good for others and for your community. My pastor friend’s church doesn’t have a volunteer problem, they may have a love problem.

Besides, to serve or to act but to do it without love is to “gain nothing.” For love never fails and if our actions are full of love, then we cannot go wrong.

The goal is not to do more but to love more and the doing will flow naturally out of a heart of love.

Good For The Soul Playlist

Music guitar

Image by @Doug88888 via Flickr

In my last post, I talked about the profound impact of music on the spiritual life. I also promised that I would provide a playlist of songs that have enriched my spiritual life. Below you will find the link to this playlist.

If you are expecting a list of praise songs and hymns you might be surprised. This list contains songs that have impacted me on a deeper level. I can’t really predict which songs will have this kind of impact. Just because a song is sold at Christian bookstores doesn’t mean that it will reach my soul. Music is a very personal thing. Sometimes it may be the lyrics that touch you, sometimes it may be the singing or melody, and sometimes it may simply be the beat. I hope you take a listen and feel free to share with me your own list.

http://grooveshark.com/#/playlist/Good+For+The+Soul/65815002

Apprenticeship With Jesus: Day 6

For Lent, I am walking us through a book called Apprenticeship With Jesus. You can follow along by reading my highlights and reflections. Extensive previews of the book, including excerpts, can be found through Google Booksand Amazon, as well as eBook purchasing options.

Day 6: Love Is God’s Money: Compassion As The Economy of the Trinity

–  1 John 4:16 –  And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

–  We are created to love and be loved in return

–  Self-forgetful love brings pure joy

–  The key to joyfulness is the spiritual power of the Trinity, self-forgetful love

Though you never want to be in the habit of reducing God, scripture does it for us with its mention of God as love. To be created in God’s image is to be created in love and for love. Americans especially think that something that is more complicated is more valuable. Though God is complex and a mystery, we can understand him and his ways by just understanding love.

Apprentice Activity: Getting Into The Flow  — With Simple Acts of Kindness

–  Other-focused love has great benefit to our souls

–  Think of three people you can surprise today with a simple act of kindness. Then ask God to help you carry out your plan. Notice how it feels to become lost in other-focused love.

I failed on this activity for a couple of reasons. I still intend to do it but at the time I failed to make it happen. For one reason, I was not feeling well. I was feeling drained, I was dealing with severe allergies, and stomach problems. If you want to have a disruption to your spiritual life, then just get sick. You other-focused mentality quickly becomes self-focused.

Another reason that I failed was because I was too busy. There was too much going on at home and with activities involving the home that I was running around too much to even focus on helping others. I hope that acts of kindness are a natural part of my life that I don’t have to have set moments to participate in kindness but I know that I could have been more intentional in response to this activity.

What is Jesus teaching me? I am slowly learning how to step into the Trinity and trust. I don’t know if this example will make any sense but on Saturday I found my self just trusting God for my daily energy, concentration, and security. I took the reigns off my controlling nature  involving time and my to do list and just trusted God. Though my day was busy and filled with many activities, I just had a calm about me and a confidence that God knew what he was doing. I ended up having the time and the energy to get done what I needed to get done plus do some things that I enjoy.

What part of your life do you need to hand over to God? As a Christian, you have already trusted God for your salvation but have you trusted him for your life?

A Guide To Dying To Self

In my life, a challenge, among many, is selfishness. I like things done in a particular way – mine. I often manipulate situations so that my preferences will override others. I am subtle and passive aggressive about it but I am as guilty of selfishness as an outspoken narcissist. God has changed me over the years to see more of his will in contrast to my own. And I have had enough experiences with God’s will to start to recognize my “maximum fulfillment” is found within it. But it is a slow process. Philosophers argue “if there is any such thing as a selfless act?” I wouldn’t know the philosophy maxims that would help answer this question but from my experience, selflessness is very rare.

What can be done about this constant tendency toward self? Well, there isn’t a whole lot that we, as individuals do. God has to do the bulk of the work. One thing that might help is to understand the progression of love in God’s kingdom. First, God loves us (John 3:16). Second, we love God. And third, we love others through God (1 John 4:10). With this progression we see that all love starts with God and is only fulfilled through his power. We can’t even properly love ourselves without help from God so how would we think about loving others in a way that is sacrificing and selfless without God showing us how.

Are you trying to love others without having a proper love of God? Do you have trouble understanding the level of love that God has for you? Try this exercise. Read John 21:15-17 and meditate on Jesus’ question of Peter, “Do you love me?” Think about how you would answer this question and your response to Jesus’ command to Peter to “care for my sheep.” Who is it that you need to “feed?”, to care for?, and to love? Ask God, he will give you an answer and you can start to “get over yourself.”