Miracles of Love

Miracles of Love

  • The disciples were overwhelmed by the size of the crowd… but the Lord fed the multitudes—with 12 baskets left over…
  • The disciples were unprepared for a terrifying storm—but Jesus spoke the Word and calm and peace prevailed…
  • The disciples were broken and scattered in despair—but the Father raised His Son from the dead—and the tomb is still empty!

Our God has an amazing way of delivering us from evil, rescuing us from the storms, surprising us with His grace, protecting us during battle and elevating us when we feel most overwhelmed.  Truly, He is a good, good Father!

What is even more amazing is when He turns and tells us, “to feed the crowd…” or “to not be afraid…” or “My peace is upon you…!

The Christmas Store Miracle

It seems to me that Jesus is speaking to us in some of the same ways as we move toward Christmas as a Congregation!  He is trusting us with by far and away the largest Christmas Store ever!

We will serve more children, provide more toys, love on more families, minister to more areas of the county, tenderly address more hurts, confront more strongholds, provide more prayer and watch the Lord move in more glory than ever in this ministry…!

Did you hear the word MORE?  More crowd than we have ever served before… But OUR God still multiplies the gifts!  More storms calmed than we have ever seen calmed… But OUR God still commands the calm quieting the storms!  More resurrection peace and glory needed… But OUR God is LIFE, and the tomb is still empty!

Our plans are to serve at least 56 families and 140 to 175 children… sell (at 10 cents on the dollar) close to 500 toys… pray with 50 to 100 folks while teams are wrapping all those gifts…

We’ll do this by operating two Christmas Store areas simultaneously while operating two wrapping rooms all day long—and four prayer rooms!  I can almost smell the cookies and hot cider and candies we will serve while listening to, praying with, and loving on our neighbors.  We will also surprise each family with a food box complete with a frozen turkey, dressing mix, canned goods, and other Holiday delights…

How?  God is going to have to multiply…calm… and display His Risen Glory!  All of us as His disciples need to be ready to serve…  we need every disciple distributing the “bread and fish…”  we need all hands in the boat… and we need to be together to witness the power of His presence as our hearts are warmed and our eyes opened…!

God is entrusting us with a vision and mission bigger than ourselves.  He wants us to rely on HIS power, HIS provision, HIS grace, HIS love, HIS Word, HIS victory.  HE is our only hope.  This is as exciting to us, or should be, as when the disciples gathered up the twelve baskets of leftovers, or looked up at a clear sky from still waters, or touched the wounds in His hands and feet.

We are entering a miracle of love and dare not miss it!!!


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Real Love Heals


I am heading to my 40th High School Class reunion.  If you would have told me as a seventeen-year-old that 40 years later I would be happily married with four adult children, I may have believed you.  If you told me that I would live in a small town in the Tennessee hills, I may have thought it possible.  But if you would have told me that I would be a veteran pastor…?  Well I would have laughed at you hysterically!

God got the last laugh on that one!  And I love being a pastor—though these are difficult days in the American Church.

There seems to be three forms of religion prevalent in American Churchdom.  They are:

Legalism – church life based on rules of dress and conduct that are taught as requirements for salvation or holiness.  Women particularly are relegated to second-class citizens as everything from hair style to speaking or teaching publicly is called into question.  In our neck-of-the-woods, legalism runs rampant.

Licentiousness – church life based on a warm and fuzzy sense of love that permits anything, celebrates everything, and calls people to nothing.  This form of religion is very popular in mainline churches, such as many United Methodist Congregations.

Lightness – church life based on much the same concept as light beer – same flavor, but less filling.  This form of religion calls people to happiness rather than holiness, is program strong and content weak, and flourishes in mega settings as people long for status and influence and significance in a crowd rather than in a deeper walk with Jesus.

What is the appeal of these three ways of church life?  They are all simpler than a Biblically full relationship with Jesus—and they allow for more human control, while limiting Godly interaction.

While all these churches are full of good people who are Jesus-loving and heaven bound, they all fail to be what the Book of Acts clearly exposes as the model for the most real expression of church.  It is the Acts Church, the First Church, that thrives in most of the Third World, and it is the passion of my heart—planted there by the same God who called me into ministry in the first place—for American Christians to experience.

This fourth form isn’t a “middle way” between the above popular forms of religiousness, because Biblical Church isn’t based on religion at all.  I have come to call it:

  1. Real Love.  Church life should be based on a relationship, not a religion.  Programming is something businesses do, not Congregations.  Legalism and licentiousness are repugnant because they rob people from deep freedom and healing in Jesus.  Jesus-Light is troubling because it allows participants to remain infants their entire lives—even if they are outwardly busy doing whatever the latest “world-changing” program calls them to.  But Real Love Heals.  Real Love calls people into something so much deeper than religion.  Real Love demands growth—but not as in following some set of rules.  Rather, real love calls “deep unto deep”—calling believers into the deep, deep things of our God!  Relationship with God at its best is LOVE-based—not legalism, license, or lightness based.

This is my heart as a pastor.  It hasn’t always been easy, but it is right.  It is also the heart behind the Real Love Heals Conference.  To really love hurting, wounded people, the church must offer something other than legalism, license, or lightness.  Wounded souls need the Holy Spirit, not smoke machines, dress codes, or a wink at sin.   PLEASE HELP ME get the word out about Real Love Heals – the Conference, and the most authentic form of church!

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Persistent Love, Humble Love

Persistent Love, Humble Love

Luke 18:1-14 (Part of our Life Journal Reading for October 5)

Jesus told a story showing that it was necessary for them to pray consistently and never quit…He told the next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people. (Luke 18:1; 9 Msg.)

Jesus told these two stories back-to-back, and they teach powerful truths—both individually and collectively…

In the first, a widow—the bottom of the rung in terms of status or hope in that culture—persistently hounded a judge for justice.  The Judge in the story was a real work—a selfish jerk who none-the-less figured out peace would only come if he gave in to the widow’s requests.

Jesus goes on to point out the obvious—we have a Heavenly Judge who is quite the opposite of the one in the story.  Our Father is perfect Love and perfectly loving.  He is quick to hear and respond to those who are quick to pray and persistent in the praying…

In the second story, a tax collector—a most despised and looked-down-upon individual—and a religious leader go to prayer at the same time.  The religious leader thanks God for not being like those common people—and especially not like that tax collector.

The tax collector, meanwhile, recognizes his sinfulness and cries out for mercy while hiding in the shadows.  Jesus goes on to say that this man—not the religious leader—left that prayer time righteous.    “If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face, but if you are content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself” (vs. 14).

Don’t miss these points:

v  Father desires that we pray with great persistence—that we travail in prayer.

v  The most likely persons to pray so fervently are those who are in desperate situations.


v  Humility and confession speak to the Father’s heart—not arrogant self-righteousness.

v  The most likely persons to pray so humbly are those who are in desperate situations.


v  The “heroes” of the stories were a widow and a tax collector—both outcasts.

v  The “villain’s” in the stories were a crooked judge and a self-righteous religious leader.


v  Father answers persistent prayer; Father forgives and restores the humble confessor.

v  The “poor in spirit” are most likely to keep praying; most likely to confess their sinfulness.

Here, I think, is what the Lord wants us to hear:  A comfortable, privileged, “blessed” life tends to make our prayers short and our self-righteousness long; and most of us—certainly me—have been very blessed and privileged and comfortable.   These stories are both an inspiration and a warning to people like me—to allow the Lord to take me beyond my circumstances into a place of desperate prayer and humble confession—a place where my focus is off myself and on to the hurting world around me…

How about you?

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Reforming Love

Reforming Love

October marks the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95 theses on the church door at the Wittenberg Castle in Germany.  An Augustinian Monk and a Christian Scholar, Luther had become convinced through the study of Scripture that the Church had lost sight of the very core of the Gospel – that “The just (justified, saved) shall live by faith.”  (Romans 1:16-17).

As Luther saw that it was by faith ALONE (and not by human works); faith ALONE, (and not faith enhanced or supplemented by our good deeds); faith ALONE, (and not faith plus our blood, sweat, or tears), he found faith ALONE is the One who poured out HIS Blood, Sweat, and Tears!  Luther rediscovered the remarkably simple, profoundly powerful GOSPEL of Jesus Christ!

Luther sure wasn’t the first.  Paul had the same discussion with the churches in the Galatia region of Asia about 1450 years earlier.  They, too, like the Roman Church in Luther’s day, had started well with Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, but had drifted into a legalistic religious mess that promoted people’s efforts and religious observations at the expense of the true Good News.

Jude, too, confronted in the first-century church religious leaders who promoted a “gospel” of sexual promiscuity and fleshly excess—all in the name of God’s love… (Sound familiar?!)

This tendency to “add to” the gospel, or change it subtly, or dress it up religiously, is a common and devastating reality—rooted in the religiosity inherent in all fallen humans.  We think we are God.  We want to save ourselves.  We want God to revolve around our wants, needs, and desires.  We want a gospel that makes us happy, rather than holy.  We want Jesus to be our personal genie, and we want worldly pleasures, social acceptance, and economic success to be the reward for our “faithfulness.”

False gospels abound, and it is critically important that we not get sucked into them!  As a Congregation, we need to always be careful to not go the way of the “bewitched” Galatians… or like the church in Luther’s day, which was selling a sort of “heavenly brass plaque” (indulgences) to pay for the building of Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome…

There are many forms of false gospel being preached or modeled in the American Church, like the prosperity gospel, health and wealth gospel, social gospel, social-media gospel, hyper-grace gospel, big-crowd/low commitment gospel, and many more—all built on the same premise—that we don’t need faith at all—or that we need more than faith alone—to be in eternal relationship with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

As a Church, we emphasize Word, Worship and Life Groups because they are together the simple Biblical model for coming to the true Gospel, and for living our life out within the true Gospel.  We are not ashamed of the Gospel!  (Clearly, however, focus on the simple Gospel can really irritate human flesh!)

We must remain diligent in this because there is so much false teaching going on around us and so much temptation to find something that seems easier… cooler… more socially acceptable.  But the one and only Good News of Jesus Christ is this – that we are saved by grace through faith ALONE!

(My thanks to R.T. Kendall who wrote a wonderful article on this subject in this month’s Charisma Magazine.)

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Fifty Shades of Black and White

Fifty Shades of Black and White

Why does God allow Satan to use homosexuality to be the wedge issue dividing the church in our day?  Two reasons.  First, because the Apostolic must be separated from the apostate (See Hebrews 12).  Second, no one will ever be able to stand before Christ and say that the Scriptures were unclear concerning homosexuality, sexual immorality, or marriage being exclusively male/female.  No one.  Especially not pastors and teachers.  Below are Fifty Scriptures that make the point…

Most have heard of the book and movie entitled Fifty Shades of Grey.  The story involves the broken sexuality of the main character, Christian Grey, and the breaking down (through sadism/masochism) of a young woman (Anastasia) attracted to him.  The metaphor of fifty shades of GRAY, along with naming the main characters Christian and Anastasia (resurrection) is disturbing to say the least—as is the commercial success of the series.

Sexual brokenness has NEVER been a hallmark of being Christian—the HEALING of brokenness of every sort certainly is, however.  Being drawn into the darkness of domination, pain, and control has NEVER been a mark of the Resurrection; FREEDOM from such bondage is!

You would never know that, however, from reading the posts and promotions from groups such as “Uniting Methodists” or “Reconciling Congregations.”  To see it from their view, God is Gray, Gray is good, and the more shades, the better.  To hear it from their perspective, “healing” and “resurrection,” like most every other Biblical concept, are open to any interpretation that entices the senses or tickles the ears.

A common thread in these writings are statements such as “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality,” or “there are only a few Scriptures that mention homosexuality,” which therefore gives license to “thoughtful believers” to dismiss them, or contextualize them, or uncontextualized them, or rewrite them, or ignore them or, or just throw them into the bucket-of-I-don’t-want-to-deal-with-it…

To these progressives, fifty shades of gray speaks of minds and hearts open to any plotline that appeals to modern cultural sensibilities, even if the plot contradicts what it means to be a Christian living a resurrection life.  Perhaps a re-reading of 2 John 9 would be helpful.

Anyone who gets so progressive in his thinking that he walks out on the teaching of Christ, walks out on God.  But whoever stays with the teaching, stays faithful to both the Father and the Son. (The Msg.) 

With all this in mind, I made a quick—and I mean quick—survey of Scripture, and came up with Fifty passages of Scripture (not 4 or 5) that separate the perishable gray from God’s imperishable black and white.

There are at least 23 passages in the Bible that deal with sexual immorality, including homosexuality.  Homosexuality is additionally sited in at least 13 others.  Fourteen (14) more clearly articulate that marriage is the uniting of one male and one female into one flesh, period.  That is Fifty—at least fifty—Scriptures that clarify what God has made perfectly Black & White.

Now, to be honest, many of these fifty passages came out of the “frowned upon” books of Scripture that some progressives don’t like to deal with… like the Old Testament… or Matthew, Luke, and especially John… or any letter God inspired through Paul… Still, others come from books even liberals haven’t written off… yet.

A second confession.  I take seriously that Jesus is the Word (John 1) and that as the Word He breathed (2 Timothy 3:16) everything from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. I am a man of one bucket (sorry, Adam Hamilton), yea a man of One Book (thank you John Wesley!).

…And for those who prescribe to a “Red-letter-only” theology that declares that “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality,” The Word begs to differ.  In Mark (yes, even in Mark!) 7:20-23 Jesu explains in big red letters that it is from the heart that things like “all sexual immorality” come.  In the Greek, He used the word porneia, which covers ALL sexual immorality including (but certainly not limited to!) homosexuality.

…And BTW, Jesus also quoted Genesis 2 more than once in declaring that marriage is only between male and female, despite what the Supreme Court or a few bishops say or practice…

…And PLEASE do not confuse ceremonial law with the Moral law, comparing the eating of shrimp with the practice of homosexuality.  Falsely comparing ceremonial with moral law is just a bait and switch tactic.

…And if you feel the need to quote Romans 14 as a way to say that we should not major on minors, PLEASE remember you can’t get to Romans 14 without going through Romans 1, or Romans 13:9-14, for that matter—which make clear we should never minor on majors!  Eating only veggies?  That’s a gray area.  Giving license to sexual sin?  That’s not!

…And if 1 Corinthians 13 sums up all you believe about love, remember the love expressed in 1 Corinthians chapters 6 and 7 sets the stage for 1 Corinthians 13.

Why my slightly snarky tone?  Because it helps to make the points that badly need to be made in this hour.  The truth is, I respect my colleagues including Adam Hamilton and Tom Berlin who are desperately trying to keep the United Methodist Church together in some sort of holy center…  But my friends, a gray center that glosses over what God has made perfectly black and white fails ultimately to unify… or heal… or truly love.  There is no holy unless we are centered in Jesus.  A Body that doesn’t trust or listen to its Head will surely die.

There was a group of “centralists” Jesus addressed shortly before His death.  To this group that so deeply loved the institution and who avoided controversial subjects such as angels or miracles or the resurrection, Jesus said, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).  At the end of the day and for the sake of holding an institution together, we may be guilty of the same dismissal.  That, my beloved colleagues, would be painful beyond words and carry unbearable eternal consequences…

Why does God allow Satan to use sexual brokenness to divide church people?  Because no human will be able to stand before the Judgement seat of Christ and cry, “Gray!  Gray!  You weren’t clear on what You meant!”  From Genesis to Revelation, He has been extraordinarily clear… 

Why does God allow Satan to use sexual brokenness to divide the Church?  Because the imperishable Church must be separated from perishable religiosity…

The amazing truth: God stands ready to heal the sexual brokenness that is resident in ALL of us—to remove the shades of gray that diminish and destroy us.  He has clearly and repeatedly made crystal clear what is sin—not to flaunt the death we deserve, but rather to promote the life He offers in healing and restoring us…!

Here is a list of the Fifty (50) Scriptures divided into three categories making clear one truth….

Sexual Immorality                  Homosexuality                        Male/Female Only Marriage

Hebrews 13:1-5                       Romans 1:26-28                      Mark 10:6-9

1 Cor. 6:17-20                         Jude 5-8                                   1 Cor. 7:2

Mark 7:20-23                          1 Tim. 1:8-11                           Genesis 2:24

Matthew 15: 10-20                 1 Cor. 6:9-11                           Matthew 19:4-6

Galatians 5:19                         Lev. 18:22                                Genesis 1:27

Ephesians 5:3-7                       Lev. 20:13                                1 Peter 3:7

Titus 1:16                                Genesis 19:1-13                      Proverbs 5:18-19

2 Cor. 12:21                             Judges 19:22-23                      Proverbs 18:22

Ephesians 5:8-9                       Ezekiel 16:49-50                      Proverbs 30-18-19

Matthew 5:28                         Revelation 21:27-28                Ephesians 5:22-33

1 Thess. 4:3-5                          Revelation 22:15                     Deut. 24:5

Colossians 3:5                         Genesis 9:20-24                      Colossians 3:18-19

1 Peter 2:11                             Genesis 10:15-19                    1 Cor 11:11-12

1 Cor. 10:8                                                                               Proverbs 20:6

Acts 15:20

Ephesians 4:19

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Heartbeat of First Church

The HEARTBEAT of Livingston First Church

Our Heartbeat is: 

To love God and Neighbor in Worship, Word, and Life Groups.

“Christ is the Head of the Church, which is His Body.” (Colossians 1:18a)

There is no question about it:  Jesus is the Head of His Body, the Church.  Regardless of the name on the door, all Christians are joined at the Head—Jesus!  This should always remind us that our unity in Christ far outweighs the distinctives that individuals and congregations enjoy…

Jesus is the Head of the Body, the Church!  But as 1 Corinthians 12 makes clear, the Body of Christ is made up of many parts—both individually and as congregations.  Each of us has a unique role within the greater Body, and that role must be lived out within a congregation of fellow believers (because Christianity is first and foremost relational).  Congregations therefore have various “heartbeats.”  Every Congregation within the greater Body of Christ has its own unique: Contribution… Emphasis… Purpose… Direction… HEARTBEAT…!

AT Livingston First Church, our Heart Beats with a passion for the distinctives that also defined the life of the First Church, the earliest Christians, as recorded in the book of Acts:

WORSHIP – We focus upon the power of the Sunday Morning Gathering.  Worshiping together in Songs, Communion, Giving, Exhortation, Prayer, a Biblical Message, and an Invitation highlights our week as a Community—and it is something we don’t rush through.  We give the Lord the time and space to be God!

WORD – We strongly encourage everyone to daily read the Bible.  We use the Life Journal as our reading guide and HEARING tool.  By reading about 4 chapters of Scripture a day, you will read through the whole Bible—and twice through the New Testament—on a yearly basis.  By all of us reading the same chapters together, we will hear God speak to us as a Community weekly.  By writing down what “jumps off the page” at us, we will quickly learn how to HEAR God speak to us daily!  Yearly…Weekly…Daily… WE ALL NEED TO HEAR THE WORD!

LIFE GROUPS – We gather together in various homes throughout the week in small groups as patterned for us in the New Testament.  Likewise, our Life Groups use the Biblical model of question-asking, rather than being a sermon study group, or a bible study, or a book study.  Each week and in every Life Group, a question is asked and each participant answers.  The question might be something like this:  How much time did you spend with Jesus this week, and would you like to spend more with Him next week?  Whatever the question is, honest answering gives the Holy Spirit room to heal, restore, convince, correct and bless.

With Worship, Word, and Life Groups forming three “chambers” of our heart together, we recognize there must be one more chamber to form a human heart—and the Cross that is formed by those four chambers!  Community-focused outreach is this fourth chamber—allowing us to love God and Neighbor by looking outward while growing upward.   From healing services to food ministries; from missions to wide-open facilities, we take faith outside these walls—and we do so as those who are ever-growing as disciples.

If your heart is beating with excitement in reading this, then you may have found a perfect place to call “Home!”  But please understand the heartbeat of this church calls people to real maturity and genuine growth—while avoiding the traps of religiosity and churchianity.  You will be challenged!  But more so, you will be BLESSED!!  With Jesus as Head and a truly Biblical Heartbeat, Church is really… A Beautiful Body!

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Jesus’ Love Changes the World

Jesus’ Love Changes the World

Jesus didn’t come to earth to change a few things around, or to tidy a few things up, or to teach some really good stuff.  Jesus came to change the world—to take it back from the realm of hell—to unleash the glories of heaven upon all who would allow Him.

I trust the fact that Jesus has changed your world!  But in Him there is More!!!

Last January, Tina and I had the opportunity to spend four-and-a-half days with Dr. Bobby Cabot and about 30 other folks at an Encounter the God Who Heals event.   It was a powerful week, and a surprising one, as well.  Tina and I both learned and experienced much—more than we expected.  It was a delight to experience the Lord in fresh and healing ways!

Here are a few of the things we saw and experienced that week:

  • We witnessed the Lord Baptizing folks with the Holy Spirit.
  • We witnessed the Lord setting folks free from demonic strongholds.
  • We witnessed—and both experienced—the Lord bringing inner healing.
  • We gained fresh insights about healing ministry and inner healing ministry.
  • We had the joy of praying with folks the closing evening for a variety of healings—including salvation.
  • We discovered some great ways to help people relax and hear God.

It was a wonderful experience—and you can experience it yourself!

October 16-20, Dr. Cabot and her team will be at First Church leading this wonderful School.  We already have folks registered from Ohio and Florida, and I am praying we have a bunch of folks from our own church!

There is a cost involved in terms of dollars and in terms of time commitment.  Anything of great value is going to have a cost.  But the transformation this will bring in your life, and the transformation God will release through you in the lives of others—will change your world, and will change the world for many others!

The Encounter the God Who Heals event isn’t cheap and it isn’t easy—but it is life transforming—and it will change the very nature of life on our congregation and in our community.  I pray you can find a way to be part of it, and if not, I pray you will pray for the folks—from here and from around the nation—who will be part of it.

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Reclaiming Biblical Love

Reclaiming Biblical Love

A primary reason the Lord called us as a congregation to declare 2017 as the “Year of Love” has to do with the fact that in our culture “Love” has been reduced to meaning virtually nothing…

If we are to believe many voices in the culture—including many in the church, “Love” can only be expressed by granting license to any behavior or identity or action.  While the Bible terms this “licentiousness,” the culture counters that to love each other we must pretend that nothing is abnormal, nothing is excluded, nothing is sinful…

…And nothing could be further away from the fierce, transforming, correcting, healing, restoring, removing Love of God present in and presented through Messiah Jesus!

When loving my own children, “Love” often looked like a kiss and a hug, a word of encouragement, or a pat on the back; but equally, “Love” sometimes looked like a spanking, or time-out, or a grounding.  To “Love” my kids only in affirmation would have made them intolerable self-centered brats incapable of living well or loving others; to “Love” my kids only in correction would have made them fearful and battered control-freaks or perpetual victims…

…To “Love” them with correction AND affirmation allowed them to grow to be functioning adults who know how to attach to God and to other humans—to be able to both offer and receive real love…! 

So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11).

Our Father offers us the GOOD, GOOD gifts of REAL LOVE!

  • He loves sinners, but hates sinful behavior (See Jude 23).
  • Father disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6).
  • Father’s discipline leads to repentance (see Rev. 3:19).
  • He calls us to both affirm and correct our children in balanced, real love (Eph. 6:4).
  • Papa’s correcting love produces the fruit of righteousness (see Heb. 12:11)
  • His Love “covers a multitude of sins,” but it does not encourage them!  (see 1 Peter 4)

I believe the Father is calling us as a congregation to maneuver a “road less traveled.”  He is calling us to awaken the souls of the lost around us not with a cheap love diluted with licentiousness, but rather a Costly Love that:

Confronts as well as comforts; disciplines as well as disciples; sanctifies as well as saves; renews and restores—but also rebukes.

In other words, a Love that is both Hot with the fires of healing and conviction and Cold with the refreshments of invitation and acceptance, but NEVER a LUKEWARM “love” that neither heals the broken nor invites the outcast…!  (See Revelation 3:14-22)

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The Opposite of Love

The Opposite of Love

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

When dealing with a married couple who are angry and arguing—at wit’s end with each other—I see hope…

When dealing with a couple who just don’t care any longer, who have moved to the place of not feeling anymore… of not giving a darn, I grieve…

You see, the opposite of LOVE is not ANGER; rather, it is APATHY!

Real love gives.  Real love cares.  Real love is expressed in joy AND in anger.  Real love is passionate and feels passionately about other—even to the place of loud exchanges and uncomfortable confrontations.

The one thing Real Love does not do is… Give up.  Walk away.  Check out.

In this, The Year of Love, we should joyfully consider the fact that God loves so much as to give Himself…

Jesus’ Love was expressed in tears, in teaching, in correcting, in challenging, in anger, in exasperation, in healing, in deliverance, in loud voices, in quiet prayers, in gentle nudges and in powerful pushes…  But NEVER in Apathy!!!

God cares.  God cares enough to Judge.  To turn over tables.  To call religious folks to task and apathetic folks back to real love…

Our American Church culture is sick with a cheap apathetic “love” that calls people to nothing and cares about their eternity even less.  Confronting sin is now considered the worst of sins.  Preaching on sin or the coming judgement or Godly wrath has been replaced by a syrupy “love” that drips with apathy rather than the righteous, passionate, sometimes-angry-but-always-caring Love that drove Father to send His Son…!

When I think about the Methodist Church… Once so passionately in love with Jesus and His people as to call them to holiness… Once mocked for loving God with all-consuming passion… Once driven to anger over the abuse of women and children… Once courageous enough to war against slavery and alcoholism…

Now, much of Methodism—and much of the American Church—has been reduced to preaching “love” that costs nothing and changes even less… Afraid to get angry over anything—except the preaching of the truth.

The opposite of love is apathy, not anger. 

Love, sometimes, is best expressed in anger—a righteous anger than can no longer tolerate the devastation of a sinful behavior… a gentle anger that clears the air and calls for deeper relationship… a fiery anger that confronts religiosity and hypocrisy with the truth of the Word.

Love encompasses anger and can even make it righteous, but apathy leads only to death.

Jesus LOVES me, this I know…!

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Love, Call, and Character

Love, Call, and Character

Father God seems intent on taking risks.  He certainly “bet the Farm” when risking everything in sending Jesus to rescue the world.  The necessity for a human being to rescue humans—and for blood to be the ransom currency—meant that Jesus had to be fully human—and therefore as capable of deciding wrongly as Adam was.  There were no guarantees, and Jesus had it much rougher than Adam, considering that He entered a sin-soaked mess, rather than the garden of perfection Adam walked in.  Jesus, the “Second Adam” chose rightly, and since “life is in the Blood,” paid for it supremely…!   What a risk!  What a Gamble Triune God made in allowing God the Son to walk in full vulnerability!  LOVE is risky, and LOVE HIMSELF risked it all to rescue, redeem, and live relationally with you and me!

Likewise, Father takes quite a risk in calling people to be leaders in His Kingdom.  He will not, mind you, override Free Will.  If He did, there would have been no Fall and no need for Jesus to come… but there would also be nothing like true love.  Love is risky…!  Love requires a decision!  Love cannot be forced!  But LOVE HIMSELF will risk everything to find those who will freely love Him—and love His other children!

God called Saul to be the first King of Israel.  Unfortunately for Saul, his character did not develop quickly enough to walk in the call.  LOVE took a risk on the tall, handsome son of Kish, but the gamble seemingly failed.

God called David to be the second King of Israel.  Fortunately for David and Israel, years of lack and struggle and insanity and pain and confusion—those years we call the wilderness years—shaped David’s character to the place where he could walk in the call…   LOVE took a risk on the short, handsome, ruddy son of Jesse.  This time, the risk paid off…

God called Peter to be an Apostle—and a leading one at that.  But his character was so lacking… Satan sifted and Peter waivered, but his character shifted—until he truly behaved like a Rock rather than a blockhead.  But it was risky, and there were no guarantees…!

There were others who were called to be Jesus’ disciples.  Some walked away.  Some gave up.  One even betrayed

True Leaders (Elders) in God’s Kingdom are marked by two pillar requirements.  A CALL from God, and the Godly CHARACTER to walk in that call.

Some Elders are called first—and (hopefully) grow into a place of mature Kingdom character.  These tend to be the travelling, apostolic/prophet/evangelist/pastor/teacher Elders who are called to Shepherd the greater Church.  Paul is an outstanding example of a man who was called to a great ministry—but had to spend years in character-preparation before that ministry could blossom.

Other Elders are first known by the fruit of their Godly character—and then called into service.  These tend to be the stationary Elders who help lead local congregations.   Philemon is a good example of a man whose character allowed him to be called to leadership.  (His character can be seen in the way Paul could trust him to deal rightly with Onesimus.)  Paul gambled on Philemon being a man of Godly Character—and everyone won!

At the end of the day, both a CALL from God and Godly CHARACTER must be present to remain a faithful leader in the Kingdom.

It amazes me that Father CALLED me BEFORE I had the character to walk in it.  I am often painfully aware that my character still falls far short of Father’s call.  But I am profoundly grateful for the journey, and humbled by a Love that could take such a risk on a wretch like me!

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