Love That Shows

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” (1 Cor. 13: 4-8 NIV)

In John 11:35, Jesus said that the defining characteristic of his followers should be our love for one another. People can only see that love in us through our actions. That old adage that actions speak louder than words should be especially true of us, considering who we are representing- the God who is love. 1 John 3:18 (ESV) tells us, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

And yet, sadly, too often our actions (starting with me) look more aligned with those outside the faith rather than the standards so well articulated by Paul in those opening words from 1 Corinthians 13. Perhaps the answer as to why the church seems to be waning in its influence on the world might be found in that observation.

“If we have got the true love of God shed abroad in our hearts, we will show it in our lives. We will not have to go up and down the earth proclaiming it. We will show it in everything we say or do.” – Dwight L. Moody

Clothed With Compassion

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12 NIV)

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Kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience seem to be in short supply these days. The society around us is looking more and more like the days Paul described in 2 Timothy 3:2-4 where so many have become “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.”

May our lives as Christians stand in such stark contrast to those trends that it demands an explanation. May we always be quick to explain that the hope, kindness, compassion, humility, gentleness, and patience others see in us is rooted in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. And may we always be prepared to introduce them to the Savior who “bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

“If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.” – Fred Rogers

The Word Became Flesh

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. … For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:14, 16-17 ESV)

While our most familiar Christmas accounts are found in the pages of Matthew and Luke, in recent years I have been drawn more to John’s account. John’s presentation of the Christmas story is very unique from the other synoptic gospels because John’s purpose was uniquely different. Those other gospels focused heavily on presenting the detailed events of Jesus’ life. John’s purpose was to capture the person of Jesus Christ.

imageJohn’s account of Jesus’ birth was very plainly spoken. Only nine words in length, it can be easily memorized. But while short on words, it speaks volumes theologically. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14 ESV)  We sometimes miss the awesome impact of that simple truth in our own Christmas traditions. We are thrilled each year by the thought of the spectacle of that night. We imagine the majesty of the angel and the heavenly host that appeared to the shepherds; the simple, yet touching manger scene with the precious little baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.

I love what Luke says concerning Mary’s reaction to all the events of that night. While the shepherds gazed in awe and wonder at the spectacle and all who heard their story “were amazed at what the shepherds said to them”, Luke says Mary “treasured” them up and “pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19 NIV) At Christmas, we could all use a little less hustling and bustling and a lot more treasuring and pondering … treasuring and pondering the person of Jesus Christ – who He is and why He came. And nobody answers those questions better than John in the pages of his gospel.

From his unique perspective as the self-described “disciple whom Jesus loved“, (John 13:23) John offers us the most comprehensive and insightful look into the heart of God found in all of Scripture. He understood better than anyone that Jesus came to show us the Father; that he spoke to us the very words of God so that we can better know the Father more intimately and personally ourselves. 

Only through John do we hear Jesus tell Phillip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. … The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”  (John 14:10-11 NIV)

That is the unparalleled message of Christmas – that Jesus came to show us our Heavenly Father – a message so uniquely  and profoundly articulated by John with those memorable words, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

I pray that this Christmas you will ponder those words, treasure them in your heart, and reflect upon their implication for your life. El Shaddai, The Almighty God, is also Immanuel, God with us. May you experience the reality and the power of His presence this Christmas as never before. And the Gospel of John would be an excellent place to start!

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:3 ESV)

A Christmas Reflection

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:34-40 ESV)

These words from our Lord echo his response when he was asked by a Pharisee lawyer in Matthew 22:36 to identify the greatest commandment. He linked the command to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind to the command to love our neighbor as ourselves. The implication in both passages is that our treatment of others, especially the least fortunate among us, is the measure of our love for and dedication to Christ.

It is a great reminder in this Christmas season, as we reflect on all the blessings God has lavished upon us, none greater than the gift of his Son, that we are called to be a channel of those blessings, rather than a reservoir.

“We never know how God will answer our prayers, but we can expect that he will get us involved in his plan for the answer. If we are true intercessors, we must be ready to take part in God’s work on behalf of the people for whom we pray.” – Corrie ten Boom

God’s Precious Thoughts

By Julian Wells

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! (Psalm 139:17 NIV)

I am a big fan of the Psalms. I read through them at least twice each year, turn to them often when the inevitable trials of life strike, and reference them frequently in my writings.

I am especially fond of the psalms of David. And of those, Psalm 139 is certainly one of my favorites. David, a man after God’s own heart, pours out his heart to God in Psalm 139 with refreshing honesty and passion – qualities that I continually strive to attain in my own writing.

David’s words convey genuine amazement and wonder toward the God he loves and knows personally and unquestioning acceptance of the divine mysteries he is unable to comprehend.

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. … Before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely O Lord. … Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” (Psalm 139:1-2, 4, 6 NIV)

As I encountered Psalm 139 again recently in my morning devotions, the verse that heads this post resonated in my heart quite like never before. It kept echoing in my mind until I sat down to begin drafting this post.

“How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!”

As you read through the account of David’s life in 1 & 2 Samuel and digest all the psalms that he wrote, you quickly get the sense that time alone with God was a passion and a priority for David. God’s thoughts were precious to him. They were his lifeblood.

And the same should be true for us if we wish to live a life that is truly pleasing to God and that serves God’s purpose in our own generation as David did in his. (Acts 13:36) The enemy will work tirelessly to prevent that from happening. And in today’s digital environment, he has many tools at his disposal.

That is why for many years I have made it a daily practice to schedule time alone with God first thing every morning – even if that meant getting up at 4:30 a.m. before my daily commute into Washington, DC. I believe that was David’s practice as well.

“In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation.” (Psalm 5:3 NIV)

It was also the example our Lord modeled when he made his dwelling among us:

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NIV)

In the morning I’m best able to guard that time alone with God from distraction or interference. Like David, I need that daily divine connection like I need oxygen.

I need it to ground myself in God’s truth before I am bombarded with the world’s lies. I need it for divine direction in a world that seems to have lost its way. I need it to find hope in the face of the world’s desperation. I need it to experience God’s perfect peace in the midst of the world’s chaos.

But mostly, I need it because God’s thoughts are precious to me. And the closer I grow to him, the clearer I hear his still small voice amidst all the surrounding noise.

” Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)