"Love each other as I have loved you."

Sunday, August 3, 2008

By Our Love Pt.2

By Our Love Pt.2
There are many ways to serve one another in love, and one of the greatest aspects of this service is discipleship.

A Commission

After being resurrected from the dead Jesus told the women at the grave to tell “His brothers to go to Galilee” and Jesus would meet them there. When they arrived at the place Jesus told them to go, Jesus was there, and it’s here that Jesus gives His disciples a message in Matthew 28:18-20:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

To many this is known as “the Great Commission”. Before we can totally understand discipleship and how it’s one of the greatest expressions of Christian love and service, we have to understand what a commission is. A commission is by definition “authority granted for a particular action or function” or for us military folk “a document conferring authority issued by the president of the U.S. to officers in the Army, Navy, and other military services, and by state governments to justices of the peace and others.” In military terms (terms I’m used to), a commission is when the President (who is the supreme power in the military) gives some of his authority to the people who work for him, in order for them to carry out his purposes, under his name. In the same way, Jesus is commissioning his disciples, who have spent 3 or more years with him at this point, to go out and make disciples of all nations in His stead, and under the Authority of His Name. Now, you can only give a commission if you have the authority to do so, and Jesus obviously has such authority, and he declares this upfront “All authority in the universe has been given to me…” Do you see what Jesus is doing here? He has all power, all authority, and can do ANYTHING He chooses with it. He could disciple the whole world by Himself, and yet He chooses to let his rag-tag group of disciples, who just 3 days earlier abandoned Him, do it in His Name. And that’s how a commission works. And this commission has been given not just to the disciples, but to all the Christians. Notice the last command Jesus gives in Matthew 28. He tells the disciples to “teach them everything I have commanded you”. He has commanded the disciples, among many things, to make more disciples! That means, the disciples taught their disciples to make disciples who taught their disciples to make more disciples and so on all the way down the years to you and me! So we have a commission from Jesus Himself, by His power and in His Name, to make disciples of all nations and to teach them everything He has taught us.

Why is this type of service considered love?

To answer that question, we need to look at the ministry of Jesus and how He discipled His followers. Jesus’ training of His disciples consisted of several ‘phases’. The first phase was the invitation to follow. Take a look at Matthew 4:18-21 and you’ll see an example of Jesus bringing those he would disciple under His wing. Nothing fancy, nothing incredible, simply a humble request to come and walk as He walked. Beyond that, He promised to make them able to ‘fish for men’, meaning, find and make even more disciples! Now, observe the types of people Jesus was choosing to have follow Him. They were fishermen, tax collectors, and later with Saul of Tarsus, He even chose a Pharisee! People from all walks of life and all different backgrounds, but they all share something in common: they’re not the people you’d expect the Messiah to choose. We’re talking the poor uneducated work-horses of those days (fishermen), the people who the public considered the greatest sinners (tax collectors), and the religious hypocrites! This goes to show you that you don’t know who God is going to place in your life to pass on what you have learned, so keep your eyes open because it could be anyone. You shouldn’t discriminate or hold someone back from being taught about God just because they aren’t like you, or don’t see things eye to eye with you. In fact, I’d argue that the people who rub us the wrong way the most are the people God wants us teaching to and learning from the most. It’s humbling really.

The next phase of the discipleship of the disciples was walking and talking with Jesus, or the ‘following’ phase of discipleship. It’s here where the learning and imitating happens. For more than 3 years Jesus poured His life and teaching in to His disciples. Not only did He teach them by words, but by His actions as well. It is this type of commitment that we have to have to the people who God places in our lives to teach and train. Let’s look at John 13:1-20 and see one of Jesus’ final lessons to His disciples. Here it is obvious that Jesus has loved His disciples to the very end of his ministry and beyond, and He demonstrates this by a metaphorical physical action. The washing of someone’s feet was one of the greatest acts of servitude one could bestow upon another, in fact, most of the time the servant of the household would wash the feet of the guests. Here however, Jesus who is Lord of all becomes that servant to show His disciples just what it meant to serve. If He was their Teacher, Lord, Master, then they would do what He has been doing. What Jesus had been doing all along was teaching them what they needed to know so that they could teach and train others to be just like Jesus.

The last phase of discipleship Jesus used we’ve already mentioned, it’s the Commission. It’s where the rubber meets the road. It’s where the person we’ve trained puts all of that training in to practice, finding others to teach what Jesus has taught us. It is the epitome of what Paul said to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2: 1-2:

“You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.”

Devoting your life to serving someone, teaching them what has been taught to you, and showing them the way to carry out the Commission Jesus gave to them, is one of the greatest acts of love imaginable. It’s an act of service and love that keeps growing and growing, as the people you touch get to touch more and more people. So carry out your commission!!

But How?

Many people wonder “what do I teach someone?” and “how exactly do I do it?” but the answer is already in your commission. Everything. Everything pertaining to Christian life and godliness, which is to say, walk the way that Jesus walked. He spent time studying the Word of God (Luke 2:45-49
Matthew 4:4), Praying (John 17:1, Matthew 14:22-23), in Fellowship (Luke 22:14-15, John 15:13-17), and in Witnessing (Matthew 4:19). This is what we need to pass on to the people God entrusts to us. But we need to take our commission from Jesus and go out and seek those lost sheep, seek the people God has already prepared for us to meet, invite, teach, and ‘commission’ them by sending them out.

By acting out this love in to other people’s lives, other Christians and the world alike will know we are Jesus disciples. That’s how they’ll know we’re Christians, by our love.

Friday, July 25, 2008

By Our Love, Pt.1

**I haven't blogged in forever, with no excuse other than I'm too lazy to type, but I'm going to try to get back to posting my Bible Studies again, so here we go!**

By Our Love, Part 1/2

*Hypothetical Story*

Imagine you are at your work, wherever that is for you. You and a co-worker are attempting to collaborate on a task given to you by your Boss. However, in the process of working on this task, there has been much disagreement on exactly how you should go about achieving the goal, or even the specifics of what that goal is. Because of this, not much work is getting done at all. Worse than that, the ‘disagreeing’ has degenerated in to full fledged in-fighting, name calling, and general nastiness. The jist of the fighting is “my method is better than your method and if you don’t follow my method maybe you’re not even supposed to be here” and the like. Now, in walks the ‘new guy’, he has been hired by the Boss to work with the two of you to accomplish the task. When he comes in the first day, he sees you fighting, calling each other names, being completely childish with each other, and worst of all, trashing each other’s methods and ideas about the task. How is this person going to react? A couple ways actually. One of them would be to not want to be involved with the two of you at all, perhaps he’ll quit. After all, if the two of you are destroying each other, why get involved in the first place. Perhaps he’s thinking his ideas will be crushed underfoot as well. Or, maybe he’ll get involved in the fighting, saying his ideas and methods are best, and also not focus on the ultimate goal as well, accomplishing just as ‘much’ nothing as the two of you. Either way, it’s not beneficial at all, and nothing is getting done.

This is a metaphor for how Christians act towards each other and the consequences it has. And we do it all the time. The new guy might be a new Christian, or someone who God is drawing to Him, but it works all the same. Our lack of love for one another drives them away, or drives them in to sin with us. Let’s talk about changing this situation some, shall we?

John 13: 34-35
Jesus said that we would be known to each other and the rest of the world by our love for one another. But it seems today that there is a lack of understanding of what it means to love one another, and how that is actually accomplished. Jesus didn’t say that people would see our doctrinal perfection and know that we’re Christian. He also didn’t say that we should let our internal struggles concerning who’s right and who’s wrong on non-essential issues shine before men, so that when they see how well we fight with each other, they’ll glorify God. He said to love one another as He loved us. When we see such a statement, we naturally ask, “What is love?” and the Apostle John tells us:

“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to
lay down our lives for the brothers.”
1 John 3:16
“In this is love,
not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the
propitiation for our sins.”
1 John 4:10
“And now, dear lady, I am
not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that
we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to
his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk
in love."
2 John 1: 5-6

We also might ask “How do we love like Jesus loved?” If we take a glance at the pattern of Jesus’ life on Earth, the answer becomes clear: To love one another like Jesus did is to be a servant to one another. Much freedom has been given to the Church in this regard, but what happens when Christians use their freedom in Christ to set up roadblocks of legalism against their brothers and sisters, bringing them back in to bondage once again?

Galatians 5: 1-15
Here we have a startling situation: The Church of Galatia has been influenced by a group known then as the “Judaizers”. They were suggesting a certain heresy, that to be fully Christian, and enter in to God’s Grace, you must be circumcised in accordance with the Mosaic Law. Paul spent most of his letter to the Galatians explaining that Christ has set us free from the burdens of the law, which no one can keep anyways. If you get circumcised to ‘obey the Law’, then Christ is of no value to you because our relationship with Jesus is contingent upon faith in Him; you would essentially be rejecting God’s Grace in Christ. Well apparently this teaching was causing division among the Christians in Galatia, and they had begun fighting with each other and going in different directions. They were destroying the unity they had in Christ, because they were devouring each other. It is here that Paul warns us to watch out, and to instead live by the Spirit, not by the flesh which brings division, destruction, and the opposite of love for one another. So when we use our freedom to create more rules, more laws, we create slavery for the very people Christ freed from slavery. We devour our brothers, and instead of serving them, we make them serve a new master.

So how do we love one another? We already said it was by service, but how does that happen? In Matthew 20: 25-28, Jesus gives us the rule of thumb for service in the Kingdom of God. In fact, in this, He essentially shows us the difference between the system of the human world, and the Kingdom of God. Notice that Jesus explains how the human authorities use their power as a means to self-gain, and indulgence in to power. Basically, these authorities use other people as stepping stones to their own greedy aspirations. However, Jesus tells us that this cannot be among Christians who are not citizens of this world, but of God’s Kingdom. And it’s here that we learn what love means: it means service before self. Jesus here uses Himself as the greatest example of this love, in that while He is the greatest of all, and could have been served by all, He instead was the biggest servant of all. Paul says this again differently in Philippians 2: 5-8:

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being
in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in
human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!”

What does Scripture say is the greatest love? John 15:13

There are many ways to serve one another in love, and one of the greatest aspects of this service is teaching and discipleship. We’re going to talk about the specific ins and outs next week.

Grace and Peace,


Friday, April 18, 2008

Birfday and schtuff

So I just had my birthday on the 17th, which was like...35 minutes ago here. Now it's the 18th. I shall celibrate it not being my birthday anylonger. When I left for work this past morning, I forgot it was my birthday until wifey told me so. I got nice presents. And a cake. Beckett, one of my beagles, at some of it....boy was I mad. We went to a AAA ball game....caught Josh a foul ball...he loved the game.



Friday, April 4, 2008

"Savior, Redeemer, Conqueror..."

Just as you realize you’re hopeless and crushed,

Even hell and death were not quite enough.

Savior, our Redeemer, He conquered them all,

Ultimate love He gave and He took our Fall

Savior, our Redeemer, He conquered them all.

Grace and Peace,


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Graduation, Teamwork, and Love

I recently spent the last six weeks in a military school known as "Airman Leadership School". This is a school that Air Force members are required to attend and graduate from prior to becoming a Staff Sergeant; a Non-Comissioned Officer for you non-military folks. The purpose of the school is to teach Airmen who are becoming Non-Comissioned Officers how to supervise other Airmen, take care of them, mentor them, and grow them as professionals and individuals.

Thankfully, by the grace of God, and the attentiveness of my wife during long hours, I graduated. But it wasn't easy.

I found that many things the USAF wants it's supervisors to be like are very similar to what Jesus Christ calls His disciples to be like in spirit and in actions. Without compromising any of the official material I learned while in class, here are some of the similar AF/Biblical principles that I picked up on, in no particular order:

  1. The Air Force wants us to have open two-way interpersonal communication with one another. Like between peers, and between supervisor and subordinates. Jesus wants us to have open communication lines with each other as well, like when a brother sins against you, tell them personally (Matt. 18:15), or that we're to teach, admonish, and build one another up in the Lord (Col. 3:16; Eph. 4: 15-6, 29), or that we must be patient and bear with one another in love (Eccl. 7: 8-9; Gal. 5: 22-23; 2 Tim 4:2; Eph. 4:2-3), and ultimately that we teach those who are ours (our brothers and sisters who need training and discipleship in this case; or in the AF's case, those who we supervise as NCOs) everything that Jesus has taught us to do (Matt. 28: 20). It's in following these principles as a Air Force supervisor, and more importantly as a Christian who must train others up in the Lord, that you can have wonderful and fulfilling personal communication with others. Communication where both people speak openly, discuss wrongs and rights that have happened, admonition to greater heights, bear with each other patiently with humbleness and compassion, and teach them to follow the things that you have had passed on to you.

  2. Jesus told Christians to make disciples, to train our "replacement" as it were, and that every student when fully trained will be like his teacher (Matt. 28:18-20, Luke 6:40). The Air Force would have it this way too, where a supervisor shows his/her subordinate the ropes, teaches them what he/she knows, trains the subordinate to be like the themself, and then when the supervisor leaves, the Airman is fully trained and modeled like his/her supervisor. Paul said to his disciple and spiritual son Timothy:
    "You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops." 2 Timothy 2:1-6.
    By Timothy teaching what he learned from Paul to other reliable people, it would ensure that the information that needed to be learned and adhered to would be disseminated reliably and properly. Paul had trained his replacement, so he could move on and be used elsewhere, and was instructing Timothy to do likewise with other reliable people. This is the constant ongoing process that allowed the Church to grow so rapidly early on, and it's the same process that if used properly in the AF would allow for well adjusted and prepared Airmen to do the job when it's their turn to supervise and lead. If we're following Jesus, and training, instructing, and teaching another Christian to be like us, then who are they following ultimately? Jesus. When that individual is fully trained, who should he look like? You. And ultimately the person that you were taught by. And so on and so on, all the way back to Jesus.

  3. Teamwork. Teamwork is defined as a "cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause. " Everything revolves around teams and teamwork in life. The Air Force itself is one giant team effort, broken down in to smaller team efforts in Groups, Wings, Squadrons, and offices. That goes for the other military services as well, who all happen to work together as a team to form the fighting unit known as the United States Armed Forces. Everyday at work, civillian or military, we work in teams in order to accomplish common goals. Without the French Fry cooker at McDonald's, little Suzie doesn't get her happy meal, because you don't give out happy meals without french fries. He's an intregal part of the team, without which the team does not function as well and accomplish it's goals. Wars are won and lost based on how well people work in a team together. Diseases are cured, people are saved (physically and spiritually), new things are discovered about our world, all most often because of teamwork. Do you think working as a team is important yet? You should, because the very internet you're using right now for leisure time, or study time, is predicated upon a series of servers around the world working in unison, supported by technicians who are working as a team to keep the internet from completely crashing to the ground. Maybe if we lost a few of those technicians, a few of those servers, the effect wouldn't be so terrible. But, could you imagine if everyone out there was a soloist, and everyone had their own internet? If no one spoke to each other, coordinated with each other, or had a common goal? The internet certainly wouldn't be as popular as it is today. Without teamwork the Air Force's mission doesn't happen, and without teamwork, the Church's mission is a faliure. I think this Scripture sums it up for both the military (metaphorically speaking) and for Christians:
    "The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
    Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has
    arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.
    If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many
    parts, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
    Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it." 1 Cor. 12: 12-27.
    Teamwork is like a body, and each body has different parts for a different purpose. Sometimes the parts (jobs, etc) that we think are the least honorable, the weakest, or least important, are more honorable, stronger, and important than we assumed. Without all of the body working in unison, it might die, it will probably fail at the task at hand, and it most certainly will not be as effective as it could have been with all the parts working together. Teamwork is essential to any mission, and without it, the Church will be ineffective in sharing the Good News of Jesus with the world. If we're always at each others throats, then we've already maimed the Body we're a part of. This brings me to my next point...

  4. Jesus Christ said "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." He also said "Love your neighbor as yourself..." and "Do to others as you would want them to do to you.". Jesus also made it a point to have us understand that as Christians the summation of our entire existence was love. When asked what the greatest commandment was 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.' We must love God, and love others as if they were us, our very own selves. No one wants to truly mistreat themselves, slander themself, hate themself, hurt and break themself. No human truly wants to be cut down, stolen from, hated on, cursed, or lied about by others. If this is so, then why do we treat others in such a way as this? We must put others before ourselves. We must consider others' well being before our own, look out for their interests before our own interests, and we must look out for the team and it's goals before our own selfish desires. By learning what service before self means, we learn what it means to be part of the Kingdom of God. Not like the world who "...lord their authority over their subordinates", crushing people under the foot of their power. Instead we must be like Jesus "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!" Philippians 2: 6-8. What an example of servant leadership! Though He was God and could have done anything He wanted, He chose to put on humanity and came in to this world to serve us and not force us to serve Him, but showing us service by His example, so that we would want to be like Him. And being humble and meek, and ultimately though it was the worst imaginable thing that could happen to God, He went to a Roman cross to die for our sins. And that my friends, is love. Unimaginable, frightening, all-powerful love. And it's because "He first loved us, that we now may love" that we can know the depth of love, and what it means to have compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and service to others before ourselves, because of Jesus' example, and Jesus' sacrifice. If we're always cutting each other down with our words, even with God's own Words, how is that helpful to teamwork, to teaching, or to good communication? How is that love, if we treat others the opposite of how we KNOW we want to be treated? If you cannot put others before yourself, you cannot lead. Period. Hit the showers, call it a day, go home and learn what Jesus meant when he said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as [Me] the Son of Man [Jesus] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matt.20: 25-28.

These principles and more are what I learned about the Air Force at Airman Leadership School, how they want us to be as supervisors, as leaders. Jesus wants us to walk as He did, and wants us to live in Him, in these traits, following His example. It is no surprise to me that the good leadership qualities the Air Force has determined for us to follow are congruent with what Jesus Christ has commanded all Christians everywhere to do. It's no surprise that the Air Force, the greatest example of military Air Power and teamwork in the world, would take a page from the Master Himself on leadership, and service. It's no surprise to me that Truth, no matter who it comes from, ultimately finds it's source from the God of all Truth who told it to the world first.

God, thank you for what You've taught me, thank you for Jesus' example; for showing me what service really means, and what unconditional love really looks like. For showing me how to communicate well, teach well, work with others as a team, in harmony, and love others as I want to be loved; like how You loved me first. Thank You for putting me in a job that expects me to do all these things, and that allows me to shine Your Light in to a sometimes dark place. Thank you for the responsibilities you've allowed me to have, in the Church, and in the Air Force. Please help me to serve others, as you have served us. Let me be like you; let me be a Son of the Most High God, let me be like You who brings the sun upon the good and the evil, who loves unconditionally, always and forever. Amen.

Grace and Peace,


What Do Homosexuals Hear?

Following a conversation with some of our Bible Study folks last night, I thought this was a very timely blog post over at internetmonk:


Read it and consider seriously.

Grace and Peace,


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Set Me Free

It hasn't always been this way

I remember brighter days

Before the dark ones came

Stole my mind

Wrapped my soul in chains...

Now I live among the dead

Fighting voices in my head

Hoping someone hears me crying in the night

And carries me away...

Set me free, of the chains holding me

Is anybody out there, hearing me?

Set me free...

Morning breaks another day

Finds me crying in the rain

All alone with my demons I am

Who is this man that comes my way?

The dark ones shriek

They scream His name

Is this the One they say will set the captives free?

Jesus, rescue me

As the God man passes by

He looks straight through my eyes

And darkness cannot hide...

"Do you want to be free?

Lift your chains, I hold the key

All power on Heav'n and Earth belong to me!"

"You are free

You are free

You are free..."

~Written by Mark Hall of Casting Crowns