Love and the World

Does God ever seem like a killjoy?

“Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” -1 John 2:15

It is common in our day to speak of “love” in terms of attraction and affection.  Thus, we fall in and out of love with people and things, ideas and experiences, and the focus is so often simply on what we feel.

That is not the love John is talking about here.  If it were, we would be in conflict with Genesis, which says that God made ALL things good, with all of the Psalms that exult in the beauty and wonder of the world God made, and with Ecclesiastes, which declares that “everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man.” (Ecclesiastes 3:13)

In the Bible and in life, love -true love- is less about attraction and affection and more about commitment and devotion.  To enjoy someone’s company and be drawn to them is not the same as making them a focus and foundation of your life.  The same is true of the world and its things.

God is NOT a killjoy.  He wants us to take joy in the life He has given us!  There is no sin in seeking enjoyment in the God-approved pleasures of this life.  However, don’t let them become your greatest commitment.  Rather, let the depths of your heart always find their fill in Christ, for when that love is in us, we are truly free and will have joy that can never be shaken.

Peace and the Car Keys

Do you need some peace in your life?

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me–practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” -Philippians 4:4-9

The peace of God is a gift He longs to give His children, but it’s not automatic.  It is available.  He holds it out to those who will walk IN it by dwelling ON it.

Receiving God’s peace is as much about our focus as it is our faith.  We may believe in it, may need it and ask for it, but in a very real way, He’s looking to us to appropriate it.  He has given us the keys but it’s up to us to start the engine and hit the gas.

Don’t focus on the situation in which you need peace.  Focus on the Savior who offers it, and as your mind dwells on His Word, His deeds and His heart, your peace will come.

The God of peace is already with you.  Now, turn the key and go with Him!

PHOTOS: Ecuador 2012 (5)

All good things must come to an end, including building projects.

Although we had a great time building a wooden house for a missionary family coming to work with Jungle Kids for Christ, it was also nice to finish the work and have the joy of a job well done.

Here are the final construction photos from our 2012 mission trip to Ecuador.

– Phillip

[NOTE: The other parts of this series (plus Ecuador daily recaps) can be found HERE.]


 

A clean sweep

 


 

Carry that weight

 


 

A long inspection

 


 

Smile for the camera

 


 

Quality work

 


 

A job well done

 

Identity and Humility

Jesus has no insecurities at all. Wouldn’t that be nice?

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper…then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples feet…” -John 13:3-5

There He is, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, washing the dirty feet of His followers.  What a sight!

Jesus is able to serve humbly and freely -even in such a lowly way- because He is completely secure in who He is, what He has, where He’s come from and where He’s going.

Identity is the foundation of humility.

When we realize how much we’ve been given by God, that everything comes from God, and that our future is secure in God, we can with ease begin to serve others humbly with no strings attached.  We have no need to build ourselves up anymore, because Jesus has done the building already.

 

So Prove to Be

Fruit matters, and whether or not it’s real makes all the difference.

“By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” -John 15:8

In the middle of a first-century vineyard Jesus does what all great communicators do, He takes an image familiar to His listeners and uses it as an analogy to make His point.

Here, of course, the analogy is the relationship between the vine, the branches and the fruit they produce.

Here is what Jesus does NOT say.  “Bear fruit, and so become my disciples.”  Of course He doesn’t say that.  A branch must first be connected to the vine and then, if it’s truly connected, it will bear fruit.

Trying to produce fruit with no connection to the vine is just silly.  You can try to tape or sew or glue fruit on a branch, but time will show that no matter how nice it looked in the beginning, it wasn’t real fruit at all.

No, Jesus says, “bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.”  Fruit is the result of discipleship, not the cause.

Of course, the other point must be understood as well.  No matter how close a branch looks like it is to the vine, it is the fruit alone that demonstrates a true connection.  A life that says the right religious things and checks all the boxes on the minimum requirements is not the life of a disciple.

It is the life of an imposter.

True disciples produce the fruit of love and good deeds out of the overflow of the love and goodness poured into them from above.

May it be so with us.

 

PHOTOS: Ecuador 2012 (4)

Few things say “we’re on a jungle mission trip” more than monkeys and macaws.

Like you might expect, Ecuador is filled with all sorts of exotic animals that aren’t normally found in the United States. Here are a few shots I had fun taking.

– Phillip

[NOTE: The other parts of this series (plus Ecuador daily recaps) can be found HERE.]


 

Breakfast for monkey


 


 

Watchdog of the morning


 


 

I want to break free


 


 

High-wire artist


 


 

Beautiful bird


 


 

Chicken!


 


 

One last look


 


Lay it Down

Don’t miss this: Jesus got himself killed on purpose.

“I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.” -John 10:17b-18a

In the Gospel accounts, Jesus is not some naive travelling teacher from the sticks who runs his mouth in the big city and gets killed for it.  He is not some peasant preacher who gets Himself in trouble with the authorities because He doesn’t know when to shut up.  He knows exactly who He is, what He’s doing, where He’s going and what is the cost, and He proceeds willingly to His destiny of self-sacrifice.

It is love that drives Him, love for the Father and for the sons and daughters that His death and resurrection will redeem.  It is this love that moves Him to lay down His life, to make willing, painful sacrifices for others’ good at the cost of His own.

To truly follow Jesus means we must do the same.

PRAYER: Lord, help me see how you’re calling me to lay down my life for others today, and help me have the strength to DO it.

Really From God?

Why does Jesus keep breaking the rules?

“Some of the Pharisees said, ‘This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.’  But others said, ‘How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?'” -John 9:16

Some people are more concerned with the do’s and don’ts of religion than with the deliverance and restoration of people.  It’s not wrong to want to keep the Sabbath, but Jesus said “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)  The spirit of the Pharisees is one that elevates procedure over people, more concerned with enforcing a moral code than expressing and enabling the glory of God through healed lives.

This is simply a deeply rooted and cleverly concealed root of pride.  It is pride that uses religion to beat others down to raise oneself up.  It is pride that bludgeons the soul of a man who was healed by Jesus, telling him his healing wasn’t valid because it didn’t fit in the right religious box or happen on the right day.

Even more than this, it is only a short step to cross over from nit-picky religious legalism to something worse, “calling good evil and evil good” (Isaiah 5:20), denying the work of Jesus and calling into question from whom His power comes.  This is what the Pharisees did in Matthew 12:22-32, and Jesus gave it a name: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the sin that will never be forgiven.

May the Church be a people with the heart of Jesus, concerned less with the regiments of religion and more with showing the glory of God by our passion for people.

PHOTOS: Ecuador 2012 (3)

Apparently, mission trips are hard work.

We had a great time on the building site in Ecuador as we helped construct a wood house for Jungle Kids for Christ.  The house will be used for a missionary family that will be moving down to spend at least a year ministering to children and families in the jungle.

Here are some of my favorite moments from our work.

– Phillip

[NOTE: The other parts of this series (plus Ecuador daily recaps) can be found HERE.]


 

Making plans

 


 

Up in the air

 


 

Making the cut

 


 

Bring your guns to work

 


 

Laying it straight

 


 

A well-deserved rest

 

As Long As…

Has Jesus left the building?

As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. -John 9:5

It is worth noting the condition that Jesus gives regarding whether or not He is “the light of the world.”  He says that this is the case as long as He is “in the world.”

Now, Jesus ascended to the Father shortly after His resurrection, and if you look at the world today it is often pretty dark.  Is this a sign that we’ve been abandoned, that the light no longer shines because it went back up to heaven and now all we can do is hunker down and wait to eject someday?

Of course not!  Here’s the good news: Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 5:14 that famous phrase, “You are the light of the world.”  The point is that Jesus is still the light of the world because He is still in the world, through us, His body, the Church.

Here’s the question though: how well will you shine today?

 

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