Is it Really Love?

“Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love, therefore, is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:10)

Love is a word our culture loves to throw around without definition. We use it in a way that seems to say the essence of love is “always be nice to me and never tell me anything that I don’t want to hear.”

This is why any talk of sin and conviction and repentance is often instantly branded by some as “unloving” and immediately shut down. But is it? If “love does no wrong to a neighbor,” we must know and think clearly about what “wrong” really is.

Is it wrong to not warn a friend about to drink that the milk has already gone bad? Is it wrong to let a teenager drive the freeway without ever learning how? Is it wrong to let a small child play with a firearm?

Is it wrong to let an alcoholic have “just one more” when you know what it will do to them, and what they will do to their family after that? Is it wrong to do nothing about the sexual harassment of a coworker, when you know the pain it is causing them and the problems it is creating for the whole company?

Is it wrong to say nothing while a friend pursues an affair, when you know what it will do to their spouse and their children not just now, but forever? Is it wrong to embrace and condone lifestyles and patterns of behavior that you know are not only unbiblical, but also scientifically proven to lead to problems, pain, and ruin?

Love does no wrong to a neighbor. Therefore, if your goal is simply to never offend, annoy, or cause pain, even at the cost of your neighbor’s well-being, perhaps by being “nice” you’re not really loving them at all.

Jesus chose you to conquer with Him

God's Hope for Your Heart Header

In Revelation chapter 17, ten mysterious kings rule for a short time, then consolidate their power in the hands of a great beast.  They then rally their forces, all their might and power, and make war upon Jesus and His people.

Not only that, but in this endeavor they are guided and overseen by a cryptic character whose description is as disturbing as it is exotic, “She had a gold cup in her hand filled with everything vile…” and she is “drunk on the blood of the saints…and the witnesses to Jesus” (vv 4, 6)

Where is the hope in this chapter filled with blood and chaos and confusion?  It’s found in one little verse with big implications.

These will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will conquer them because He is Lord of lord and King of kings.  Those with Him are called and elect and faithful.  (Revelation 17:14)

You see, if you are in Christ (WITH Jesus) that means you’ve been called by God!  He has desired to draw you to Himself because He wants to show you His love.

Not only that, but you are elect, chosen specifically before you were even born, because God wants to give you His salvation.

Finally, this passage shows that if you’re in Christ, you are faithful, able to stick with Jesus because He is sticking with you, giving you the power to be faithful to Him.

What does this all mean in a practical way?  It means that no matter what your enemy the devil throws at you, you can be confident in the hope of this truth.

Jesus chose you to conquer with Him.

–Pastor Phillip

Jesus can truly reconcile

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Colossians 4

JESUS CAN TRULY RECONCILE

Aristarchus my fellow prisoner greets you, and Mark the cousin of Barnabas (concerning whom you have received instructions—if he comes to you, welcome him.)  (Colossians 4:10)

Paul had not been a fan of this Mark fellow.  He had allowed the young man to accompany him and Barnabas on their travels, only to have Mark turn back and abandon them midway through.  (Acts 13:13)

Paul disliked him so much, in fact, that when Barnabas suggested they give him another chance, Paul disagreed strongly enough that the two longtime friends and ministry partners parted ways on less than friendly terms.  (Acts 15:39)

But Jesus changes everything.

Yes, Paul, Barnabas, and Mark were all believers when they had their troubles with each other, but just because you follow Jesus doesn’t mean you always let Him direct the things you do.

Yet, Jesus has a way of working in people over time that often produces the most amazing results.  When we let Him have His way in us, incredible things can come to pass!

That’s what happened between Paul and Mark.  Over time, Jesus kept working in their hearts and they kept responding with obedience and faith.  Over time, Jesus brought together as friends these two men who had been at odds with one another.

If you let Him, He can do the same for you.

Let go of your pride and your need to be right.  Let go of your hurt and your anger, whether justified or not.  Give them to Jesus and let this truth fill you with hope: Jesus can truly reconcile.

-Pastor Phillip

God’s justice will prevail

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Psalm 64

GOD’S JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL

Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked, from the throng of evildoers,
who whet their tongues like swords, who aim bitter words like arrows…
But God shoots His arrow at them; they are wounded suddenly.
They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them…
(Psalm 64:3-4, 7-8a)

Have you ever had someone speak lies about you?  How about speak truths about you that should never have been shared with more than a few?

Have you ever felt like people are working against you, plotting to harm you, or even just not respecting you the way you wish they would?

Here’s a comforting reminder: we reap what we sow.

That person who continues to spread false accusations?  The day will come when their lies will catch up with them.

That person who betrayed a confidence and spread things around they shouldn’t have?  The day will come when they experience the same thing.

Those people who’ve been working against you through gossip and scheming and disrespect?  The kind of toxic atmosphere they have created will one day come back upon them.

We reap what we sow.

Here’s the thing.  As followers of Jesus, we are called to pray for our enemies and do good for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).  Yet, that doesn’t mean that we are giving a “free pass” for evil, or asking God to let them escape the consequences of their actions.  In fact, sometimes the most loving thing to do for someone is make sure that their consequences catch up with them, because that may be the only way they’ll ever learn.

The reality is that although God is love, He is also just, and He explicitly says in His Word that He will not be mocked, and that whatever a person sows, they will reap (Galatians 6:7).

That means that when you are slandered, spoken ill of and betrayed, you can continue to act in a Christ-like way without taking things into your own hands.  How?  Because of the hope of this truth: God’s justice will prevail.

-Pastor Phillip


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God gives you options to use

God’s Hope for Your Heart from Acts 25

GOD GIVES YOU OPTIONS TO USE

“If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death.  But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them.  I appeal to Caesar.”  Then Festus, when he had conferred with his council, answered, “To Caesar you have appealed; to Caesar you shall go.”  (Acts 25:11-12)

The heart of the gospel is spiritual, but the ways in which we live it out must be practical because we live in a physical world.  Each of us has been placed at a specific point in history, in a particular country, city, and system of government and economics.

Paul was in the same situation.  He did not stand outside the system of his day, but was an involved part of it.  God had placed him in the Roman empire as a citizen.  Because of that, he had options, and he used them.

Maybe it’s time for you to do the same.

Do you have situations in your life that are less-then-ideal?  Do you have relationships where wrong has occurred, or circumstances where a change needs to be made?

When it comes to trusting God and pursuing His purposes, don’t forget that while prayer is the most important thing you should do, it’s usually not the only thing you can do.  If there are practical options available in your situation, pursue them!  If there are tools at hand, use them!

You exist in a place and a time and a system because God put you there.  Even though it’s disheartening to have opposition, you can take heart and find hope in this truth: God gives you options to use.

Small-Graphic-[Counter-Culture]-Pastor Phillip

p.s. To learn more about resolving conflict well, check out message 02 from my teaching series, “CounterCulture.”  CLICK HERE to listen online.


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02 Enemy at the Gates [The Way of the Warrior]

Logo-PodcastAsk any soldier how important it is to know your enemy, and they will tell you it’s crucial.
In our spiritual life, we have an enemy whom Jesus said comes “only to steal, kill and destroy.” However, once we understand the enemy’s strategy, we can learn to fight much more effectively in the power of Christ.

Join us as we explore how our enemy comes against us, and more importantly, how our Savior give us the power to win the fight.

You Can Have Peace Even When You Disagree

Do you ever get frustrated when people disagree with you?

“Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels.” -2 Timothy 2:23

Whether football teams or fall elections, Bible translations or Macs vs. PCs, there is no shortage of things that people can get fired up and passionate about.

Yet, for we who follow Christ, God calls us to not let any difference of opinion turn into divisive opposition against other brothers or sisters in Christ.  We are to be passionate about people, about pursuing faith and love and peace together, and while it is fine to have preferences and vital to also pursue truth, we must remember that the way in which we pursue is just as important as the what.

Pursuing peace doesn’t mean giving up on truth, it just means picking our battles a little more carefully than most.  It doesn’t mean agreeing with everybody or affirming incorrect beliefs, but that when people don’t see things our way, we don’t see their disagreement as a threat.

May we be people who walk in the freedom to disagree, yet still walk in peace.

 

You Can Have Unity Even When You Don’t Get Along (pt2)

Even in the Bible, nobody gets along all the time.

 

However, disagreement doesn’t have to disrupt our unity and love for one another.

In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul shares a simple truth that leads to an effective stragety for working through conflict while keeping the peace.

It’s all in your head.

Seriously, how you think about the situation determines how you act in the middle of it.  More importantly, what you believe about the other person determines how you behave towards them.

Paul shares this instruction with a church that had some serious disagreement going on, and along with the prescription comes a promise.

“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 4:8-9 (emphasis added)

Prayerfully practice the art of separating the issue from the individual.

Find the good in them and make that the focus of your heart instead of all the reasons why they’re wrong.

Don’t be afraid to tackle the subject on which you disagree, but if you see the person through the lens of love, you can preserve your unity and the conflict will lead to life.

NOTE: You can read part 1 of this post here.

You Can Have Unity Even When You Don’t Get Along (pt1)

Do you have people in your life with whom you just don’t get along?

“I entreat Euodia and Syntyche to agree in the Lord.  Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the Gospel…” -Philippians 4:2

How comforting to know that even at the very beginning of the Church, some people just had a hard time getting along.

Think about it: if they couldn’t all agree then, we’re not going to all agree now, and that doesn’t make us bad people or sub-par Christians.

It just makes us human.

The other good news, though, is that disagreement doesn’t have to result in division!

Just a few lines after this instruction from Paul, he shares a Spirit-led strategy for peace in the midst of conflict.

To be continued… (click here)

How to Keep Relationships Alive in Spite of Controversy

Have you ever damaged a relationship because of disagreement?  Consider this…

Compassion is an antidote to controversy.  It empowers you to hold different perspectives from another person and still have peace between you.  Here’s why.

True compassion goes hand-in-hand with humility.  It does not arrogantly look down on people as fools if they see things differently, but looks first in the mirror to see that even our own understanding is a gift, and our own perspective may yet be proved lacking.

Compassion is a preserving agent that ensures the survival of the relationship beyond the point of argument – at least as far as it depends on us.

Of course, that’s all we’re really responsible for, isn’t it?  Us.

PRAYER: O Lord, help me have compassion for others as You’ve had such compassion on me.

What about you?  What helps you safeguard relationships in the midst of controversy?