October 2017

Remember those who loved the Lord most through faith

I encourage you to remember those who loved the Lord most through faith.

It may be a friend, a parent, an uncle or aunt, possibly a cousin or work place friend, but for most of us there will be someone who stands out from the crowd as one who loved the Lord more sincerely and passionately than others. Often they are the ones who live the love of God best, who sacrifice most for Christ, and are willing to take the greatest risks for the Saviour. They are the ones, who like Hebrews chapter 11 records, stand out because of the depth of their faith.

The 31st October was the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther posting his 95 theses on the castle door of Wittenberg as a “protest” against the Pope and the selling of indulgences in 1517. It’s fitting for us to think of the heart that beat within those believers of the reformation. What they loved most was not their religion but their God. Through Christ their priorities were changed, their loyalties redirected, and their courage emboldened for the Lord and His written word, the Bible.

These believers in Christ living throughout the Reformation period often paid for their belief with their very lives. Their willingness to stand up and pay the price to spread the 5 Sola truths changed the direction of the worldwide church, and we live in the blessing of that today.

The Distinctives

Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Sola Gratia (Grace alone) “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Sola Fide (Faith alone)  “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

Solo Christo (Christ alone) “Being justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24).

Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God alone) So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Today, Christians are responsible to “let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9). These 5 Sola Truths are not only good, they are the very best that our Heavenly Father could gift us with. Therefore, “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).

The Legacy We Leave

Those who follow behind us will never hail us for indecisive disbelief on the day they stand before God. Nor will they benefit from our acceptance of all things pleasing to self. They will most likely evaluate the authenticity of our faith by the degree to which we emulated these five Sola truths found in God’s Word, even though they may not consciously think of the 5 Solas. Our next generation will look back at our lives, whether in belief or disbelief, looking to see if we were “doers of the word, and not hearers only”  (James 1:22).

Be encouraged to remember those who loved the Lord most, who left you a legacy of distinguishable faith; thank God for them and replicate such loving faith. May we fulfil Paul’s exhortation to young Timothy; “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).


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Understand Loves Patience

I encourage you to understand loves patience

In a world of such intolerance towards truth, you could be forgiven for losing sight of loves patience. By contrast, believers in Christ are to keep “in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation” (2 Peter 3:15 NIV). Our testimony of God is one of loving-kindness which stretched out over our lives to bring us to His Son Jesus Christ.

Sadly, impatience is so engrained in society’s attitudes and thinking that it has become indistinguishable to many. Put simply; we want what we want, and we want it now. From childish and impulsive appetites which seem harmless, to committing the worst of greed, crime and destructive behaviour, loveless impatience takes its toll on us as it plays out through our lives. 

The Connection

God’s Word shows the inexplicable connection between love and patience, one which demands that we always associate one with the other. Likewise, when we disconnect the two, we violate a divine imperative, opening our hearts to all kinds of wrong attitudes and behaviours. 

It’s as Jesus explained in the parable of the seed which fell on “the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15). Authentic faith has a long term view of living the truth of God’s Word with endurance. It does not give up regardless of obstacles or discouragements. Why, because it’s empowered by and motivated by Christ’s love (2Co 5:14).

You see, patience motivated by self-sacrificing love allows the time needed for God to soften our hearts while manoeuvring the events and circumstances in our lives to accomplish His will in His timing. Patience permits time for us to examine our heart’s, to check out God’s Word, and to pray. Loves inspiration stretches Christ’s grace in our thoughts and emotions which reduces the human tendency to act rashly or wrongly.

Love that Loves

Christian love which emulates God’s love is not selective or conditional upon fleshly requirements being met. No, personal preferences are put aside giving evidence that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience…” (Galatians 5:22).  For the most part, loves character is not reactionary, it does not lash out, nor does it retaliate because it feels justified in hurting another. Self-preservation is tempered, being redirected by patience which looks for the way to do what is necessary without attacking or damaging others. Vindication is low on loves list of priorities because it’s ‘agape’ by nature and energised by the Holy Spirit.

Loving patience goes the extra mile, without any reason other than Christ. Paul instructed the Ephesian Church to walk “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:1-2). Patience applies the tenderness of love to relationships which we would normally have a short fuse with. Personal expectations of others are dissolved by the purposes of love which always works for the betterment of others in the hope of Christ winning the glory.

Loves patience can powerfully trigger our willing self-examination, because we realise our enormous capacity for being wrong. Our hearts can be so easily influenced by our past, our heritage, our experiences, but most of all by our desires. And human desires usually lead us away from truth and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Today, I encourage you to understand loves patience. Recognise the Lord’s loving patience with you, thank Him, and seek opportunities to pass it on to others. “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” (Psalms 139:23-24 NIV).


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Avoid the many faces of being loveless

I encourage you to avoid the many faces of being loveless

Just as love has a myriad of ways in which to express itself; so it is with the opposite, a loveless heart cannot hide for long. It may be able to masquerade for a while, but sooner or later it’ll show its true nature.

The heart is an extraordinary complex arena for battles between affections. However, in between love and hate exists many layers of affections which can easily become distorted? Sadly, with the heart’s deceptive nature (Jer 17:9) comes the ability for lovelessness to infiltrate emotions, values, actions and responses with such subtlety that it can be difficult to distinguish.

Measure the heart

A good measuring stick is to monitor the default reactions you have to things. That initial and spontaneous response within when anything happens, or news of another is heard, that’s the tell-tale of what truly lives within. Jesus rightly pulled the Pharisees up; “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). The tongue always betrays the heart.

It’s just as Jesus taught the disciples; “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23). Our behaviour will always portray love, neutrality, or lovelessness. Indeed, our responses tell the world what lives within us.

The greatest of all

The apostle Paul explained the significance of ‘agape’ love this way; “So now faith, hope, and love abide, …but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). For the Christian, love cannot be over stated; it is the most accurate expression of God “because God is love” (1 John 4:8). By nature, faith and hope exist within and benefit their possessor, but love always benefits others. Love requires an “other” as its target; it can’t exist within itself, therefore love is the greatest gift given to us by God.

Often the world legitimizes loveless behaviour; society’s norm has shifted to a self-oriented affection that accommodates others as long as it suits self. Sooner or later, if left unchecked, self will demand the place of first priority, and others must oblige. From minor skirmishes to major upheavals, self will portray itself as the all-important one, with all else to be sacrificed in the pursuit of personal happiness.

So, if a God gifted love which is self-sacrificing is not present, if it’s not welling up from within, then the void will be accommodated by lovelessness which is neither neutral nor dormant.

The simplicity of faith

Scripture’s remedy is simple enough. First, ensure you have the love of God within you by the indwelling of God’s Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour (2Co 13:5; Rom 5:5; Eph 1:13). Secondly; “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” (Philippians 4:8).

Today, I encourage you to make your mind active with the loving thoughts Paul speaks of in Philippians 4:8; your face will show it, the tone of your voice will resonate it, your body language will move with it, and your responses will echo it. Lovelessness will progressively be squeezed out as you increasingly die to self and live Christ, putting “on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10).


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Be loveable for Christ’s sake

I encourage you to be loveable for Christ’s sake

We don’t think of it often, yet being loveable is a much needed quality in the Christian life. We all enjoy being loved, however we equally need to express love. Still, it remains a peculiar characteristic of the human heart in that we often do not make it easy for others to love us.

The world often distorts and misrepresents love by promoting physical beauty and sexual allurement as the main component of being loveable, how wrong they are. An equally bizarre twist of humanity is that those who need love the most are often those who reject the people who can best give the love they need.

Imitators of a better love

But not so for Christians. As believers we are to “be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2). God is so lovable because He is so very loving! And the zenith of His love is seen and experienced through the giving of His Son Jesus Christ to be sacrificed in the place of sinful man.

Therefore, as God’s children, we too should be easy to love as we love others Gods way. Just as love is an intrinsic part of God’s nature and language, so selfless love is an inherited and spontaneous part of the Christian’s life. Qualities that best express God’s love are the best qualities for attracting love. By loving others the way God loves, we make it easier for others to reciprocate with love.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is possibly the best known Bible passage detailing love’s character. Yet how often do we examine ourselves with a humble and honest attitude with a willingness to change for Christ’s sake. “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…” (NIV). Emulating God’s love affirms His good, while simultaneously rejecting the useless and bad which cause such great pain in our lives?

Love or Self

I draw your attention to the phrase in 1 Corinthians 13:5; love “is not self-seeking” (NIV), or, love “does not insist on its own way” (ESV). This love is God’s antidote to the destruction caused by selfishness and self-righteousness. It’s also the heart of the gospel, and is one of the many qualities which make the Lord so loveable. When we are characterised by demanding to have our own way, others are repelled and our hearts swell with indignation that refuses to be humbled.

The point is this, the name of God and the reputation of the Church hinges on how others perceive God’s love in us, or not. If we don’t love well, we don’t make it easy for others to love us. At salvation, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7). Therefore, God has equipped us for the mission, and enabled us to do that which does not come natural.

I encourage you as followers of the Lord Jesus; “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (Romans 5:5). Therefore, yield to His controlling influence. Christ will be glorified, others will be sweetly blessed, and you will be assured of your security in Christ.


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Recognise God’s love is different from worldly lust

I encourage you to recognise God’s love is different from worldly lust

We live in a world that confuses lust with love at almost every level. Impulse seems to trigger behaviour more often than right motive or wisdom. Desire is openly permitted to run head-long unchallenged and without examination or accountability. Consequently, society gives evidence to the social and family decline caused by the absence of love that elevates truth to the top of its priorities.

The point is this; it’s remarkably easy to wrongly evaluate God’s love by the world’s deficient standards, concluding that His love falls short of our self-centred expectations. Once we understand that with God lust only gets His negative attention, pride and ego are not on His ‘cool’ list, plus our prejudices and personal preferences fail to appear on His importance schedule, we naturally begin developing animosity towards God. So, for many, this is how sin grows within them; always working against God and leading it’s volunteers away for the Lord.

Culture and selfishness

For the average person in our culture, when they think of the Lord Jesus Christ, the instinctive question that dominates their thinking is; “What can God do for me?” Secondly, their self-defence mechanism kicks in quickly by asking; “What pleasures will I be required to give up?”

Fortunately, as God has engaged with humanity throughout history, one of His consistent operating principles has been “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20).

Therefore it shouldn’t surprize us when we read in God’s Word, that a Christian should “not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

In fact, the genuine believer has chosen to be captivated by passions this world fails to understand. “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

A great exchange

Oh, how simple life would be, and how powerful the Church’s testimonies, if every professing Christian lived like this! Fleshly lust would be exchanged for Christ exalting love. Believers would joyfully take ownership of their place in this world to “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). Compelled by the selfless love of Jesus Christ, we would be inspired to speak well of “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” Because “according to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).

Today, be encouraged to recognise that God’s love is vastly different to worldly lust. Turn to Christ with all your heart’s affections in surrender and a faith that dies to self and lives to Christ.


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