love

Our Signature

love one another chalk written on concrete floor

Jesus always shows compassion towards people that are lost or struggling. He showed compassion to Mary (called Magdalene); He cast seven demons out of her (Luke 8:2). Jesus reached out to Zacchaeus, the tax collector (Luke 19:2), and the dad that asked Jesus for help to overcome his unbelief (Mark 9:24) and the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:27). Jesus reached out to me when I was lost.

Here is something wonderful for believers: The Holy Spirit in us is God’s signature, guaranteeing we are His (Ephesians 1:13–14). Likewise, our signature – the thing that identifies us – is pointed out by Jesus in John 13:35By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

This message, “if you love one another“, is recurring from my recent posts. The turmoil in our society is a symptom, more than a “condition.” You can plug in whichever turmoil you wish. Still, all of these symptoms radiate from a single, underlying disease. It is a disease that lives in the flesh of every child of Adam:

to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.Ephesians 4:22-24

Here’s R.C. Sproul’s commentary on this passage:

Belonging to Christ involves repudiating an old life and embracing a new one. The image is that of taking off fraying clothes and putting on new ones.

The Root of the Problem

The root of the world’s travails is a double-headed monster. Mind you, it’s one monster, but it shows up in both the “old self” and the “new self.” Let’s first consider the old self.

One Head is the Old Self

Before you or I accepted Jesus’ salvation, we were convicts awaiting our sentencing. We were under condemnation (John 3:18), we were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1), we lived and breathed rebellion against Jesus (Isaiah 30:9), the Righteous One (Acts 3:14). Integral parts of our old self were wickedness, greed, jealousy, and more. Our reprobate selves were diseased and decaying. Nothing good resided in us. So no one should expect anything good to come out of us (Job 14:4). Not brotherly love, not selflessness, not fairness, kindness, gentleness, love, and so forth. Certainly, there were occasional acts of love and kindness, but these were always fleeting, and if the real heart of any reprobate person were to be exposed, only evil would be found (Romans 3:10).

Therefore, with regard to a world bursting at the seams with death, it is hardly surprising that any number of heinous laws, systemic sins, personal wrongdoing, and more were perpetrated upon people. The ideas espoused by people like Karl Marx are lunacy for those ideas stand upon the belief that good can be found, if not in the individual, then in some collection of peoples. How utterly misguided are these theories and philosophies for they are born in sin and doomed for destruction.

The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant.Isaiah 24:5

The Second Head is Sin in the New Self

If you scroll back up to God’s Word from Ephesians 4:22-24, notice that the apostle Paul wrote this letter to Christians. He wrote it, not to the city council in Ephesus but to the church in Ephesus. Even after we are born again, our old self still lingers. You and I know this, empirically, because we have sinned after being saved. Maybe that’s too much of an assumption. I confess: I have sinned, more than once, after being saved. Therefore, I know that a battle exists between the Spirit and the flesh (Galatians 5:17), not in the “me” that is now seated with Christ in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6), but, in vain, it fights against my new self. Also, I have not fully been transformed into the likeness of Jesus because my mind, though improving, has not been fully renewed (Romans 12:2). And here’s where the monster comes in.

The Monster

Just as Eve was seduced to sin in the Garden, every Christian has been seduced by God’s enemy at one time or another, resulting in sins of commission or omission. For in whatever areas of our lives we are weak, those the places where we are attacked. When a weak Christian finds solace with other Christians that are weak in the same aspects of character, then the local church starts down the path of heresy. That heresy finds “itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:3) in other churches, and soon the society undergirded by Christians becomes reprobate, espousing lies and passing laws firmly grounded in death, not life.

Our Signature

What can we do? If Christians never sinned there would be no reason for:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9

Yet, we are warned with passages such as:

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:7

And we are warned:

No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.1 John 3:6-8

How can we nullify that dead and decaying old man who keeps trying to cling to us, to pull us under, to steal our joy, to steal our witness, to steal our hope, to collude with weak and false believers that spew out heresies? Jesus has given us soul-medicine, the Good News that protects us from our old self. And what is our protection? John 13:35: By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Love is how we are recognized, it is our signature. It costs us everything that is worth nothing.

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Love Lifted Me

fishing ships in a harbor
Love Lifted Me
I was sinking deep in sin,
far from the peaceful shore,
very deeply stained within,
sinking to rise no more;
but the Master of the sea
heard my despairing cry,
from the waters lifted me;
now safe am I. 

"We love because he first loved us." - 1 Jn. 4:19

Photo: I snapped this pic in Kupreanof, Alaska.

The Love of God

a muilt-colored fence with the word love painted on it

We love because he first loved us. – 1 John 4:19

God’s love is the wind under my wings. It is His love that lifts me, sustains me, and carries me. As I glide along these currents love, it is He, my Lord and my God, that directs me, reveals to me and empowers me to fulfill those works that He has appointed me to do. And by His power and His authority those works are accomplished; none is mine and none carry my name upon them. They are His which gives me immeasurable joy.

This song, “When God Ran”, sung by Phillips, Craig, and Dean, is one that will “bless your socks off.”

Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash

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Find Out What Is Hiding

boy playing hide and seek

Recently I shaved off nearly all of my beard. It had been at least a decade since I was mostly clean-shaven. It freaked out my wife. Now it’s growing back, but it was fun to see her reaction. She couldn’t look at me for two days!

One thing I discovered when I shaved was that I had a blackhead on my cheek. It had been hiding under my beard, utterly invisible to me and everyone that saw me, nevertheless it was there. 

It was quickly exhumed before I finished shaving. But that got me wondering about things in our lives that we don’t see and neither do others; they are still there. 

God Shows Us What Is Hiding

Often, things that need to be removed from our hearts and minds are shown to us through God’s Word. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10

Being a devout Christian doesn’t insulate us from God’s correction. He disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:6). Have you ever heard or read a passage of Scripture that caused a spike of fear to arise in you? It may have been so small that you quickly extinguished it with logic. Still, it had shown itself in your soul. 

The truth is that God’s Word is alive and directly confronts us about things we may not even be aware of as unrighteousness. The Holy Spirit calls us on to greater mercy, greater righteousness, greater holiness. When we feel even the smallest tug on our hearts, we can be sure the Holy Spirit is working within us, calling us to a more intimate relationship with God and preparing us for higher assignments from Jesus.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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Fear is Like a Tick

A hard-bodied tick of the family Ixodidae, the lone star tick

So much has changed in this world since I was a kid. As a kid, I spent most of my time outside. We didn’t have the vast array of entertainment options that kids have today. A couple of things I’m glad we didn’t have back then were mosquitoes that carried the West Nile virus and ticks that could infect us with Lyme disease. It was “safe” outside, so most of a kid’s world existed there. A side effect of outdoor life was that kids got ticks. I certainly got my share of them.

Bring In The Fire

Whenever Mom found a tick on my body (yes, Mom always checked), I knew what would happen next. It was imperative that the tick pulled its head out of my flesh. So, she would get a kitchen match, the kind that has a match head on one end of a short stick of wood. She would strike the match, get a good flame, blow out the match, and then she would take the hot match head and place it on the tick. 

The hot match would disturb the tick’s supper, and it would pull itself out of my body. Mom was always ready with Kleenex® tissues in her left hand. The moment the tick’s head was visible, Mom swooped in like a hawk grabbing a rabbit. It was a sight to behold. I’ve used her technique many times, and it has served me well (warningthis is not a medical recommendation). 

Get It All Out

Here’s the point of my story: For a Christian, fear is like a tick. It is alien to us*. It doesn’t exist in God. Fear stealthily crawls over us until it finds a place to feed. Then it then burrows into us and begins its damage. For us to remove fear it must be completely cast out. In the following verses, we can see that this is God’s will.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27) and 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

It may not be obvious, but fear is the opposite of love – let that sink in. Love moves us towards others in the spirit of self-sacrifice while fear shrinks us back from others in the spirit of self-preservation. To get the fear (whatever kind it is) completely out of us we need perfect love.

The Opposite of Fear is Love

It’s simple math. Love and fear are opposites, therefore perfect love equates to zero fear. But how can we possibly have perfect love? If we try to remove fear without God’s help, just like a tick, a piece of that fear will remain in us and likely cause us much harm; God wants all of that fear out of us.

Hmm. Who do we know that has perfect love? Give me a moment. Yes! God is perfect love. So how do we get the tick of fear out of us? We ask the Holy Spirit to fill us up completely. If we are full of the Holy Spirit of God, then we are full of perfect love. Our thoughts, actions, ambitions, motives are transformed; our minds are transformed (Romans 12:2) when we are full of the Holy Spirit of God, full of perfect love. God’s love at work through us is like a hot match head applied to a tick; fear is cast out!


* The only fear a Christian should have is the kind referenced in Proverbs 1:7, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

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Who Am I?

a sign with a question mark on it

Who am I, that the lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the bright and morning star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart?
– Casting Crowns

There are approximately 7.8 billion people on Earth, and the average human head (an average scalp measures approximately 120 square inches, or 770 cm²) has about 100,000 hair follicles (Gray 2003). – Quora This means that at any one moment there are 780 trillion hairs that God is keeping track of (Matthew 10:30).

If God cares enough to sacrifice His Son to offer you salvation and if God cares enough to impart to every believer the Holy Spirit of God (John 14:15-17) and if God cares enough to keep track of the number of hairs on your head, then be encouraged. hen be encouraged for God knows who you are.

I hope this song by Casting Crowns blesses you today.

Photo credit: Leo Reynolds on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

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Carrying Kids

Air Force officer with wife and kids

I was reading Isaiah 60, which is about the restoration of Israel. This chapter paints Israel as a beautiful woman. We don’t discover the subject of this prophecy until verse 14, where we find “the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.” But here is what captured my imagination as I was reading this chapter; verse 4:

Lift up your eyes all around, and see;
they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from afar,
and your daughters shall be carried on the hip.

I have a bunch of kids. They are now all grown, but countless times my wife and I carried a child of ours on our hips. When I read, “and your daughters shall be carried on the hip” my heart leaped within me.

God’s Word is so real, so expressive of the human condition. And God continually calls out to humanity for restoration through Jesus. If God gets down to details as small as carrying kids on our hips, He truly understands us and loves us.

Photo: Air Force Reserve Command

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Steadfast Love

I don’t mean to be repetitive, but the love of God has been on my heart recently.

God loves you. No doubt, you’ve been told that a zillion times, probably to the point where those three words have little or no impact on you.

Think back to the first time when someone said to you, “I love you” and meant it. Perhaps it was a boyfriend or girlfriend, maybe your mom or dad, or perhaps someone that took you under their wing.

Steadfast Love

In Psalm 103:8 (ESV), we find, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” It’s very likely that the first time someone romantically said they loved you, their love was not steadfast. That person is probably now so far in your rearview mirror. But that’s not God.

In 1 John 4:19, we read, “We love because he first loved us.” When my wife and I got married, we each had expectations, but they were not the same expectations. It took years to work through presumptions. But that’s not God.

God’s love is strong. His love is resilient. His love is steadfast. It hardly notices a wrong (1 Corinthians 13:5 ESV). God’s love is grounded in truth and reality. He knows all of you.

Just a Reminder

So, today, I want to remind you that God’s love for you is active, it’s not lost when you mess up. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 ESV)

Does God love Christians differently from non-Christians? Yes. His love is different because believers have exercised faith in God’s Son. As a Christian, God’s in your life for eternity. For you to grow in God’s love, you reciprocate His love.

How do you reciprocate God’s love towards you? You do this by practicing the presence of God. One way is by “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,” (Ephesians 5:19 ESV)

Be joyful, for you are loved!

Photo by Blake Barlow on Unsplash

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Would You Get Me My Sweater?

woman carrying a stack of sweaters

When it comes to serving one another, a friend of mine used the following example: Brother, I’m willing to die for you, but don’t ask me to get your sweater!

It seems easy for us to make grand sacrifices, like “I’ll sell all I have and move to Outer Mongolia.” Apostle John wrote, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” – 1 John 3:16 NIV

It’s the laying down of our lives for small things that so easily trips us up, like fetching someone’s sweater or emptying the church’s dishwasher. 


By the way, – Did you know that our English word mogul, meaning an important or influential person, comes from the mispronunciation of Mongol, as in a person from Mongolia?

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

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The Era of Argument

younger sister pulling hair of older brother

When I think of the 1960s, I remember the hippies’ response to nearly everyone was “peace & love, man!” Sadly, I was a hippie during those years. The peace & love phrase was just a way to say, “I don’t want to argue. You stay in your own way, but leave us alone.” 

When the time comes when I can look back on the era in which we currently live, I am sure that one of the hallmarks will be arguing. Is anyone else tired of this? Our society is so fractured that I am expecting any day now for someone to find social ills with Neapolitan ice cream! 

Argument Absorbers

Back in the day, if your car didn’t have shock absorbers, you’d be beaten and rattled to the bone while driving. But thanks to French cyclist J.M.M. Truffault, who invented shock absorbers in 1898, we can now drive in comfort. 

Thankfully, as Christians, we’ve been taught to be argument absorbers. One of our jobs as representative of Jesus in this world is to absorb the social bumps and jolts and thuds that happen around us. We absorb by demonstrating peace in a checkout line that is slow or responding positively instead of getting angry when someone wants us to get worked up over something that has ticked them off, or speaking love into disagreements or hatred.

I find encouragement in what the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write in 2 Timothy 2:8-10, 14 (NLT):

“Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.

Remind everyone about these things, and command them in God’s presence to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them.”

Photo credit: FotoGrazio on VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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