Tag Archives: faith expressing itself in love

Sticky notes

A friend wrote to me recently saying she’s had a sticky note on her computer for the last 3 1/2 years to remind her to pray each day for Marcia and me and for the Go Light Our World (GLOW) ministries across the world. Wow! What a faithful prayer warrior to intentionally carve out time each day to support us in a way that releases God’s power. And what a humbling thought that God invites you and me, broken vessels, to carry his blessings to others. My friend said about her brightly colored sticky note:

“Every once in a while it gets pretty tattered looking and I replace it. Right now, it’s starting to look tattered again and it’s reminding me that my faith has become a bit tattered lately…and I’m not facing a trial even remotely close to the trials of you and your loved ones. But, I’m also humbled and thankful that as easily as I can make a new sticky note reminder to pray for you, I can also, once again, take my tattered faith to our Lord Jesus. He can restore to me the joy of my salvation (Psalm 51:12), He can help my sometimes shaky belief (Mark 9:24) and He can encourage me in the most simple yet intricate ways through His people (Hebrews 10:24).”

She goes on to encourage us and remind us of this truth;

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

I love her comment: “I can also, once again, take my tattered faith to our Lord Jesus.” That is SO true! Our faith does at time seem tattered and torn. Troubles beset us and unanswered questions and prayers nag at us like a dripping faucet where refreshing water is intended to flow. Like the psalmist, we feel we are in a “dry and thirsty land.”

Sometimes my prayers seem so inadequate. Usually, when this happens, I struggle to remember verses that speak God’s truth an I pray those back to God. When you want wisdom, go to that place where true wisdom is found! Sometimes, I simply take my seemingly tattered faith and give it to God just as it is, yet reminding him “I don’t want to stay here.” I want to draw closer to him and to feel the warmth of his love and joy.

Have you ever found yourself in a tiff with someone you love and care about, usually over something that doesn’t matter, and often due to a misunderstanding. And then you realize, “I can keep going the miserable direction I’m going” or “I can go away and pout for a while,” OR I can choose to say: “I love you deeply. I’m sorry we’re having this temporary time of poorly expressing that love. I want it to get back to the love and joy we both know.”

That’s the way God designed our lives. When we run into dry and tattered spots in our faith and relationships, he calls us to come closer to him, to put up a fresh new sticky note reminding us in one way or another that “The only thing that counts is faith, expressing itself through love.” We need reminders to encourage one another, to stay focused on the goal, and to run the race with perseverance.

Just as we continue to ask for a healing miracle that would allow us more ministry time together, we also seek the miracle of God using our tattered faith to actually advance the gospel of Jesus.

I think the Lord is honored when we are honest about a dry faith. He is always faithful to bring the well of living water.

Can you be sure?


Am I really a child of God? Does God really love me? Do I really love God?  Can I know for sure I’m going to heaven, when it seems like I’m such a disappointment to him? Does my life really matter?


When we take time away from our self pursuits and the busyness of life; when we turn off all the gadgets and try to really be still, we find there are lots of questions that our heart has been waiting to ask us. There are lingering doubts we’ve never addressed that long for a word of assurance. I love the answers found in 1 John 5 to these and other important questions.


First, it’s all about faith. Faith in Jesus as God’s Son. Faith that expresses itself through his love. This is the true mark of a child of God, one who believes, trusts, and obeys. For sure, our faith and love are imperfect. We waiver and stray. But just as your child has the assurance they belong to you and are always loved by you so you, dear child, have the same assurance from God. He knows you and you belong to him.


An old song said, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” God says the same thing. In fact, our love and obedience to his love is the evidence of our faith. We can say we believe something but if we don’t act on it, do we really believe it?


If our faith is real, if we really believe, we will learn to increasingly act on it. We’ll choose love over hate, compassion over apathy, peace over fear, worth over shame, trust and assurance over doubt and worry. Faith is God’s design for us to make better trades in life so we can live victoriously, not as slaves to our feelings and circumstances. Who can have this assurance? Anyone who really believes Jesus at his Word who listens to and obeys his Spirit who testifies to his truth.


“And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe inthe name of the Son of God so you may KNOW you have eternal life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. ( 1 John 5:11-13)


But the assurance is not just for eternal life. It’s for abundant life now, no matter what circumstances you face: cancer, pain, sorrow, loneliness, and troubles of all sorts. You can doubt it and try to find success in your own strength OR you can be sure, knowing God’s assurance for a victorious life is yours.


What are you going to believe?


(Thoughts on 1 John 5)


Our call to loyalty


Everyone values loyalty. Both good and bad leaders want loyal followers. People from all stations of life long for loyal friends. We want others to be loyal to us, but what about our loyalty? We’re called to a life of loyalty, but not just in a “you watch my back and I’ll watch yours” way. We’re called to be loyal to truth and to God’s call on our lives. But how do we measure up? Sometimes, that’s another matter, because loyalty comes at a price. It costs selfless dedication to someone or something other than our own interests. Loyalty demands sacrifice when we prefer comfort.


If we’re really interested in having our lives marked by loyalty, we encouraged to consider the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 1. The call on your life and mine is to remain loyal, “in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus.” (V 1)


I invite you to join me in looking inward as we consider some of the marks of loyalty:

V3 A clear conscience, and devoted prayers
V4 Real joy in sharing together with God and with others
V5-7 The building up of each other’s faith and the encouragement to seek God’s gift of power, love and a sound mind
V8 Loyalty is not ashamed. Rather it joins others in suffering.
V9 Loyalty pursues holiness and spreads grace.
V12 We can (and should) be loyal to God “because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.”
V14 Above all, loyalty guards the truth, that one thing that guides our daily priorities and decisions.
V15 The loyal person perseveres and does not abandon the faith.


How loyal are we really to God and to the people he puts in our path? How loyal are we really to the true essence of our faith, compared to everything else that calls for our attention and devotion?


Loyalty comes at a price but also with blessings. Persistent and uncompromising loyalty to God’s true call on your life is a secure deposit on your future. It’s the only thing we have to offer of any merit, a humble and obedient faith that perseveres through thick and thin; that keeps keen focus on the goal, undistracted and unentangled from the things that distract us.


Loyalty comes at a cost and with a blessing. Loyalty matters. Maybe it’s the only thing that matters. It’s faith – always expressing itself in love.


Pain is real – So is hope

Pain is real but so is hope.


CS Lewis astutely observed, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” We can’t ignore it. It tortures us and crushes us. In its greatest trials it blinds us to everything else. Physical pain. Emotional pain. The pain of feeling lost and alone and without purpose. To deny it and paste on a silly grin is a foolish facade that accomplishes nothing.


Pain is real.

But so is hope.


Hope clings to the reality that what we see is not what God sees. We think there is only pain, uselessness, a wasted life of no value to anyone. We sit beneath the magnificent quilt spread across the loom and all we see are the tattered edges and loose threads. Nothing makes sense. But He sees the picture from above, the one that is completed by our faithfulness. Speaking of the great men and women of faith who suffered greatly, the author of the book of Hebrews wrote: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39-40) He continues,”Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)


That’s the masterpiece that our pain can’t perceive. Only faith, your great hope, can catch a glimpse of the beauty that is yet to be revealed.


Your faithfulness is accomplishing far more than what you and I can imagine. It’s quite possible we won’t know until we get to heaven how God uses your faithfulness to work good in all situations for all who are called according to his purpose. I know it doesn’t seem like enough. I write this as my own pain screams at me. Hope doesn’t seem like enough. But it is enough. Jesus has his loving eyes on you and your pain right now. You are not forgotten, not alone.


All that counts and all that remains in the end, is faith expressing itself in love. (Galatians 5:6) And faith keeps reaching out. When there is no strength or when your invitations to help and encourage others are ignored, faith prays. And persevering prayer accomplishes as much as any deeds we do. Marcia and I were recently talking about her parents’ lives, how their last years seemed so empty and wasted. Without our family there would have been just a few to remember them. But is the goal to be remembered? Perhaps the real point of life ultimately to bear witness to the transformational power of God’s love in a way that it impacts the life of at least one other person, who in turn bears testimony that impacts another?  In that sense, your faith – expressing itself in love – continues to live on, long after your name is forgotten.


Whatever level of pain you endure right now, I pray that you will see the goodness of the Lord here in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13). But even if that vision is clouded, there comes a time for all real believers when ALL his goodness will unfold in great abundance. We won’t be able to contain it.


That is our hope and it is as real as any pain that assaults us.


Faith works


“Do you love me?” she asked. He replied, “I told you I did when I married you! And if that ever changes, I’ll let you know.”


We’d be astonished to hear such a conversation! Why? Because real love doesn’t express itself once. It keeps on loving and continually expresses itself in ever deeper ways. It may be bold and demonstrative or it may be gentle and quiet, but it is never passive. Real love is always active.


That is how faith should be also. Real faith is active.

Faith works…always.


That was evident in the life of Philemon. Paul says, “I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers because I hear about your faith…and your love.” (Philemon vs 4)  Philemon lived a “legacy life” that positively impacted others. There was something genuine and famous about the way he lived. Love and faith were the foundation upon which his reputation was built. We don’t know if he was a prominent leader or businessman. We don’t know if he had a great memory for sports trivia or if he was skilled with his hands. We don’t know if his lawn was always pristine and well-kept, whether he drove the latest model of mule and cart, or if he had a large account at The First Bank of Jordan. But we know he was known for his faith and love. Like a ripple that continued spread across the water, his faith touched and refreshed the hearts of others in his path. (V 7) Isn’t that the legacy you desire most?


We are called to be active in sharing our faith. It is our path to gaining real understanding of what it means to be Christian. Sharing real faith refreshes the hearts of others. And it’s a needed reminder to us of what we believe, to whom we belong, and what our purpose is this very day.


“Faith works” means it perseveres, it carries on, it doesn’t give up. Real faith is actively applied to the efforts and struggles of our day. We approach problems and trials, suffering and woes, doubts and fears, all through the working of our faith.


“Faith works” also means it solves problems, it succeeds, it wins, it is functional. When faith is placed in a Mighty God, faith becomes mighty.


And faith brings understanding. In fact, that was Paul’s prayer for his friend, “that you may be active in sharing your faith so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” (V 6) And the understanding of all we have in Christ leads us to love others as he loves them.


Real faith works and is active. It impacts others when it is expressed in love. In fact, faith expressing itself in love is the only thing that ultimately matters. (Galatians 5:6) Real faith isn’t obnoxious or hurtful. It doesn’t judge. (That is God’s job.) But it isn’t kept to itself. Real faith is active and loving.


How would you describe your faith? How would others describe it? Is it sedentary like the one who professed their love for another and decided to marry, but never acted on that love? Or is it a faith that is actively played out throughout the course of every day? Do you keep your faith to yourself in a way that others would be surprised to learn that you are a Christian? Or is it evident to all because your faith works?


Live a legacy life marked by an active faith that works. Be active in sharing your faith in a winsome and genuine way so that you gain a full understanding of all you have in Jesus.


Why is the genealogy of Jesus important?


When reading the bible maybe you’ve been tempted to skip over the “begat” sections. “Abraham begat Isaac, Isaac begat Jacob, and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.” There are seemingly endless genealogies in the Old Testament where the lives of entire generations are summed up in the name of just one person… and some generations are not even mentioned at all. But Titus 3:9 cautions us to “avoid foolish questions and genealogies and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.” 1 Timothy 1:4 echoes this warning. So why does Matthew’s gospel of Jesus start out with His genealogy as reviewed through the lineage of Joseph who didn’t even father our Lord?


It could be very exhilarating to pursue a discussion of why Jesus is called the “Son of Abraham” and the “Son of David” and ponder the cultural customs in which these labels made perfect sense, even if they mystify us. We could question the three sets of 14 generations listed, even to delve into why some generations did not make the list but were skipped over. We could research the possible relationship of the 42 generations to Daniel’s prophecy of the seventy weeks of years and how it represents the number of salvation and deliverance. We might get caught up in the ‘religion’ of numerology and the significance over all the numbers referenced in the bible. We could study “secret bible codes” or get caught up in Gnostic stories like The Da Vinci Code that pursue secret and mystic genealogies in attempt to find ‘hidden wisdom.’


But let’s not.


Not that study is bad, but because there is something much more basic and important we should learn first to apply to our lives.


Consider how Matthew’s genealogy of Christ demonstrates the grace of God. Ponder the inclusion of five women (very unusual in those times), all whose reputations were considered tarnished. Reflect on how God works His grace through broken lives of ordinary people (like you and me) to achieve extraordinary results. No doubt He worked through the generations of people whose names were omitted from the history lists. This should give a humble reminder that the history of man is not all about us! The passing of generations is not about prideful genealogy. Then what is the purpose of this genealogical list?


It’s about God’s purpose and plan and our faithful response to it. Biblical history is not just about the redemption of man. It is the story of God – His Story – where God’s glory is the supreme focus. History wasn’t so much about Joseph having a perfect wedding. It was about his faithful response to the revelation of the Messiah born to his wife. That’s his part in history.


And this is true for you and me today. We tend to see the world as it revolves around our life, our plans, our ambitions, hopes and dreams, our family, our job, our happiness, our comforts and pleasures, our release from pain, sorrow, and hardship of every kind. But that’s not the main point. The big news headlines is that God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life and to be part of His Story by participating in His glory.


Maybe YOU will do something great for God that will be remembered for generations to come. But that’s not what it’s all about. It’s about remaining faithful in the unwritten generations that glorify God by enjoy Him – forever. Faith expressing itself in love is what counts most.