Tag Archives: the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love

The land between

We’re making intentional plans these days to make room in our lives for short “memory making” trips to celebrate the time we have remaining together. One of our recent trips was to Guttenberg, Iowa where we stayed at a cabin generously loaned to us for the weekend by caring and loving friends. We enjoyed taking short walks and watching the boats navigate Lock 10, one of a “ladder” of 23 stair-stepping locks along the northern part of the mighty Mississippi River.

Whether it was a single motorboat or a 15-barge tow, we found it interesting to watch the boats navigate their way through the lock.  For each of them it was a transitional place from one part of their journey to another. And it was a time of waitin; the 15-barge tow took over 1 1/2 hours to make the passage. All were hauling cargo, whether it be the life of a single sailor or hundreds of thousands of bushels of corn and soy beans  the barges in particular sat lighter or deeper in the water according to the weight of their cargo. I found it fascinating to learn that one 15-barge tow, 1/4 mile long, could carry as much cargo as an 11 mile caravan of 870 semi-trucks, all in transition from one place to another.

Jeff Manion, author of the book, In The Land Between, uses the biblical story of the Israelites’ exodus out of Egypt and transition to the Promised Land as a metaphor for how we find ourselves in the undesired, transitional spaces of our lives.

You’ve been there. Whether it’s in a hospital waiting room, the “waiting room” while you wait for answers to desperate prayers, or the transition between houses and jobs, you know how heavy the weight of uncertainty, fear, and anxiety can feel on your shoulders; how it feels like you’re “low in the water” because of the burdens you carry

We continue to wait on the Lord regarding my health.  Will God perform a truly miraculous healing so we can pursue the desires of our heart to serve him in Bolivia – or WHEREVER he calls us? Or have these three and a half years of growing the GLOW ministries been the miracle he intended all along? If he desires me to come home now, I am ready and willing. Whatever brings him more glory. We are where you are or once have been: In between the land of what used to be and the land where we have not yet arrived.

Manion observes that the land in between is fertile ground for anxiety, fear and doubt to grow. We have a choice to accept and tolerate such unwelcome invaders or to combat them with the antidote of faith. It’s up to us to choose peace or anxiety, assurance or fear, truth or doubt. Each of these problems that interrupt and disrupt our lives are in fact an opportunity to trust God for his solution. That is the hope of our lives and the message of Go Light Our World, that the Lord Jesus is everything we desperately need.

If you’ve come to trust him with the eternal condition of your soul, can you trust him also for this very difficult transitional place in your place in “the land between?”

What we’ve experienced is a gracious and loving God who is ever-patient with us as we navigate the difficult transitional times of our own lives. Though we might think we have the capacity of a 15-barge tow to buoy the weight of our problems, nothing compares with the capacity of Jesus to carry the full weight of our heaviest burdens.

This is why we believe the truth of God’s Word that teaches me, whether I live or die, I WIN!  Cancer is a mighty foe but it doesn’t have the power to defeat who I am in Christ. I can trust the answers to prayer God has already arranged while I wait for them to be made known.

Whether I am completely healed and see the goodness of the Lord here in the land of the living, or in heaven, I rest in peace knowing I will be healed.

We all live in the land between this present life and our eternal one. Between this present problem and God’s future solution. What matters most, in fact the ONLY thing that counts, is that we live lives marked by faith that expresses itself through love.

If you had just one

It is an astounding time in which we live. In some parts of the world that are far remote to our way of thinking, life goes on day by day as it has for generations without change and little access to potentially life changing information and innovation. In our world of technology, change is what’s on the menu. The world is literally available at our fingertips. Need a recipe, instructions for how to fix nearly anything, or need to make a reservation for a destination across the world? Presto, your answer is dished up right away.

My grandmother, when she wanted to read a passage of scripture, would go to the table where the old family bible sat and carefully undo the brass clasps that protected it’s pages.

In contrast, we can access the bible “online” wherever we go. Don’t remember where to find a verse? No problem. Just “Google” a word or partial phrase and multiple results will appear. Click on one and you are immediately taken directly to the passage, available in whatever version or language you want.

I sometimes wonder what effect such readily available information will have on our abilities to remember things for ourselves. Whether it’s a phone number or a bible verse, a machine remembers it for us.

I’ve recently been asking people to imagine a life where such abundance of information was not readily available; where political pressures prohibit access to certain books, or that place in your life where a sudden stroke or gradual onset of Alzheimer’s robbed you of your ability to access information. If, in that terrible situation, you were somehow able to remember just one name, whose name would it be? If you could remember only one short passage of scripture, which one would you want to always be emblazoned in your mind and heart?

I find it a nearly impossible task. The thought of summarizing all of God’s Word onto a scrap of forbidden paper or having mental capacity to remember only one verse is daunting to say the least. Jesus summed up all the law and the prophets with these few words:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39

We could shorten that to a simple yet profound challenge to each of our daily activities: Love God – love others. If you remembered nothing else, how might this simple ‘code’ guide your every day? Galatians 5:6 similarly summarizes my daily and life purpose: “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.” It reminds me that whatever else is taken away, faith and love remain the essence of life.

Given the challenge, a friend quickly replied with this verse: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” John 11:25-26 If he could remember just one short promise, he wants it to be the one of eternal life offered freely to him by his Lord Jesus.

What about you? Maybe you have a “life verse” you’ve committed to memory that encourages you and continually points you toward your prized goal. Thankfully, we don’t have to choose just one. And while there’s no guarantee we won’t fall victim to some debilitating condition which limits our ability to remember and process the valuable truths and promises, committing one or more of those to memory now will continue to guard your heart and mind even in those days.

God’s Word is the antidote to our woes. It’s how Jesus answered every temptation. Commit it to memory now. Apply it to your daily life and watch how it helps you in times of trouble.

One word to change your prayers


Do you find your prayer list filled with specific requests to make things better? Lord, fix this cancer. Help my friend get a good job. Sell my house. Ease this pain. Of course, there’s nothing  wrong with praying for specific needs. Jesus commends us to let our requests be known to God and promises that whatever we ask in his name (i.e. according to his will) will be granted. Jesus himself healed a number of people, not just to make their pain go away but “that the work of God might be displayed” in their lives. More often, Jesus prayed for eternal things: thy kingdom come, thy will be done, may they (his disciples – and us) be one just as he is one with the Father. Additionally, we often see the work of God displayed through the suffering of his saints, not the release from it,


The apostle Paul who experienced no shortage of serious physical and emotional sufferings prayed three times to have a “thorn in his side” removed. Other than that, he sets the same example of praying for eternal things, not the “temporary and light afflictions,” The secret of his prayers was in counting everything as loss except knowing Jesus and the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings. That’s not the stuff we find on our normal prayer lists.


So why do we focus our prayer on our “light and momentary afflictions” when we know that we should set our vision higher and pray for God’s mission to advance the gospel across the globe? And why are we so quick to pray away hardships when it’s the trials of life that cause us to mature and grow closer to Jesus?


God doesn’t waste pain. He uses our suffering to mold us to who we are meant to be. In John Piper’s little book, Don’t Waste Your Life, we’re commended to use all of our life for God’s purpose and glory. (Colossians 3:17) Not just the good times, but the painful ones too…the times when we feel least productive for the kingdom and perhaps least satisfied with life – and maybe with him. It seems none of us have the complete answer to all our questions about this. But I like Piper’s approach. Don’t waste the opportunities that God has allowed in our lives, as difficult and challenging as they may be.


Bronwyn Lea says it this way in her blog post “One little word that radically changed my prayers.”  Here it is:

“Instead of praying “God, make it better”, I need to pray “God, make it count.”

God, my friend is dying. Don’t just make it better, make it COUNT. If she can be better, let it be so, but don’t let this suffering have been wasted. Work it for good. Please show up and show your grace. Make it count.

God, I’m so busy and so tired. I so badly want to pray “make it better! Make it stop!”, but I’m going to pray “make it count, please,” instead. Let me learn grace under fire. Let me learn to say no to the bad and even the good so that there is time enough to say yes to the best. Show your strength in my weakness. Make it count.

God, thanks for a lovely, sweet season in my marriage. Rather than saying “thanks, keep it up, make it better”, please Father, make it count. Help us to be thankful and still work hard at our marriage, not leaving prayer for the tough times alone. Let this good season count.”

God, now that I think about it, please don’t just make it better. Not if it doesn’t count.

Please make it count, so that these light and momentary afflictions do the work of preparing us for a weight of glory that outweighs then all.

God, this is my life: in all it’s gritty, knotted and messy glory.

These are my loved ones.

These are my tears.

Please, please, please… Make it count.”


(Thanks Bronwyn. Powerful words for a powerful prayer life.)

“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love.” Galatians 5:6




The greatest thing you can do today


Do you have your to-do list made for the day? Is your calendar filled with appointments? If you’re like me, there’s probably more on the list than can possibly get done! You may be wondering how to make sure you get the most important things accomplished!


A life is made up of years and years are made up of days. Each day is made up of the moments where we live and breathe and try to discover and express our purpose in life – the one thing that is most important in everything we do. What is that one “most important” thing for you?


Maybe you have a voice that others listen to, leadership skills inspires others to follow. Maybe you seek to discover the great mysteries of life and to amass a great volume of knowledge. Maybe you’ve felt compelled to be generous in your gifts and service to benefit others.  We all seek purpose and meaning and want our lives to make a difference. But as good as all these things are, they are not the best. They may be beneficial, but if they lack love, they gain nothing. “Nothing?” you ask. “What about faith? Doesn’t faith matter?” Indeed it does. Faith is the hope that helps us endure. It is the light that shines into the depths of our darkest moments. Faith is the confidence that overcomes fears and speaks truth to doubts. Faith is the conqueror of negative thinking and worry. In fact:


The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself…through love.


What is it about love that makes the difference? Consider Paul’s words:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, 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. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a


Love is the motivation that stirs us to action. It is the fuel that feeds our engine of activity. Emotions confuse us and fail us. Activity tires us. But love calls us to push on and persevere even when logic and emotions persuade us to give up. Love finds joy in the truth of life. It protects us from selfishness and self pity. It brings hope to our despair. True love, the love that God shows us, never gives up. 


Jesus summarized all the commandments by saying, love God and love others. Love is the greatest thing God did for you and me. Love is what characterizes God. Shouldn’t it be what summarizes our life too? Beyond wealth and even beyond health. Beyond hobbies and politics. Beyond accomplishment and special gifts. Love surpasses all these.


Everything else has an end and passes away but faith, hope, and love remain. I hope you’ll fill your day with these most important things, especially love. 


And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13