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

The one blog post I hope everyone reads


“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lordand who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.”  Psalm 1:1-3


Truth be known, I have walked in step with the wicked. I have stood in the path of sinners and sat in the company of scoffers. (What is it that makes us think that belittling and mocking others makes us better people?!)  I’ve been in these places, and likely so have you. Maybe our selfish pride continues to lead us to frequent those dark places. But there’s good news:


We don’t have to stay where we are.


Every single day we are given the opportunity to choose a new path for our lives. Less making fun of people we don’t like, more understanding and compassion. Less apathy and more concern that insists on acting itself out in some small way. Less frugalness and more generosity. Less worry and more faithful prayer. Less criticism and more encouraging words and actions. Less attacks and more embraces. Less jaded outlook and more hope. Less seeing ourselves as hopeless and more seeing ourselves as hope-filled through the grace of God. Less sorrow and more joy, even in the midst of sorrow. Less wasted time in meaningless activity and more time spent intentionally – on purpose and on mission – in keeping with our most dear life dreams. Less dreaming of a good life and more living it fully every single day. Less of nearly everything and more love.


We can bloom where we are planted but we can also plant ourselves where we can bloom. We can choose to be like that tree planted by streams of water, bearing fruit and with leaves that do not wither and always prospering even in times of drought. We do this by acting out our beliefs. You believe the bible to be true? Act on it! Consistently and persistently and relentlessly confront fear with assurance, worry and doubt with faith, anxiety with peace, bitterness with forgiveness, apathy with action, judgment with compassion, temper with grace, regret with remembered joy, my way with God’s way, and disdain with love.  If you believe it’s better to take the high road in conflict, take it. Believe and act on that belief. Demonstrate what you believe by the way you live each moment.


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


Do you believe it? Be intentional; put it on your agenda. Make it your purpose to share love in your thoughts and actions today.


If life isn’t measured by the number of breaths we take but truly by the number of moments that take our breath away, what can you do today, each day, to create those special moments? They are your life legacy. As I think back on nearly fifty years with my best friend, 43+ years my bride, I think of shared adventures, silly moments, shared tears, encouraging hugs, steadfast devotion and encouragement in difficult times. I think of forgiveness and gentleness, attentiveness, and shared joys shared in a passion for life – both present and everlasting. I think of children we’ve brought into this world and loved and children across the world we’ve come to love. I think of nurtured friendships that have survived the distance of thousands of miles and passing years. I  think of quiet walks through meadows, working the gardens in our life, and quietly soaking in the beauty of nature, God’s creation and the expression of his joy.  


How about you? What will you do today to create the legacy of your life? May it be guided by your faith, expressing itself in love.


Now may the God of peace…equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20-21




Litmus test for Christianity?


In recent news, Pope Francis jumped into the USA presidential campaign by saying Donald Trump is not a Christian because of his views on immigration. When reporters pressed the pontiff about Trump’s plan to build a wall along the southern USA border to keep out illegal immigrants, Pope Francis responded:

“A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”


What strikes me about this news story is neither a reflection on the Pope or The Donald. I don’t know either of them and certainly am no judge of what is in their hearts. What strikes is that it resonates with so many of our social and spiritual issues today where we are eager to build walls rather than build bridges.


Do black lives matter or do police limp es matter? Of course, all lives matter! How is it in such a developed civilization we still think that the color of a man’s skin speaks to their value as a human being? But “Black lives versus all police” creates a hostile division where unity is needed to foster better resolution that involves working together to finally end racism. Especially in election years, the polarization between Democrats and Republicans cause some to question if they can even be friends with or trust someone who thinks differently about political issues. We’ve had people unfriend us because we suggested asking God’s guidance on selecting a candidate versus voting for what benefits them personally.  We’re tempted to join the bandwagon of warring against the 1% to benefit the 99%. We see similar walls built between the green revolution and those who support “drill baby, drill.” We think we’re justified in labeling people, “Management” or “union”.” We write them off as “Catholic”, “Protestant”, or “Evangelical.” We somehow think that God has handed the right to judge others to us.


When end it comes down to “us versus them” or “me versus you”, the world becomes a very small and divisive place.


We might agree with Pope Francis  that anyone who makes it their aim to exclude people and foster division in communities is at odds with the Christian message of speaking truth and building unity. Jesus expanded our definition of who our neighbor is and told us to love even our enemies. The message of Jesus is about building relationship bridges that can bear the weight of the gospel story.  It is not about spewing hatred or mocking our opponents. Though we see a number of Christians doing just this on Facebook, email, and personal conversations, it’s not consistent with the gospel message.


But does that make us not Christian or imperfect sinners, the “sick” Jesus came to save?


When we become full of judgment and self righteousness, it leaves little if any room for building meaningful relationships that lead to understanding. Isn’t it a dangerous position to assume that someone is not a patriot because they voted differently from you? Or that they’re not a friend if they made tough decisions with which you disagreed and maybe suffered? Wouldn’t it be better for us to exile all such negative judgments from our minds and mouths and instead leave them to God, our one and only perfect judge? Shouldn’t we do the same before thinking about “sharing” those destructive views with others?


We  should address differences but we can’t and shouldn’t judge what’s in the heart of another person. We can and should make our own judgments on their words and actions. The simplest biblical standard on salvation is “believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). But real belief/faith acts on what it believes: “But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18)  I can’t say “I love my wife” and at the same time ignore or belittle her. The profession of true love always gives birth to actions. Paul writes, “The only thing that counts is faith, expressing itself through love.” In other words, true Christianity is not just an intellectual ascent, but a “live out loud” lifestyle of exuberant love and generosity, and humble Spirit.


Maybe you’re a subscriber to the philosophy that “good fences make good neighbors.” Personally, God’s mandattes speak more to me about building bridges than building walls. Issues matter. Some issues matter eternally. But the only litmus test for the Christian disciple is what Jesus gave us, “Deny yourself, pick up your cross, and follow me.” Even if we disagree with one another, let’s not use other issues as a litmus test to discern whether someone else is “Christian.”


And if there were such a test of Christianty. . . which of us would pass it perfectly?