Tag Archives: Love one another

The Four Things That Matter Most

As young children, when taunted by some unkind person with hurtful words, we’d often reply, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!”

But it was a lie.

Words do hurt. And they have lasting effect. Once spoken they are difficult if not impossible to take back. Said in haste, careless disregard, or anger, they create barriers and distance us each living in their own sort of prison.

The good news is that the opposite is also true. While negative words and phrases stick with us, so do positive uplifting ones.  Expressions that esteem and express humility, concern, affection, and love have power to tear down walls and bring people in closer harmony with each other. How often God prompts us to:

  • Love one another
  • Encourage one another
  • Spur one another on
  • Live at peace with one another

While needed to help us navigate all the difficult paths of life, perhaps there is a no more poignant time for this as when we are dying. It is then that nearly everyone comes to realize is that when all is said and done, what matters are harmonious relationships. Dr. Ira Byock shares in the book, The Four Things That Matter Most, there are four phrases that carry enormous power for emotional wellness and spiritual healing – for living and ending life well. They are simply:

  • Please forgive me.
  • I forgive you.
  • Thank you.
  • I love you.

Four simple phrases that should never be left unsaid. But commonly withheld, they continue to hold us captive to our sense of past wrongs and hurts. Shared humbly and freely, they release immense power to restore and transform relationships. Like a healing balm to an infected wound, they restore what was broken. They remind us that living with integrity and grace matter more than the pride of being right, worldly accomplishments, or fame. They speak affirmation to life. How we all need the encouragement of these simple phrases.

We might be tempted to think forgiveness is not needed. We say to ourselves, “After all they were wrong” or we think bringing up an old offense will only fester the old wound. We resist asking forgiveness because it requires humility, and the setting aside of our “right to be right.” We falsely think that withholding forgiveness punishes the other person when in reality it’s a poison we drink ourselves. How that is especially true when we refuse to forgive ourselves!

We think people don’t need to be thanked. After all, they’re paid to do a good job. It’s an expectation of life that shouldn’t require expressions of appreciation. In fact, saying ‘Thank you” does more than recognize someone. It speaks value to what they do and who they are as a person. It affirms their contribution to life and communicates respect. We might assume someone knows our appreciation and love. But actually saying, “I love you” and expressing it through sacrificial and loving actions makes it certain.

We never know when this moment  will be the last opportunity we have to forgive and ask forgiveness, to thank someone and tell them “I love you.” As you reflect on the relationships of your own life, are there awkward silences about uncomfortable issues that separate you from others and keep you both from being truly well? What are the words that have been left unsaid for too long and need to be spoken? Isn’t now is the time to speak the words that matter most, and to make it the daily pattern of your life?

Back to the basics

Famed football coach Vince Lombardi was known for his focus on fundamentals.  One of his most renown quotes hails from the time we walked into a football training camp, held up a “pigskin” and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” Lombardi knew the key to success was eX willing in the basics. For football, the basics were running, tossing, catching, and tackling. For music it is mastery of scales and etudes. Whether it’s hobbies or business, families or friendships, returning to the basics always leads to success. It sharpens our focus, renews our ambition, strengthens our resolve, and guides our path. No one succeeds in their quest without periodically going back to the basics.

What does that look like in your life? We tend to flock to popular authors to give us new insight on “how to” have a happy marriage, a healthy family, a successful upward moving career, or any number of other ambitions. But if you sit back and think about it, don’t you already know the basics that propel our progress in all of these? Robert Fulghum struck a chord when he wrote, Everything I needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten:”

1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don’t hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
9. Flush.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first work you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.

How does going back to the basics help us?

  1. It sharpens our axe and refines our focus. It helps us “put off” all the “junk” that hinders us and “put on” that which moves us toward our most treasured  life goals. It speaks purpose to our life.
  2. It stirs us from complacency and reminds us what is really important. It rejuvenates us and refuels our imaginations and our passion for living.
  3. It levels the playing field. The virtuoso and the beginner meet on common ground in the school of basics. It helps us learn from and really connect with one another.
  4. It humbles us by reminding us there is always something new to learn or relearn.

It’s being gentle and respectful and loving when you feel like acting contrary. It’s putting down your right to be right, even if you are, so you can communicate one on one with another human being. It’s listening more than speaking and sharing when tempted to keep. It’s being honest and vulnerable while standing firm in your beliefs. It’s building others up, not tearing them down.

If you are a Christian, it’s not just asking “What would Jesus do?” It’s doing what he did. For him, the basics included frequent moments of solitude and prayer, humble submission before his Heavenly Father, doing only what He told him to do. For Jesus the basics meant investing in close and meaningful relationships with others and living a life marked by compassion on those he called “the least of these.” In it’s most summarized form,  Jesus reminds us the basics are:

Love God fully.

Love one another.

Whatever is on your agenda today, it will benefit from focusing on the fundamentals of life and going back to the basics.





Living in community and opening our lives to others

The other night we were discussing with friends how the bible clearly indicates there will come a time when it will be hard to publicly worship God and learn from his true Word. Sometimes it’s hard for people to even step in the doors of a church in a free land. We call these “hard places.”  It seems likely to me that as religious persecution advances, worship services and bible studies won’t occur so freely in large public buildings, but in smaller “house churches” and “church plants” where a few families gather to worship and share life together.

GLOW supports a number of small churches and church plants that once started as little more than a house church. One of these is in Barlanark, Scotland. Their mission is to reach people in hard places:

  • by making Jesus known in the inner city and beyond
  • by proclaiming the Gospel
  • by making disciples
  • by living in community

Pete Stewart and Pete Bell and their families work together with others whose lives have been beaten and bruised by life’s hard ways including abuse, violence, drugs, and prison.  How they describe their ministry challenges and encourages me as I seek to live a meaningful life:

“As a group we have been challenged to live as a living community of Christians by opening our lives more to each other and others in the scheme (housing project). Over the past few months we have been rallying around our vision statement and this has brought a real focus to what we are trying to do. Key to this has been meeting every morning Monday to Friday to have a short bible devotion and then prayer time for 30 minutes. We have been working through our 7 ‘p’s’:  Praise, Purpose, Practical, Present, Partners, Personal, People and spending concentrated time each day praying for specific people in the scheme, that they may come to know Jesus.

“There have been 14 or 15 adults meeting as part of our launch team over the past 2 months. We have been looking at ‘What is the Church’ and ‘What is a Healthy Church’ which has been challenging and inspiring. 3 people have asked to be baptised. 17 adults and 9 children participated in a weekender in Niddrie at the end of February where we looked at Evangelism,
Discipleship, Discipline, Youth Work and Addiction in the schemes. This was a formative time for us as a growing church plant.”

I wonder, do you think of the church as a living community of Christians by opening our lives more to each other and others? It’s difficult to share the vulnerable parts of our lives with others. But that’s what Jesus intended and modeled by growing close to a dozen men and becoming closely involved in the celebrations and hurts of others. He taught his disciples to disciple others, saying, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

We aren’t followers of Jesus just because we go to church once a week or even read the bible daily. The evidence of our discipleship is that we love one another as he did… living in community with others and opening our lives to each other.

Would you pray for Pete Stewart and Pete Bell as they minister to people in hard places? And as you do, take time to consider how you might open your life to others around you, sharing the good news of the one who changed your life – forever.

Who is the God you love?

Do you love God? Does celebrating his love serve as your purpose in life?

Our response determines every aspect of our life. If I don’t love God, then who is the focus of my devotion? If not, “In God we trust,” then who?

It seems the default answer is to trust in ourselves: our own abilities to think, philosophize, communicate with others, earn a living, make things with our hands, set goals and agendas, and become the captain of our own destiny. Is it possible to believe in God and trust in yourself?

We all trust to some degree in our good health, our intellect, the faithfulness and devotion of our friends and family. We trust in our leaders, our wealth, or the comfort and safety of our home. But who is the God we truly love and trust above all else? Who is the God of your daily schedule and life ambitions?

Maybe your view of God is formed by the God of the Bible. Over the years you’ve come to grasp an understanding that he is who he reveals himself to be in his Word, that he is who he says he is. You believe what he says, that he gave his only begotten Son, Jesus, to die for the forgiveness of our sins; that this same Jesus rose from the dead and gave his very Spirit to reside in the hearts and minds of his true followers. Ah, the name of Jesus; perhaps you’ve noticed how the mention of his name dramatically changes the conversation of God from one of intellectual belief to personal conviction.

But have you personally experienced his truth, grace, and power in your life? Have you discovered his transformational power to make you free from the bondage to sin, even while you remain ever so imperfect like me and everyone else around you? Have you experienced his power to find real peace in the middle of life’s difficult storms? When the world shakes around you, have you found him to be your unshakeable foundation, your solid rock? Have you found the secret of being content, realizing that your circumstances don’t define you? Do you know for sure that you are the beloved child of the King of Kings, and that his inheritance is yours for all eternity?

This is what the God of the Bible says:

By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.  John 13:35

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 1 John 4:7-9

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13

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 in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 1 John 5:11-13

God is more than an idea, more than an emotional feeling. The God above all gods call you and me to a life of love. Believe in him and find peace. Experience his love.


Remaining in joy


Complete joy is found in walking with God in his light not in the darkness that envelops us when we go on our way. That way is called sin. It seems fun. Actually, it often IS fun – for awhile. The problem is:


The train of sin takes us farther than we want to go and charges us more than we want to pay.


We can make our choices but we can’t always choose our consequences. Without God’s forgiveness we are left with repeated defeat, guilt, shame, misery, and despair – in fact, everything that destroys and steals the real joy we thought we were seeking! The author of 1 John 2 tells us there’s a solution: Jesus.


If you are caught committing a crime you will end up before a judge. You might get a lawyer who tries to get you out of it, but if you’re convicted the judge will pronounce a sentence of judgment on you. Deal done.


But with Jesus, it’s different. Jesus is the perfect advocate who never loses a case when it comes to those who really follow him and know him. Not just know about him but really know him…and to be known by him.


Do you know him?  If so, do what he said and did. Jesus loved his Father God and was fully satisfied with him than anything else. He did whatever his father told him. And his father told him to tell us, “Love one another.”


“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35


If we call ourselves Christian and hate each other and hold grudges or judge others, we better check what God’s Word actually says. We can’t judge others and love him. And we can’t be filled with the love of everything in the world and still fully love God.


If you know Jesus, the really good part is that he knows you! He sees you in your pain. He cares for you in your sorrow. He has not forgotten you and will never abandon you…


EVEN if it feels that way!


This isn’t a new teaching. We’ve always had this command to love God and love others. But what is “new” is that we now have the true light of God, Jesus, to guide us, teach us, empower us, make us victorious over life’s challenges, and bring us lasting joy. We’re not stuck in an endless cycle of turning to him, falling away from him, and going our own way before finally coming back to him. Finding complete joy is a matter of remaining in him.


“Remain in me as I remain in you.” – Jesus


“As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us—eternal life.” (V 24-25)


Love is all


Love God with all your heart, mind, body and soul and with all your strength.  Love your neighbor as yourself.              – Mark 12:30-31

Let us love one another for love comes from God. – 1 John 4:7

Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:16


Jesus makes sure we make no mistake. Our love for God is to be marked by ALL our heart, ALL our mind, ALL our soul, and ALL our strength. Basically, we are to love with everything that is in us. He doesn’t allow room for ‘SOME’ of anything. Loving God and loving others is our job description. Everything else is what HR people call “nonessential duties”…leftovers.


But what if ‘all’ God gets is our leftovers? Leftover after we give service to our other ‘gods.’ Anything that separates us from the one true God becomes a ‘god’ to us. Probably you know those who gave up on God because they lost a loved one, their health took a turn for the worst, they were betrayed by someone close to them, they felt unprotected. Maybe you experienced this at one time too. When this happens God is ignored and set aside, like last night’s leftovers, and lesser ‘gods’ are pursued.


Think you are immune to such idolatry? If you could not do without something, that may have become your ‘god.’ Be it sports, the pursuit of beauty and ultimate fitness above all things, that perfect latte, a certain way of negative thinking, or any other compulsive or perfectionist venture. When we obey these things they define and control our life and become as ‘gods.’ We can’t give ALL to the one and only true God, because all that remains is leftovers.


The question is: What do I HAVE to have in order to be satisfied with God? Whatever that is, my health, my family, my abilities, more years of life, more money, a pain-free life…that is the name of our other ‘god.’ The point of Job’s story is that God is enough. Like ending Psalm 23 with the first sentence, the Lord is my shepherd; that is enough.


God created us with a soul designed to love Him and be loved by Him. Love comes from God because God IS love. God demonstrated His love in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us. It is His love that shines in us. That light shines into the despair of our dark griefs and empty pursuits. It reveals hope that brings transcending joy and peace. It illuminates our path and causes fear to flee. It frees us from the captivity of all our false gods.


When the love of Jesus shines in and through you, you find freedom to love without expectation. Jesus says, we shine our light so others may see the real Jesus and praise God. Loving God with ALL your heart, mind, soul, and strength extends His endless love to others. Let’s give Him our ALL, not just leftovers.



How then should I live?



Hebrews 13 offers good counsel for our daily living. Lest we get carried away by all sorts of distractions, and in view of such mercy we continue to receive, let’s ask. “How then should I live?

  • Hebrews 13:1 Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters.
  • Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers
  • Continue to remember those in prison 
  • 4 Honor marriage keep the marriage bed pure
  • Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because (God will never leave or forsake you)
  • 6  Say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
  • Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Imitate their faith. 
  • Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Believe it and live it!)
  • Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. 
  • 15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise. 
  • 16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
  • 17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority,.
  • 18 Pray
  • 20 (Remember): The God of peace will equip you with everything good for doing his will, and will work in us what is pleasing to him,through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. 
  • 25 Grace be with you all.

There are so many things on your to-do list today. But none so vital as doing them in the manner God intended. Enjoy Him fully today and live well.



Change the world



Help another person and you will not change the world. But you will change the world of that person.


Love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  – Jesus (John 13:34-35)


I remember years back having considerable debate with team mates regarding the phrase “Change The World.” One camp thought that it was too lofty and unmeasurable for a mission statement. “We’re too small to actually change the WORLD, ” said some. Others maintained that if you change the world for one person, you change the whole world. It is now different because there is a new creation aboard. What do you think?


Consider the difference these Christians made in the world:

George Mueller, a 19th century evangelist who established orphanages across Europe, caring for more than 10,000 orphaned and abandoned children.

Nicolaus Copernicus, Polish astronomer and Christian who proposed the earth actually revolves around the sun. (Novel idea, eh? :-))

Isaac Newton, English physicist and mathematician and Christian who discovered the law of gravity.

George Washington Carver, son of slave parents, a believer who was awarded the Roosevelt Medal for his research on peanuts and sweet potatoes. The medal read in part, “To a scientist humbly seeking the guidance of God…”

Michelangelo, the Italian Renaissance artist known for his many biblical inspired works of art. He “believed that spiritual value could be found in all natural beauty.” (The bible concurs.)

 One thing we know for sure. GOD is in the world-changing business. He changed a void into a universe full of worlds. He fashioned our own earth by His own word.  He changed the ‘rules of the game’ so we could actually come out alive. He continues to change the world by changing the hearts of those who dare follow Him. (Really, who else are we going to pick to follow?!)  And He chooses to do this by indwelling the hearts and minds of fully devoted believers.  When our character, ambitions, thoughts, words, and actions are motivated by Him, He should be evident for all to see, right? And so while you may feel incapable of changing the world (or even yourself), Christ-in-you is very able…and willing.


Go ahead. Change the world! It starts with a faithful heart, a resolute mind, and a life devoted to loving God and loving others in His name.


Pursue love


What would you think about someone who always talks love but doesn’t show it by their actions? It rings a bit hollow and doesn’t seem like the real thing does it?

“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

We are called to act on love, to demonstrate it in what we do and who we are. But have you ever experienced the action of love without feeling love? For example, someone always says “I love you, I miss you,” but no attempt is made to share life together and act out on that professed love. We all know that all talk and no show is empty expression. It like lip syncing life.

Fellow blogger Jon Bloom writes: Because just like you can talk loving without really loving, you can act loving without really loving. That’s what Paul meant when he said, “If I give away all I have and deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:3). We can look like we’re fulfilling 1 John 3:18 and still not love.

John Piper writes in his book Desiring God: “Love is the overflow of joy in God that gladly meets the needs of others” (119). If we believe what the bible and most people profess, God is love, then to love others is an extension of loving and enjoying the presence of God. Jesus also commands, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35  Real Christians are known for their love. It is what defines them: they love one another. You might be thinking, “I know a lot of Christians and their trademark isn’t love.” You may be right. None of us are perfect at this. But being works in progress, shouldn’t the pursuit of love be our most ambition this year and beyond?

Love one another.

Who do you know that needs an expression of genuine love and concern? Maybe today would be a good day to share an encouraging word, send a caring note, or meet a practical need. But beyond a simple “do a good deed” or “act of random kindness”, as helpful as those may be, let’s let our love flow from an inner desire to love God. And that is an inner journey of personal transformation that no mere action alone can accomplish.

Pursue love this year and find the love you share is also the love you receive.


Speak up for what you believe!

At the 2013 National Prayer breakfast (YouTube), world renown neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson spoke up about our nation’s founding fathers’ emphasis on the importance of freedom of expression. In doing so he tells a humorous story about a rich man who loved to buy exquisite and exotic gifts for his mother on mother’s day. One year he came across a fascinating pair of singing, dancing and talking birds that sold for $5,000 each. So he bought the pair and had them sent to his mother. Some days later he called his mother and excitedly asked her how were the birds? She said, “Oh, they were tasty!” He cried out, “Mom, those were rare singing, dancing, talking birds! You weren’t supposed to have eaten them!” To which his mother replied, “Well, they should have said something!”

Dr. Carson makes the point that we need to speak up for what we believe while maintaining respect for the other person. Talk about things that matter, topics well beyond sports, entertainment, gossip, and the weather. We can’t afford, as a nation or as communities or as individuals, to live in a politically correct world where no one talks about important matters. We can’t afford to wear our own beliefs so perilously on our shoulders that any off comment will knock them off their perch. (If that is the case, how firm are those beliefs anyway?)

The comments echoed his 1997 Prayer Breakfast speech (C Span) where he encouraged us to remember the things that make our nation great…those things that make OTHERS around us great. When we look at things from the perspective of others we are able to have meaningful, respectful dialog. And he issues a challenge I think is appropriate for us to take on today:

Commit to one week of not saying anything bad about anyone else.

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.” Romans 12:9-11