Are We Called To Love The Dead? (How To Study History as a Christian Part One)

A few weeks ago I wrote a 5 part study on the parable of the Samaritan.  Following that in a related post we looked at the idea of what it might mean to love our enemies.  In a way this all points toward the idea of loving our neighbor.

Jesus uses the parable of the Samaritan in response to a Jewish lawyer who had asked what the greatest commandment was.  Jesus answered that the greatest commandment was to love God with all of our heart, strength and mind.  The second follows; that is to love our neighbor.  The lawyer then asks who is our neighbor.  Jesus uses the parable to make the point that every person, yes even our enemy, is our neighbor.

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Managing Your Soil – (The Parable of the Sower Part 3)

I’m a big lawn guy.  I love a good looking yard and I work probably too hard to have one.  There are a lot of keys to a good lawn and I’ll come back to this analogy at another time.  But today I want to talk about preparing the soil for seeding.

If you want to have a good lawn you have to prepare the soil.  If you just throw seed on top of the bare spots nothing will happen.  You can water it and everything else, but it won’t matter much.  What you need to do is till up the soil.  Get at least three inches deep.  You need to get rid of anything else growing there as well as any sort of rocks or debris.  Then you rake it smooth and if you’re really into it, which I am, then you get a roller and roll it smooth.  Then and only then do you drop some seed, spread evenly of course.  Then you gently rake it in to the loose top soil.  Then I typically throw some straw on top of it to protect it from erosion and getting washed out.  Finally you water it . . . . for a while.  You have to keep it moist until it grows.  This is to say nothing of the maintenance of the yard to keep out weeds and encourage deep rooting.  It’s a continual process.

The same is true of our hearts when it comes to the soil we become for the word of God.

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How Much Of A Sinner Are You? (Luke 7:36-50)

Luke 7:36-50 tells an interesting story that I think is often misinterpreted or glossed over.  Jesus is at the home of a pharisee who has requested dinner with Jesus.  Let’s push pause right here before we go further.

One of the mistakes we make reading the gospels is that we often turn the Pharisees into one monolithic group.  They were not.  They were actual people.  And Jesus loved them too.  Yes they got a lot wrong. Yes many of them did not like Jesus.  But Jesus didn’t hate them.  He loved them.  He kept loving them all the way through the end.  Even when He was challenging them He was doing it to try to get them to see the truth.  He asks them once – who will save you from hell?!  Jesus was trying to get them to get it.  Just like everyone else.  And some of them were interested.  Obviously this Pharisee was curious.

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Your Faith Matters – Put It In The Right Things (Mark 2:1-12 Bible Study Part 3)

Today is the final part of a three part series on Mark 2:1-12.  This is the story where some people bring a paralyzed man to Jesus and because they can’t get him to Jesus they dig a hole in the roof and lower him down.  The first week we looked at what Jesus did and why He may have done it.  Last week we began to see what we might be able to learn about ministry and evangelization from this story.  We talked about how these friends loved their friend, worked as a team, and avoided two traps – they realized they couldn’t fix him, and they didn’t stop because there were obstacles.  Today we continue this line of thought.

Their Faith Mattered

These people who brought the paralyzed man had faith in Jesus.  They knew that only He could offer eternal forgiveness and that only He could heal the man.  Not only that, but they had so much faith that they were really to work really hard to do it.  They didn’t let obstacles get in the way.  They didn’t quit because it was hard.  They were sure that if they could get their friend in front of Jesus that good things would happen.

In the account it says that it is when Jesus saw their faith He said to the man, “You sins are forgiven”.

This is a really tough thought.  It doesn’t say that Jesus saw the paralyzed man’s faith.  He sees the faith of those who had brought him.

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Evangelization Starts With Love (Mark 2:1-12 Bible Study Part 2)

Last week we began to take a look at Mark 2:1-12.  This is the story where Jesus is teaching at a house and some people come bringing a paralyzed man to Him.  They can’t get him to Jesus because of the crowd so they go to the roof and drop the man down in front of Jesus.  Jesus forgives the man of his sins and then heals him.  Last time we looked at Jesus and what He was doing in this story.  Today I want to look at how this might be applicable to us in evangelization.

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How Do You Love Your Enemies (Matthew 5:43-48)

The last few weeks we’ve been looking at the parable of the Samaritan.  We talked about what it meant in context, some reasons we don’t stop to help others, what some of the church fathers thought of it, and the implications for us and how we navigate cross culturally.

One of the things that is clear throughout is that we are called to love everyone.  Which leads us to today’s scripture.  Matthew 5:43-48.  Jesus is working His way through the sermon on the mount.**  He says:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may [a]be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and theunrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?48 Therefore [b]you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

On its surface this idea does make sense, at least theologically.  After all we are called to love everyone.  God loves everyone.  God loves your enemy.  The one who persecutes you was created in God’s image.  Jesus died for your enemy.  Jesus prayed for and loved His enemies while He was here, even while they were crucifying Him.  We’re supposed to follow Jesus.

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You Are Not The Samaritan (Samaritan Study Pt 1)

I’ve decided to start a weekly look at scripture, or bible study here at the blog.  For the next five weeks I’d like to take a look at one of the most recognized parables of Jesus.  The parable of the good samaritan.

Jesus tells the parable in Luke 10:25-37.  Here is a brief rundown:

A religious lawyer comes to Jesus and asks what must he do to inherit eternal life.  Jesus replies by asking the teacher what the scriptures say.  He replies  that with the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind (in other words make God number one) and love your neighbor as yourself.  Jesus agrees and says go and do this, and you will have eternal life.

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Love Me For Me (Even Though I Wouldn’t Do That For You)

One of the amazing things about Jesus is that no matter where we are, what we are doing, what our story is, He loves us.  In the famous hymn’s words he loves me Just As I Am.  I can come to know Him just as I am, receive His grace as I am and start to follow Him right from where I am now.  I don’t earn it.  In fact I can’t earn it.  God loves you and me right now, no matter what.

The truth is that we all long for that.  We long to be fully known and fully loved.  We look for it everywhere.  As a believer we realize at least intellectually and theologically that God is really the only person who can fulfill that in our lives.  But that doesn’t stop us from wanting to experience that with another person or people.  It also doesn’t stop us from feeling hurt when we don’t experience it with other people even though again, we know intellectually that no one else can do that perfectly.

What’s really interesting is how this gets twisted up when we think about looking for a spouse and frankly later in marriage itself if we get married.

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Don’t Marry Someone You “Need”

A few months ago while speaking at a church, someone asked the question, “Should you marry someone you can live with, or wait to marry someone you can’t live without?”

Here is the short answer to that question.  If you are single, you are living without that person now.  Therefore you have already proven that there is no one that you can’t live without.

This question is so key though because it gets at the heart of one of the reasons in our culture that our our marriage rate is falling.  It’s the idea that we must wait for our soulmate, this perfect person who God created just for us.  We are to wait for the “right” one.  The one who will not be perfect (of course we say, no one is perfect) but the perfect one for us.

I’ve written extensively about the idea of the ONE and the Christian soulmate.  These are false ideas to begin with.  But today I want to take a bit of a different angle.

I firmly believe that you should not go into marriage with the idea that you can’t live without that person.  Here are some reasons why.

First and foremost your identity has to be in Christ and not in another person.

One night when my wife and I were engaged we had a funny conversation kind of about this.  I was 40 and she was 34 and as we were discussing this very idea she said, “I could marry you today and you could be run over tomorrow.  What happens then?”  In other words she was saying if her whole identity was in me then she’d be done.  She was exactly right.

Now granted we had a little different perspective as we’d already lived a long time without each other (which presents its own challenges).  But I think this is extremely healthy.  When we put our identity in another person we are setting ourselves up.  In a sense, we end up making an idol out of the other person.

This is one of the big problems with the idea of The One.  The only ONE is God.  God is the one that we “need”.

When we set a person up as someone that we need, we can’t love them because we give them too much power over us.  It screws up our perspective.  We start looking to this person to fulfill needs they can’t.  We look to them to answer our core questions such as “am I lovable?” “Do I matter?” “Am I worth it?” “Am I valuable?” “Do I have what it takes?” These type of questions can’t be answered by a person, only by God.  And only when I have those questions answered by God am I actually free to love anyone the way God commands us to – in other words the way God loves us.

God doesn’t need us.  This is what makes His love trustworthy.  He doesn’t love us because of anything we do for Him.  Think about that.  To really love someone is to love them just because, not because of what they do for us.  Otherwise love is conditional.  The marriage vows are not conditional.  In fact, quite the opposite, they are vows that are supposed to stand regardless of the conditions.

Really if we marry someone with the attitude of not being able to live without them, we are sort of marrying under compulsion instead of making a choice.  I believe that marriage is a choice.

Ideally we would move into the marriage covenant out of love for the other person.  We know that we can indeed live without them, but we choose not to.  We choose instead to freely enter into a covenant with them.

If we enter into marriage with the idea that we can’t live without the other person, what happens if ten years in, we realize, “wait a minute, I can live without this person.”  What happens if all of a sudden I don’t feel like I “need” that person?

Really what it comes down to is that we should marry someone that we don’t need but that we want to marry.  This reflects God’s love for us.

To me, to be loved is to be chosen.  God doesn’t need us.  He isn’t sitting around thinking that He can’t live without us.  He lived without us forever in the past.  He could live without us forever in the future.  But He chose to create us.  Jesus chose to come after us.  He chose to die for us.  He doesn’t need us – He WANTS us.  He is 100% committed to us even though we aren’t always 100% committed to Him.  How amazing is that?

At it’s best, and at it’s core, marriage is meant to be a reflection of that.  I don’t need that person, but out of love I choose them regardless of what happens to them or what they do. And they don’t need me, but out of love they choose me, regardless of what happens to me or what I do.  That friends is marriage.

 

 

 

 

Can You Marry Someone You Don’t “Love”

I’ve been so blessed over the last couple of years as I’ve shared some of these ideas about singleness to engage a lot of different people.  Young singles, older singles, married people, pastors among others.  During one conversation with some people a woman said, “I don’t want to marry someone I don’t love.  I don’t think you should do that.”

There are so many angles on this idea of being “in love”.  There is the obvious stuff about romantic love vs. sacrificial love.  I get that.  Here’s the funny thing.  Married people (and I mean people who have been married for a while) will almost always tell you it’s not about romantic love.  I can’t count the times someone told me that.  And the thing is, I got it then and I get it now.  But I always chuckled because if pushed, none of them got married to someone that they weren’t “in love” with.  So while that might be true in marriage, and while it can bring perspective to a single person, it’s tough to work through and most haven’t.

Really we have to define “in love” but I’d like to back up a couple of steps.

We need to first own what I talked about a couple of weeks ago.  This idea that while there are things we are looking for in a person (such as a Christian, smart, fun, has a job, driven, likes sports . . . whatever else) those are really qualifiers.  What I mean is that what we want is someone we are attracted to who also has those things.  We need to own up to this because when we don’t, we are just in our own way.

What this woman was saying is I don’t want to marry someone I’m not attracted to. That would be a fair statement. But frankly that doesn’t have much to do with love.

We need to keep two very important things in mind.  Loving someone is not a feeling and attraction is not a choice.

Both attraction and love are real.  Here’s the good news.  When you love someone, I think attraction can grow, and attraction can lead you to love someone.  But when we confuse the two all the time it can keep us single and/or make us bad spouses if we do get married.

Love is a choice.  I can choose to love literally anyone.  This is why it’s a command.  Jesus is not commanding you to feel something. Jesus isn’t saying, “Be attracted to God with all your heart. (Yes I get that we should be and one day will be).  He’s not saying, “be attracted to your enemy.”

Think about this, everyone’s favorite little marriage verses, like, “Husbands love your wife as Christ loves the church”, or “Wives submit to your husbands” have nothing to do with attraction.  Most of the people that Paul was writing to were married through arranged marriages in one form or another.  Not all certainly but the point is that those commands aren’t based on how you feel about it that day.  Love is a choice.

Attraction is not a choice.  Here’s what I mean by that.  As someone I was team teaching with put it a few weeks ago,  Attraction is not an in that moment conscious decision.  Read that again.  Am I saying attraction can’t grow?  No.  Am I saying that you can’t lose attraction?  Of course not.  What I’m saying is that you don’t go out and say, “I’m going to feel attraction for this or that person.”  In that moment you either feel attracted or you don’t.

Now I have a post coming about attraction and how what I’m going to call our attraction meter is completely hi-jacked. But the first step is acknowledging that it matters.  The question is not does attraction matter, but how much should I allow it to matter.

If the question is, can I marry someone I don’t love, then the answer is well sort of.  But if you get married you are commanded to love them so you might want to figure it out.  On the other hand if the question is can you marry someone you aren’t attracted to, the answer is clearly yes.  The hardest part about this for the single person (the part that no married person likes to admit) is that to do so would mean you’d first have to date someone you weren’t attracted to.

Am I saying that you should marry someone you aren’t attracted to?  Not really.  I didn’t. But you could.  What I’m saying is at the very least, own that you are looking for attraction.  I’m saying who you marry is a choice – attracted or not.  Really you could choose to marry a lot of people irregardless of your attraction level – many of whom would have the qualities you say you are looking for.

I’m not saying we should ignore attraction.  In fact I’m saying the opposite.  We need to understand it – what we are attracted to and why, what makes us attractive to the opposite sex and why, and what to do about it all.

How attracted do you need to be to marry someone?  To go on a date?  Which is more important to you – your attraction to someone or the qualities you are looking for?