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10 Ways to Love Your Brothers and Sisters

In Soul Food on September 17, 2014 by The Spillover

Joe Thorn:

Consider what follows a simple encouragement to press into a life of love in practical ways. A life God has called us to, saved us for, and modeled for us.

1. Put Them First
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3)

Self-denial lives at the center of love. True love denies self and supports another. Putting others first should be more than an act of humility, but an act of affection. It’s not that we think so little of ourselves, but that we feel so warmly toward our brothers and sisters in Christ that we are happy to lay aside our interests and preferences so that another may experience blessing.

2. Seek Their Good
“always seek to do good to one another” (1 Thess. 5:15)

Love does more than put someone else first. One’s desires may be destructive, or their path may lead to danger. Love will seek their good, their betterment, their advancement. The questions we ask must be, “How can I personally help my brother do well?” “How can I serve my sister so that she prospers in faith and life?”

3. Ask for Their Forgiveness/Forgive Them
“forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Col. 3:13)

If you love your fellow saints then you will ask for their forgiveness when you sin against them, and will freely forgive them when they sin against you. Sin grieves the heart of a believer for in it we know we have sinned against the Lord, hurt someone made in the image of God and recreated in the image of Jesus Christ. And as a people who have been forgiven of far worse crimes than have been committed against us, we must also forgive those who sin against us.

4. Listen to Them
“be quick to hear” (James 1:19)

Love listens. Just as God hears us when we call to him, so must we listen to others. We need to listen in order to gain understanding either of truth, or of the one speaking. Until we listen to another we are ill-equipped to know their needs and seek their good.

5. Include Them
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.” (1 Pet. 4:9)

Hospitality is a welcoming of others into your life. Love includes; it draws near to others and invites them in. It will not dismiss people because they are different or difficult, but will pursue them and offer them a place at the table. Love looks around, sees the uninvolved or unknown, and extends a hand of welcome.

6. Be Generous
“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way” (2 Cor. 9:11)

God has given you what you have for more than your own personal enjoyment. You are called by God to steward what he has entrusted you by sharing it with others. Love seeks to give, and give big. As John Calvin said, “the legitimate use of all our gifts is a kind and liberal communication of them with others.”

7. Sacrifice
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (Jn. 15:13)

Generosity is important, but it’s easy to pick and choose what we will be generous with. Many today have an easier time parting with their money than their time. They would rather be generous with their wallet than their calendar. Such “generosity” is giving without real sacrifice. Love, in denying self, goes farther than an easy offering. Love gives untill it hurts. If you love your brothers and sisters it will be seen in your willingness to sacrifice what you have, and even yourself, for their good.

8. Tell the Truth
“let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” (Eph. 4:25)

Love doesn’t lie. In fact, it speaks truth. This isn’t about offering true opinions, but truth itself. It is willing to offer hard words when needed. Love corrects, rebukes even, but not from a mere love for truth. It is also connected to a sense of concern and compassion for people.

9. Encourage Them with the Gospel
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thess. 5:11)

Love doesn’t flatter, but it does encourage. Biblical encouragement is a kind of preaching; a gospel word offered to those who need it. Love points people to Jesus Christ, in whom we see love in its brightest display. Those around you need to hear how the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, remains good news for them today. It’s not just for the lost. It is for the found. For without it we drift back to false hopes, doubts, and fears.

10. Pray for Them
“pray for one another” (James 5:16)

If you love your brothers and sisters you will pray for them. It is sad that we so often quickly;y promise, “I’ll pray for ya!” only to walk away and never approach God on their behalf. Even sadder is that those who need the prayer are happy enough with the false promise. They appreciate the nice thought, and think it’s better than nothing. But it’s not. It’s just nothing. Love prays. It seeks God’s action in their lives. It pleads with God for greater grace on behalf of others. And to this God responds.

There are many other ways in which we should be loving one another in the church, but here’s a start. Let us love not “in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1Jn. 3:18) We can do this because we have come to know the love of God through the death of Jesus Christ. We have been saved by love (Rom. 5:8) and for love (1 Peter 1:22).

Articles

When Our Sons Ask For Stones, Let’s Give Them Bread

In Perspective on June 2, 2014 by The Spillover

Jared Wilson:

In the religion news headlines this week is the story of a pastor who has decided the Bible condones homosexuality. His church, it seems, has determined to see how they might live in a tension between those who agree and disagree. Dr. Mohler has a reflective piece on the situation. It is likely not a coincidence that the pastor in question has a son who has recently come out of the closet.

I am reminded of the Christianity Today report from a few years ago that post-evangelical provocateur Brian McLaren had officiated the same-sex wedding of his sonDenny Burk had some good reflections, as did Carl Trueman.

There are some obvious “talking points” to engage in here, about the trajectory of these mind-changing pastor’s hermeneutic, slippery slopes and all that. But I am reminded again of these strong words from our Lord:

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

– Mark 3:31-35

Jesus is providing a foundation and a watershed at the same time, a connecting point for his other provocative statements about letting the dead bury the dead (Luke 9:59-60), bringing division to families (Matt. 10:34-37), hating mom and dad on his account (Luke 14:26), no marriage in heaven (Matt. 22:30), and how his mom ain’t so special (Luke 11:27-28). We also get some grounding for Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 7:29.

Confronted with the well-meaning concerns of familial loyalty, Jesus will not take his eyes off the cross before him. He knows God is building a new family, one that is eternal, one that is centered on God as Abba and the Son of God as the good older brother, the finally worthy of the honor who in his gospel is not ashamed to call his brethren brethren (Heb. 2:11). So the warnings are strong, the wording is harsh. Jesus doesn’t hate his family. But he loves his Father and the will of his Father more. He wants to honor the will of God more than he wants to satisfy the will of his family.

This is a good word to all of us familyolaters. We take what most of us consider the most important thing in our lives and give it the weight of our worship in a way that is both dishonorable and unsustainable. And we end up living “Thus saith the family” rather than “Thus saith the Lord.” I know personally what happens when one worships his wife: he harms her. I know what happens when we make our children the center of our universe: we harm them. That is true hatred. Trading in the cross for the thin gruel of temporary satisfaction, appetites, compulsions, is the worst thing you could do to somebody. And when it comes down to seeking one’s happiness over their holiness, we aid and abet the theft of their eternal joy. This is what Danny Cortez and Brian McLaren have done.

I hope for the grace not to follow suit at a million different turning points, big and little, as my kids grow up. I know the temptation will be great.

Christ would have us focused on him, loving him above all else. And when all else, including our beloved families, asks us to betray Christ and his word in order to instead serve them, we face Abraham’s excruciating dilemma. But pledging our hearts to heaven, we will not look back to Egypt or Sodom, trusting that true mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters are those who follow Jesus and that obeying God is worth any cost, including hurting the feelings of those we love.

What I mean is, when our children ask for stones, let’s defy them and give them bread instead.

Articles

They asked whether I was prepared to die as a Christian

In Awareness on May 16, 2014 by The Spillover

Denny Burk:

NBC News has the story of a Nigerian Christian man who was shot by Boko Haram terrorists for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. This man’s name is Habila Adamu, and he was attacked by the same group of terrorists who recently abducted 200 Nigerian school girls. They broke into his home, shot him, and left him for dead all in full view of his wife and son. It’s a miracle that he is alive. It’s even more a miracle that he stood.

You must read his story in his own words. Below is an extended excerpt from the NBC News report:

A father who was shot point-blank in the face by Boko Haram recounted how the militants asked whether he was “prepared to die as a Christian” and then left for dead.

Habila Adamu, 40, was so badly wounded in the attack that he said goodbye to his wife as blood poured from a gaping wound.

The father-of-one said the April 15 capture by Boko Haram of more than 200 girls from a boarding school brought back painful memories of the night he was shot and beaten in his home.

“When I heard about those girls I started to pray,” Adamu told NBC News on Tuesday. “Boko Haram have no mercy. All they want to do is drive the Christian community out of northern Nigeria and they won’t stop until they do it.”

Many of the minority Christians in Yobe province were fearful of Boko Haram because the militants had attacked homes and businesses in the region, according to Adamu.

“They asked whether I was prepared to die as a Christian … My wife was crying but I could not deny Christ”

The businessman initially thought they were soldiers on patrol near his home one night in November 2012.

“But when I saw their robes and AK-47 rifles I knew they were not from the army,” he said. “They told me they were there to do the work of Allah.”

With his wife Vivian and son David, now aged seven, looking on, four men forced their way indoors and asked whether he was a member of the police force or army. He told them he was not.

“Then they asked me whether I would convert to Islam and when I refused they asked whether I was prepared to die as a Christian. My wife was crying but I could not deny Christ. I felt powerful, unafraid, I don’t know why.”

Before he could refuse a second time, a bullet pierced his neck.

“I fell on the ground,” Adamu said. “They thought I was dead because they stomped on me twice and shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ or ‘God is great.’”

Adamu mustered the strength to talk to his wife before slipping out of consciousness.

“She was crying so many tears,” he said. “Neither of us thought I would survive so I told her that to live in this world was to live for Christ. I told her to look after our son and herself.”

“A doctor told my wife there was no point in treating me”

Recovering her composure, Vivian ran to find help from fellow members of the Christian community – only to find that militants had killed 12 others.

Too scared to leave the house, she tended to her husband for eight hours. At first light, she was able to arrange transport to a nearby medical center.

“When they saw the wound, a doctor told my wife there was no point in treating me,” Adamu said. “I had lost so much blood.”

However, they gave him painkillers and transferred him to the Jos University Hospital, hundreds of miles further south, where doctors funded by the non-profit organization Voice of Martyrs were able to treat him.

Adamu’s condition gradually stabilized and he was discharged about two weeks later.

I thank God that He spared Adamu’s life. I thank Him even more that He gave Adamu the courage to stand. Read the rest here.

“Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” – Matthew 5:10-12

Articles

4 Questions When Jesus Confronts Us

In Being Real on May 15, 2014 by The Spillover

J.D. Greear:

One of the ironies of our current culture is that most people today find Jesus rather boring. Most people don’t mind Jesus, but they don’t really love him or hate him either. This proves that which proves they haven’t actually met him.

No one in the Bible was ever bored with Jesus. The real Jesus was polarizing; people either loved him or hated him. The more attractive he grew to some, the more loathsome he grew to others. Certain people thronged to him, while others plotted his death.

That’s why I love it when I bump up against a tough saying of Jesus, like you find in Luke 12:51: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” Here is Jesus confronting each and every one of us, saying, “I didn’t come to be a religious addition to your life. I came to turn your entire world upside-down.”

Four questions in light of that:

1. Have I “owned” Jesus in all my relationships?

Are we really letting Jesus take the lead in our families? Parents, are you teaching your kids to obey Jesus more than you? The Christian world is filled with parents who don’t want their kids to obey God and go on the mission field. And if they must defy you to obey God, then that’s what Jesus is asking. But do we really want our kids to obey God in spite of us?

Are we letting Jesus redirect our work? I know business leaders in the community who have lost jobs because they refused to sacrifice their integrity. I know others who were ostracized or fired for sharing their faith. As our society continues to debate about public religious liberty, this may be more and more costly for us. Are we going to own Jesus at our workplaces?

Will you own Jesus in your friendships? Will you continue to confess Christ in the midst of withering criticism from those you hold most dear? When they lie about you, and cut you out of their circles? Or will you treasure certain relationships more than your devotion to Christ?

2. Am I obeying him with what’s in front of me right now?

It’s pretty easy to talk about “total sacrifice” in the abstract. Would I die for Jesus? Of course! But are we obeying him right now? It’s always easier to be obedient in a dramatic hypothetical than in the nitty-gritty of life. Before we say we’re willing to have our throats slit for Jesus, we need to examine our current habits. Are we serving others, giving to the mission, or spending time in biblical community?

Here’s a huge one: are we submitting to the biblical pattern of sexual ethics?Most young Christians have no qualms with sleeping together before marriage. What business do we have saying we would die for Jesus when we aren’t willing to obey him with our lives today? Dying isn’t the hard part; living is.

3. Do I have any conditions for following Jesus?

What areas do I insist that God provide for me if I’m going to follow him? I have been tempted this way plenty in the past, and I know people who have walked away from Jesus because of some pain or disappointment in their life. They thought that they deserved a better marriage, or a better job, or they were broken up about somebody’s death.

All that revealed was that Jesus wasn’t “all” to them. He was a means to an end. When the means stopped working, they looked for a better one. Jesus doesn’t want us following him because he’s the fast track to a better life; he wants us to follow him without reservation and without condition.

4. Where I am causing division, am I doing it like him?

Sadly, a lot of Christians take Jesus’ words about division and they apply them in all the wrong ways. They’re divisive, but only because they’re acting like jerks.

But Jesus didn’t cause division like that. Jesus spoke the truth, and when that caused division, he drew all of the fire onto himself. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).

We tend to defend ourselves in anger, but Jesus bore our insults with compassion. We tend to press the issue, but Jesus patiently responded to different people in different ways. We tend to dismiss people when they disagree with us, but Jesus was able to clearly confront sin and still draw us close to him.

Is there division in your life because of Christ? Or do people around you still think Jesus is boring?

Articles

I Hate Sharing My Faith

In Evangelism, Videos on May 9, 2014 by The Spillover

Francis Chan:

Articles

Hope for the Despairing Heart

In Soul Food on May 8, 2014 by The Spillover

Christina Fox:

The gospel saved me.

“That’s elementary,” you might be thinking. Yes, the gospel, the truths of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, appropriated by faith, have saved me for all eternity. But that’s not the salvation about which I am thinking.

The gospel saved me from my pit of despair.

I have battled depression on and off since adolescence. It began the year my grandmother died, I switched schools, and close friendships were lost. There was a brief respite during college and graduate school. Then after the birth of each of my two children, the despair sucked me into a darkness I had never known before. It terrified me. The thoughts and feelings that consumed me were paralyzing. I had fallen into a deep pit and couldn’t find a way out.

What Jesus Has Done

As a trained counselor, I tried all the things I knew to do to manage it. Though they brought me some temporary help, it wasn’t enough to give me the hope I longed for and needed most. So one day, I met with my pastor to seek his help.

I recounted for him everything I had done to climb out of the pit. They were all good things, helpful things. He heard me list the coping skills I had used, my strategies to change my life’s circumstances, and all the external solutions I had tried. “But I haven’t heard you tell me how you are trusting in what Christ already did for you,” he responded.

I must have had a blank look on my face because he said it again.

In my mind, I wondered, “What does this have to do with my depression? I came here to find out what I should do to make my life better.”

We went on to talk about what it means that Jesus lived a perfect life for me, died for me, and rose from the grave for me. And here’s the truth, while I didn’t leave the office that day completely cured and transformed, I did leave with a new seed of hope. As the months went on, that hope grew and grew. Its roots dug deep in my heart and over time started to bear fruit.

While this conversation with my pastor may not seem earth shattering, and though what we discussed was not some amazing new concept, the conversation reminded me of a truth I had forgotten. It reminded me that my hope and joy are not found in what I can do but in what Jesus has already done.

Out of all the things I have done to manage my depression over the years, it is the gospel of what Jesus has already done for me that has given me lasting hope. Because the insidious thing about depression and despair is the way they strip away hope. The future is dark and bleak. The silence and isolation is deafening. There seems to be no end in sight.

But the gospel gives hope.

The Gospel of Hope

Jesus told the disciples, “In this world you will have sorrow, but take heart I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This life is not trouble free. Jesus did not sugarcoat what it means to follow him. Life will be hard. But our hope lies in what Christ has done: he overcame sin and death.

The gospel of Jesus Christ tells us that Jesus was a man of sorrows. He was not unfamiliar with the pain and suffering of this life. He knew temptation, sorrow, fear, illness, and death. He experienced rejection, loss, poverty, loneliness, and abuse. There is not one tear we have shed that he does not understand. Jesus took on all our sin, shame, and sorrow at the cross. He bore the weight of our guilt and punishment. He suffered the torment of separation from God that was rightfully ours.

But because he was sinless, the grave could not hold him. When he rose from the grave he conquered sin and death. Through faith in his complete work of redemption, we have the hope of eternal life forever in a place where there will be no more sorrow and tears.

There’s more. Not only do we have the hope of forever, but we have hope right now. Because of what Jesus accomplished for us, we have been adopted into the family of God. He is our Father. We are co-heirs with Christ. All of God’s promises are for us.

Everything We Need

This means that when life is hard, we have free and complete access to the throne of grace. We can come to him and know that he hears us, that he cares, and that he will help us. As a beloved child, we can trust that he will provide for us. We can rest in assurance that his love for us is not dependent on what we do but what on Jesus has already done. And with that is the promise:

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38–39)

We also have the promise that Jesus will finish what he started in us. He will not leave us unchanged. He will use every pain, every sorrow, and every tear in our lives for our good and his glory. We are not on our own in this, he promises to be our strength in weakness and will give us everything we need to live for him.

Depression may come and visit me again. As Jesus said, we will have sorrow in this life. But I know in whom I hope. When despair weighs heavy on my heart, I need to “take heart” and remember that Jesus “has overcome the world.” And because he overcame the world and conquered sin and death, I know he can resurrect hope in a heart filled with despair.

Articles

Braille – Consecrated to Jesus (spoken word)

In Videos on May 2, 2014 by The Spillover

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