Posted in Christian Living, Christianity, Faith

This Road to Love

road-61904_640

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.

The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1: 3-8 NLT)

I have read these words from 2 Peter on many occasions, but they never cease to strike me as a clear roadmap to the kind of life that truly reflects a belief in Christ.  Still, no matter how clear this roadmap is, it also involves steps that we can only survive if we take them knowing we need God every step of the way.

So, let’s begin by spelling out the steps on the road to “love for everyone” that should be the end goal of every Christian.  As Peter makes clear, each step on the path to love leads to the next, as skills build upon skills to reach the greatest skill of all.  Here, then,  is the list of these skills:

  • Faith
  • Moral Excellence
  • Knowledge
  • Self-Control
  • Patient Endurance
  • Godliness
  • Brotherly Affection
  • Love for everyone

I just completed a trip to Disney World that proved my secret plan to spend the last decade or so of my life as a missionary in some country where my paltry retirement might actually keep me just above poverty level went up in smoke about as quickly as you can sing the Mickey Mouse Club theme.  Besides having no physical stamina, I ran out of patient endurance after the first three hours in an overcrowded theme park.  Self-control drifted skyward as I sighted the first Mickey sandwich ice cream trolley.  The only love I had for everyone was the kind where I would have loved for no one else to be in the park!

So, how do we achieve the seemingly unachievable?  Peter tells us we are able because of God’s promises to us: These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires (2 Peter 1:4).  Becoming a Christian is as easy as admitting to God that you are a sinner who needs redeemed.  Becoming Christ-like is a daily, conscious practice of making one’s Christianity not a mantle to be put on and off, but the very act of being.

Because of faith, I seek moral excellence.  I want to say only what is uplifting and/or holy.  I strive to do what is right always.  As I grow in my ability to be right more than I am wrong, I gain a kind of knowledge that can’t be found in a book, the knowledge of ways to act in belief and the knowledge of the superior path of righteousness over worldliness.  As we realize that doing right feels better than doing wrong, we increase our ability to control the self.  When we can control ourselves so that we do not give in to the human desires that lead us further from the ways of God, we are more likely to actively be patient with our circumstances and with others.

A Godly person reflects the daily practice of sowing seeds of righteousness in good soil.  When we join like-minded people in our enthusiasm for living a Godly life, we approach the brotherly affection to which Peter refers.  Our brothers include all those who believe in Christ like we do (including, of course, our sisters as well).

When we can love those who think as we think (which is the easiest way to love), we may just be ready to step out in faith to love even those who do not believe what we believe.  Loving everyone else means turning the other cheek, as Christ instructs.  The Golden Rule is Golden because, not only does it make this world more bearable, it stores up for us the treasures in heaven that Jesus says are our end goal instead of the treasures on this earth where moth and rust can and will destroy.

Like the Fruit of the Spirit of Galatians 5:22, the steps to love of everyone in 2 Peter is your roadmap to a healthier relationship with Jesus, our Lord.  Remembering that our relationship with God must be on the right track for our relationship with other people to have a chance of growing is especially important.

As we enter the busiest time of our holiday season, I hope to bring to mind the lessons of 2 Peter as I wrangle through the increased traffic and crowds.  I will begin by remembering why we have this holiday in the first place: because our loving Creator chose to sacrifice a piece of Himself for the sins of all of us so that we all have the opportunity to grasp with both hands the promise of eternal life.

Now, that’s a road to love that I will gladly travel.  I look forward to seeing you on the journey.

Advertisements
Posted in Christian Living, Faith

Believing God’s Good Intention: Practical Steps to Shine His Light

Wheat

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  (Hebrews 11:1)

Believing is the basis of everything a Christian does.  It is with faith like that of a child that we are encouraged to come to Christ (Luke 18:17).  It is faith that gives Abraham the courage to follow God’s commands to the point of almost sacrificing the very child God had promised him, a faith that is credited to Abraham as righteousness (Genesis 15:6).  It is faith that allows Joseph to see his exile in Egypt as a positive thing.  He tells his brothers:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20).

Faith guides Peter to found Christ’s church, sees Paul through more than one perilous mission trip and long periods of imprisonment, gives Ruth the courage to follow her mother-in-law, heals the woman who touches the edge of Jesus’ garment with her fingertips.  Throughout God’s word, we are provided with examples of faith-based responses to the best moments and the worst moments in a person’s life.

So, even though I know all this, why do I still worry?  I don’t have an answer for that, except maybe the same prayer as the father of the demon-possessed boy, who cried out,  “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

In a media-driven world, we have plenty of heroes, usually action stars like Indiana Jones or Rocky or Captain America.  These men usually hold in their emotions, are good in a fight, and ultimately win.  But most of them are not heroes of faith.  In fact, most profess a faith in nothing except themselves, the individualism that marks American culture.

However, in the last few weeks, I’ve been struck by the heroes of faith in the Old Testament like Abraham and Joseph.  When I read how Joseph had such conviction that the events of his life were worked to the good by God, I found a new hero.  I thought to myself, what kind of power would I give to my life if I started seeing it in light of the same kind of conviction?  Wouldn’t I worry less if I kept reminding myself that God will work to the good everything in my life, maybe even especially the challenges?

Courage that can face the good and the bad in life with perfect peace is the kind of courage that means true heroism.  Read the rest of Hebrews 11 for a list of other heroes of faith.  Shining the light of Jesus starts with the first bold step of faith.  And if you don’t think you have it, all you need do is ask:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Posted in Christian Living

If Wishes Were…….Faith

20121229-211927.jpg

Our Christmas holiday has passed, and this weekend we are all scrambling to come up with the resolutions that will help us begin a New Year early next week. For what has past and for what is yet to come, I am sure there were as many wishes seemingly unfulfilled as there are lights and pretties on this period-decorated Christmas tree.

Are unfulfilled wishes God’s way of saying “no,” a sign that what we wished for wasn’t exactly in line with God’s truth or an indication of our own lack of faith? Surely there are as many answers to that question as there are people asking the question, but let’s address the latter possibility.

I love what we can learn from the people who bless the pages of scripture. Some of them, as Hebrews tells us, are heroes of the faith. Others are obvious villains. All of them, with the exception of Christ, are utterly human.

Peter is one of these oh-so-human heroes. He is chosen to be the cornerstone of Christ’s church, and yet he denies he even knows Christ three times on the night that the Messiah is taken into custody.

One of Peter’s earlier moments of heroism-made-relatable occurs when he reaches out in faith and yet still stumbles. Oh, the lessons we can learn from patterns such as this.

The setting is Matthew 14. Jesus has just fed the five thousand and sent His disciples out on their boat while He stays behind for some quiet time with God. When He is ready to re-join the others, He begins walking on the water.

Of all the disciples, stuck on a boat in the middle of a sea, Peter alone cries out a challenge of faith that he doesn’t even realize he is not yet ready to fulfill. He asks of Jesus, if He be the Christ, then let Peter walk out on the water to join Him. Even though Christ already knows what is going to happen, He tells Peter to come and join Him.

Peter takes a few proving steps, but then the wind picks up and carries away the bit of belief that is keeping him above the waves. He begins to sink and cries out. Jesus IMMEDIATELY reaches out and lifts Peter up, asking His disciple, “Why do you doubt?”

When I read this interlude, a story I’ve read many times before, for yet another time this week, I was struck by two things. One, that even Peter, who had the initial courage to take Christ at His word and risk himself to walk on water based on that belief could not yet sustain his own faith in order to stay above water. Walking by faith obviously takes practice.

The second thing that stands out for me is that Christ IMMEDIATELY reached out to lift Peter up, even as He pointed out to Peter exactly what was causing him to stumble, “Why do you doubt?” Even though I have evidence in my life over and over of situations and difficult times that God has seen me through, why do I still doubt? At the same time, shouldn’t I be able to take even more water-walking steps of faith when I remember that Christ is there to IMMEDIATELY catch me?

I pray that my New Year’s resolutions be prayers based on faith and that they are in line with God’s will. May your resolutions be equally blessed, even water-walking challenges. May 2013 be the year where faith helps us love God first and everyone else with the love we hold for our innermost selves.