The greatest of these is love

Daily Readings Deuteronomy 11-12, 1 Corinthians 13

This is only a 3-4 minute read and it is a post I would request you only read if you will read it all the way to the end. Thank you!

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13

We have all read these verses in Corinthians quite a few times if we have been Christians for a while. We have all probably heard them at almost every wedding we have ever attended. A lot of us can probably hear the first half a sentence and already say to ourselves, “Ah yes! 1 Corinthians 13.” Occasionally with verses like this we can hear them so many times that they begin to lose their punch until we stop and choose to read them again slowly, truly internalize the message, and appreciate them for the profound truth that they contain.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

My heart breaks for our world today. The hard part for me, as a Christian, is partially the chaos that exists in the world and terrible events that we see happening. However, there is something that breaks my heart even more; the way a large percentage of Christians are choosing to respond.

As Christians we are called to love. We are called to speak truth into the darkness. Instead I see so many Christians, that I truly believe have amazing hearts, allow themselves to be brainwashed by the media they consume. I see people listen to radio shows, watch television programs, and surf websites that pedal in fear mongering and vitriol. I watch the love of Christ that should exist in their hearts be replaced by hate and paranoia.

Christian brothers and sisters, I know this is going make some of you really mad and think that I have gone over to the dark side, but please stop watching FoxNews, listening to Rush Limbaugh, and going to sites like Breitbart or InfoWars. They are poison. They are the opposite of everything Jesus preached here on earth and everything written in 1 Corinthians 13.

Answer this honestly: When you tune in to any of these sources, that claim to have a Christian faith at their core, would you say the messages you hear are rooted in the truth that, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.”

This is not about conservative vs. liberal. You can be pro-life, support small government, believe in a strong national defense, believe more issues should be handled at the state level, be wary of gun control laws, etc. On some of those issues I probably agree with you and on others I might not. I have voted for Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians in different elections depending on the candidates, but in more positions that not, I lean conservative.

This is not about that. We can discuss the issues in a healthy, respectful, intellectually honest way. We can talk about the role of government in an open dialogue and then vote accordingly. That is not what is happening on the sources listed above in today’s world and it is poisoning the minds of Christians.

I think both Jesus and Paul would suggest to us in America today that either side could enact all of their political agenda, but if they did not have love, they gain nothing.

As Christians we are called to start with love.

The single biggest thing we can do as Christians is stop tuning in to TV and Radio and start picking up a newspaper or magazine. TV and Radio are mediums where sensationalism and outrage are currency. There is no nuance, very little honest debate, and ratings are determined by shock value.

Read.

There are plenty of conservative newspapers, magazines, and websites that don’t pedal in fear and hate as a business model but still lean to the right.

And here is another thing; it is totally ok to listen to views from both sides. Our society would be better off if more people did. Perhaps we would have more open dialogue and honest conversations.

I fear that this is the type of post that has people who already agree with me nodding their heads vigorously and people who don’t agree instantly outraged, defensive, and thinking that I am way off base and have been brainwashed by the mainstream media. I am sincerely praying that this is not the case.

I am sincerely praying that there are at least a few people that take a step back, as Christians, and ask themselves if the messages they are choosing to fill their minds with on a daily basis are messages of love or messages of fear and hate.

I have a suggestion for all of my Christian brothers and sisters on both sides of the political spectrum. Try a fast from TV News and Radio and spend more time in God’s word until Christmas. Feel free to read more and stay in tune with the happenings of the world, but stop listening to talking heads that use divisiveness as a business model.

See what happens when you start consuming less of the world and more of God’s truth.

I think you will find your life with far more faith, hope, and love.

And the greatest of these is love.

Thought to ponder

What content I currently consume could I cut out of my life that is filled with fear and hate?

Glory in our suffering

Daily Readings: Exodus 37-38, Romans 5

“We boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” 

Romans 5:2-5

I love Paul. He always gives such powerful truth even if it is not always what we want to hear.

It is extremely easy to desire a type of relationship with Christ that is nothing but peace and joy. I know that I frequently wish for the type of relationship with God that results in me simply walk around filled with the spirit and challenges bounce of me. I want to barely even notice hardships because I am so in tune with God!

And yet Paul says there is glory in suffering…

Darn it Paul!

There is so much truth in this. When I look back at hardships and observe the fruit that God put in my life as a result of these challenges, it is easy for me to see the exact path that Paul laid out today in Romans 5. The first phase of this journey usually entails me struggling with the challenge or hardship and typically leaning on my own strength as opposed to truly turning it over to God. Suffering always ensues. At some point I turn it over to God and he gives me the strength to persevere. Suffering produces perseverance. As I persevere with God at the helm instead of myself, character develops. And the more character I see develop in my life the more I am able to quickly find the hope that Paul spoke of.

It used to take me quite a while to be able to find the hope in challenging situations for myself and my mind barely even registered the future hope I would be able to instill in others by coming alongside someone going through the exact same situation I had previously faced. Over time however, the more God develops perseverance, character, and hope in us; the quicker we are able to make that transition to the next step.

My family was watching American Ninja Warrior last night and it is always crazy for me to see what these people are able to do. The physical training required to make those transitions for one obstacle to the next is inspiring.

Spiritual and emotional training is no different. When we see others who bounce back quickly from adversity and wonder how they are able to see God’s hand at work in that challenge; it is easy to forget the hours and hours they probably spent in the “spiritual gym” preparing for that moment. It is easy to forget there was probably a lot of suffering in that spiritual training ground, that resulted in a lot of perseverance being developed, that built a lot of character, that paved the way for that ability to hope.

When watching the end result they make it look so much easier than it actually is. I watch American Ninja Warrior and think to myself, “I bet with some training for a month or two I could do that?” The truth is, I would probably fail miserably after just a month or two. Given enough time and practice, I might be able to not completely embarrass myself.

Spiritual maturity is the same thing. Once someone has given their life over to Christ, there is nothing else they have to do to earn salvation. However, allowing the spirit to live in you and live through you, takes practice. This is not a matter of your salvation, which has already been guaranteed by the cross and which you can do nothing to earn, but a matter of ability to quickly submit to God’s will and to trust in his plan.

That takes practice! And unfortunately the only way to practice turning to God in times of suffering, is to have times of suffering!

But Paul tells us that there is glory in our suffering.

I want limitless perseverance, character, and hope in my life. Because of that, I want God to develop it however he sees fit.

Thought to ponder

When was one time in your life where you can easily trace back the path from suffering to perseverance to character to hope? Have you been willing to allow others to know your story so that they might be helped down that path when dealing with a similar suffering in their own lives?

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