The Sovereign in the Storm

Saturday I attended the funeral of a long-time friend, a pastor who has made an indelible mark on my life and on the life of my wife. This was the pastor of the church where I met my wife and where she spent much of her youth. While visiting with the family the evening before, I looked into the exhausted eyes of his children and his wife, still stunned by his unexpected passing and shaken to the core as to what the future might hold for them.

October of this year will mark the fifteenth anniversary of the time when I stood in a very similar position, having suddenly lost my father in a very unexpected way. Ironically, it was through that very experience that I had met this pastor who had become a dear part of my life.

As I looked into their tired eyes, red-rimmed and damp from justifiable tears, I saw a storm raging. The sound of the wind and the crashing of the waves in their gaze took me back to my own experience during that heart-rending period of adjusting to a “new normal” in which my father was no longer available for our frequent phone calls, encouragement, jokes, and advice.

While I was reminiscing about the storm I’d unexpectedly faced, my mind was brought back to a great storm that occurred two millennia ago. That storm and its miraculous lessons helped me through the most difficult time in my life, and I hope it will help you as well.

On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him.And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Mark 4:45-41 (NKJV)

Jesus had been preaching to the multitudes along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. As the multitude grew and pressed in on Him, He boarded a boat and used it as a platform from which to speak. The gentle slope of the shore formed a natural amphitheater setting in which Jesus taught the well-known parable of the sower and the parable of the mustard seed.

As evening fell and the sun began to set, Jesus turned to his disciples and made a simple request: “Let us cross over to the other side.” He’d been working hard ministering to the crowds, and obviously had some business to take care of on the other side of the Sea. So they began to sail across toward the country of the Gadarenes.

Somewhere along the way during the night a great windstorm arose.

Years ago in Southern California, I went on a fishing trip near Catalina Island. A group of men from our church boarded a fishing vessel at about four o’clock in the morning in the pitch darkness. The air was calm and quiet except for the sounds of the dock that seemed so foreign to those of us who’d spent our lives in the city.

After the boat left the dock, we motored slowly toward some rocky outcroppings. As we approached I saw that there was one such outcropping on either side of a fairly narrow passageway, each topped by small lights to protect against accidents. Beyond lay the blackness of the open ocean.

I was soon to discover the real purpose for the rocky outcroppings. As we emerged on the other side, the wind suddenly grew strong and loud. The bow of the boat rose surprisingly steeply, only to crash down on the other side of the first large swell. The spray of the splash glistened on the faces of all of us who stood along the deck, grasping for any hand-hold we could find. The boat rose and fell like some sadistic roller-coaster, sickening many among the land lovers aboard. People, including me, became anxious because of the water pounding over the bow of the boat each time it dropped into the blackness below. Everyone was scrambling and scared.

Everyone except the captain and the deck-hands. You see, they’d been through many such storms. They’d been through far worse. This was no big deal to them.

Two thousand years ago, several of the disciples around Jesus were fishermen by trade. They had seen the worst that this sea could throw at them. They should have been as stoic and as calm as the crew of my modern boat in California. The fact that they weren’t is an indication of just how severe this windstorm really was. Seasoned sailors who had grown up on those very waters were in abject fear for their lives!

I can imagine them shouting to one another to tie things down as they furiously bailed water out of the rapidly filling boat. I can taste the spray of the water as it washed over the sides and see the men bracing themselves against the constant tossing and turning of the boat.

At some point someone looked around for Jesus and didn’t see Him. In a storm of this severity, it would be a logical concern that He might have washed over the side. So they looked for Him. In all the noise and the confusion, the crashing and creaking, howling and shouting, Jesus was…

Asleep.

I can hear the frustrated anxiety in the voices of the men who woke Him, saying, “Master! Do you not care that we are about to die?”

And that’s where I found myself fifteen years ago when my father died. My life, my plans, my foundations were suddenly turned end over end with the loss of the man from whom I’d built my whole identity. I was James Land’s son. I was the preacher’s kid. I’d always been the youngest of James Land’s family. We’d ministered together. We’d struggled. We’d traveled. We’d had highs and lows. But he was the anchor in my whole identity.

And suddenly, he was gone. And I cried out in the storm, screaming into the wind, “Lord! Don’t you care that I’m dying inside? Don’t you care that I don’t know who to be? Don’t you care that I’m frightened? Don’t you care that I don’t know what’s real because my very foundation has shattered?”

It seemed Jesus had fallen asleep in my neediest time.

That was such a difficult time. I didn’t understand. I didn’t know how to cope with His silence. My tears trickled down into the dust and my cries went unanswered. The noise of my storm was all I could hear. His voice seemed to have gone away with my dad.

How could He sleep when all this was happening?

Time has given me a new perspective. The pain of the loss, though never removed, has dulled somewhat. I’ve buried myself in the Word. I’ve learned, and I’ve grown.

Months later, I was asked to preach at the little country church by my parent’s pastor. As I prayed and studied, I was drawn to this story of Jesus asleep on the boat. And that’s when God moved mightily in me.

There is something astounding to be learned from the silence of Jesus in that storm so long ago. He wasn’t helping to bail water from the boat. He wasn’t shouting directions to the men on deck. He wasn’t tying things down so they wouldn’t be swept overboard.

He was asleep. Why?

The answer is as simple as it is profound. He is God. You see, the voice of Jesus is the very voice that spoke creation into being. His were the very hands that formed the land and the living beings on it. His was the very mind that created time and held it in His hand, seeing the end from the beginning, yet not being bound by time’s limitations. He is God.

The fact that He is God means that He was not surprised by the storm. He knew of its existence since before man ever set foot on the earth. He knew who would be on those boats just as He has known of your circumstances since before you were even formed in your mother’s womb. He is God!

He is never caught by surprise. He is never in danger of being overwhelmed. He is never in fear of losing control of a situation. He is God.

And He knew it. So, after a long day of teaching along the shore to the multitudes, He slept. Peacefully slept. Without care or worry.

And herein lies the first lesson: Never mistake His silence for His absence. He was right there with them. He was at peace because He had nothing to worry about. He was right there with me when my father died and I felt so lost and tossed. And He’s right there with my former pastor’s wife and children in their time of grief. He quietly waits to be looked for in the storm.

God has a plan. He always has a plan. As my former pastor’s daughter so eloquently stated at her dad’s funeral yesterday, “all He does is good, and everything He does is a miracle.

God is sovereign. This means He does as He pleases, in His time, for His pleasure, and for His glory. We have nothing to fear because He has nothing to fear. “The steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” (Psalm 37:23)

When we trust in the sovereignty of our God, we have nothing to fear. God is love (1 John 4:7) and perfect Love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18).

The next thing I noticed in my study of this passage and its parallel passage in Luke 8: Jesus gave them a destination. He did not say “Let’s go sailing.” He didn’t say “Let’s go to sea.” He said, “Let us cross over to the other side.”

God does nothing haphazardly or in an incomplete way. He does not make plans He has no intention of keeping. Jesus gave them a destination because He intended to minister on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. If God Himself makes a plan, no storm the devil can whip up can stop Him from accomplishing His will.

Lesson two: If God has given you a destination, He will stay with you until His plan is complete.

The third thing that I learned while reflecting on this passage is this: When the storm is crashing and the winds are howling your devastation, when your boat is tossed and seems on the verge of utter destruction, you have three choices.

  • You can bail furiously, struggling in your own strength to save yourself, all the while filled with anxiety and terror.
  • You can resign yourself to your fate and simply yield to the storm and drown.
  • Or, you can look to the example of Jesus, remind yourself of His sovereignty, and find rest in His omnipotent strength.

Jesus looked at His disciples and said, “How is it that you have no faith?”

We have been given the Word of God. It is His personal revelation of Himself and His attributes. Within the covers of your bible you’ll find everything He wishes you to know about Himself. Look to Him, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)

Your comfort won’t be found in the words of caring people. Your comfort won’t be gained by busying yourself to try to forget and drown out the storm. I’ve tried that. Your comfort will only truly come from dipping deep into the well of the scriptures, turning to the One and only One who knows exactly what you’re feeling, thinking, and facing. Look to Him.

So, for those in the thick middle of the storm, I urge you… I beg you… Do not mistake His silence for His absence. Remind yourself of the destination and calling He’s placed upon you, and look to the author and perfecter of your faith for your comfort.

May you rest peacefully in the storm, dwelling in the peace that passes all human understand. That peace only comes from embracing the Sovereign in the storm.

Heavy

Heavy

“The Storm” by Krystal Land, ©2020 Heart•Land•Home, All Rights Reserved, Used by Permission.

Prepare for an unusual post. Normally when I write for the Foundation blog, I have a specific message, a specific goal, a sequence of scriptural references I intend to bring. Normally I know what I’m going to try to teach through the blog entry.

Today is different. Today is heavy. I don’t know what I need to say. I simply need to speak.

Today is beautiful. The weather is sunny and mild, a perfect day for the children to be playing outside and enjoying their tire swing, the acres of farmland, the fluttering of butterflies and the chirping of squirrels in the trees. Today I would have been in my office working on my secular job, helping people get the medical help they need. Today I should have been productive, but I couldn’t.

Around three this morning I awoke with difficulty breathing, went to the living room so my wife’s sleep wouldn’t be disturbed by my coughing and continuous throat-clearing. I struggle with breathing problems each year at this time due to the pollens and molds around my home. I want so desperately to move, but cannot afford to. I finally called my work around six this morning and left a message I wouldn’t be working today due to illness.

I returned to bed around seven this morning, still struggling but too exhausted to stay awake. By the time I awoke again my children were outside playing and my wife was in the living room painting.

I sat alone in my room, my tired mind drifting to the core of my heaviness. Though I am often unable to express it outwardly I carry weight from several issues. As a man I feel that I should be providing a better life for my wife and my beautiful children. As a man called by God, I feel that I should be accomplishing more for the kingdom, and I feel like every day I spend working outside the church is a day wasted and one in which I’ve let the world drift closer to the abyss of destruction without fighting the battle I’m called and designed to fight.

Then I think of friends I’ve been unable to bring myself to contact in the last few weeks. My friend in Kenya, my extended family, others around the country. This weight on my shoulders has been bearing down so heavily for so long that I have begun to withdraw into a shell to strengthen and ponder. As the human body responds to extreme cold by concentrating its efforts to warm its core at the expense of its appendages, I have done the same with my emotional energies. I have concentrated on trying to pour into my children and my wife, studying to nourish myself, but unable to reach outside that circle.

A few short weeks ago, a pastor whose life deeply impacted mine suddenly passed away. A few brief weeks before that, a ministry mentor passed away. Not long ago another great man of God whom I’d never met, but whose teaching and loving approach to people has changed my life passed away. Just a week or so ago my immediate family experienced another, more intimate loss.

Heavy.

I look at what the world has been through over the past several months. All our lives have been irrevocably changed by the plague that has arisen in the world. In the United States over 150,000 people have died with COVID-19. Most people have known someone or know of someone who has lost the battle against this disease. The medical community has scrambled to try to put up a defense against the previously unknown foe, but has been hampered by the rampant politicization and posturing of local, state, national, and world leaders whose understanding of science is far less of a priority to them than their hold on whatever political power to which they cling. Blind adherence to ideological stances and loyalties to the various gods who dwell in the political firmaments causes people to treat the incredible loss of life with casual defiance and malicious ridicule.

Heavy.

I look at the church of today, aching for her to truly embrace the One whose name they claim, but watching with devastation as they largely place their own personal opinions, political allegiances, and ideological preferences at a higher priority than a relationship with their Creator. I see them twist scriptures, consummating their souls with the gods of this age: the gods of self, of power, of indulgence.

I’ve withdrawn largely from the social media platforms that had become a vital link to the world outside my little piece of farmland in Missouri. As the world becomes more polarized, I found I couldn’t bear to watch people I’ve loved and respected fall into the trap of the distractions of this time period.

I sit on my bed as I write this, tears burning at the edges of my eyes, aching to make a difference. Yet, I find myself in a run-down shack in the woods with little to no energy and no resources.

Yet God brings people to me from all over the world, asking, “Please teach us the Word.” I have men from Kenya, men from the Philippines, families from Pakistan, Uganda, Ethiopia, and others who have all said the same thing: though they live with poverty, the one thing they desire is to be taught the scriptures.

Even in the dark heaviness, I see God’s hand at work. I hear His voice. I know we have hope in Him. I know He has overcome the world. I know He sees better than I do and He sustains us.

Still the sky is dark and pregnant with rain. The fatigue grips at my soul, which threatens to burst out with a rain of tears.

I know we have hope. I know He is with us. But I’m tired. I’m tired of the isolation. I’m tired of the input from the ungodly influences. I’m tired of the church being worldly. I’m tired of those who claim to worship God, but in actually are merely pleasing themselves.

The water is up to my neck; I’m sinking in the deep, there is no foothold to be found anywhere.

I’m very worn out from calling for help; My throat is hoarse and dry as a bone.

My eyes, they fail me from looking for You. Are you looking for me?

“Down in the Lowlands” by Charlie Peacock – 1986

So, today in the storm I choose to trust. I choose to believe. I choose to be thankful.

Today I’m thankful for my faithful Lord, Who is always with me. I’m thankful for His word that absorbs into my heart like the water refreshing the grasses.

Today I’m thankful for my wife and my children, all gifts from the Almighty. I’m thankful for the overwhelming love that surrounds me when I look at them, embrace them, or listen to them speak to me.

Today I’m thankful for my brethren in Christ, the men God has raised up who will speak truth into my life. A chosen few precious souls whose impact on my life and outlook are irreplaceable.

Even in the lengthy storm of these last days, we have hope. We have a defense. We have a standard. We have Him.

Do You Feel Their Pain…

The other day one of my dearest friends and I were texting back and forth regarding the current state of civil unrest in America. He was telling me of the conditions in Washington State: the riots and chaos in the Seattle area. I simply responded with some words that have haunted me ever since:

“Broken people in a broken society, hurting broken people in a broken society… and it spirals on.”

Since that moment, each time I see footage of the violence in the streets, each time I read a hateful comment online, see a tweet from a politician, or struggle with my own perception of the people involved on all sides of the conflict, those words ring like a bell in my mind.

It’s so easy to pick a side based on our own frame of reference. It’s so easy to buy into the hyperbole from whichever side screams the loudest. It’s so easy to embrace our own political and socioeconomic biases and reject any varying viewpoints out of hand.

But, is that what we’re called to do?

I heard an old song today, and I want to share the lyrics with you:

Have we failed again, Talking about the love of God?
Judging those who need it most. All these afflicted ones, I feel their lives just fade away, left to face the end alone.

So we say a prayer for their needs, afraid to touch, to hurt, to bleed.

Do you feel their pain?
Has it touched your life?
Can you taste the salt
In the tears they cry?
Will you love them more
Than the hate that’s been?
Will you love them back to life again?

We should feel ashamed, allowing fear to close our minds.
These are lives we can’t ignore. Oh don’t turn away.
Will you see Jesus in each of them?

These are souls He suffered for. There is hope for them;
Open up your heart, there is grace for them.
Do you think we’ve gone too far?

Do you feel their pain?
Has it touched your life?
Can you taste the salt
In the tears they cry?
Will you love them more
Than the hate that’s been?
Will you love them back to life again?

Steve Camp, Do You Feel Their Pain, 1988

The fact is that, regardless of who it is, we are called to love them. We must see each person as God’s highest creation, a bearer of His image. It doesn’t matter their nationality, socio-economic background, political bent, or education level. We cannot discard people simply because we disagree with them or even because they have acted out evil. We cannot logically be angry with the world for walking in the ways of sin, as that is all they know and that is their natural order. We must love them. We must speak and show the gospel to them. We must reveal to them the God Who has saved us and Who longs to save them, too. We must be the salt and the light to this generation.

We are called to share the gospel, not to defend a viewpoint. We are called to share Jesus, not argue endlessly in debates. We are called to love those who hate us and bless those who persecute us, not go online to our vacuum-chambers and insult them.

There is not one person out there for whom there is no hope. Jesus is the hope. Paul made a mission and a career out of persecuting Christians, charging them with crimes, stoning them. Paul was there at the stoning of Stephen. Yet, Jesus met with him and made him a new creature.

If Jesus can do that, there is not one beyond his reach. If Jesus can redeem me and blot out the sins of my past, there is no one without hope. If Jesus can save you and give you the hope of eternal life, there is nobody He cannot save.

Remember that the next time you watch the news and find yourself muttering under your breath. Remember that the next time you self-righteously blast someone on social media and then justify it in your mind because you know scripture and they don’t. Remember that the next time someone is rude to you in the store, a politician does something you don’t like, a driver cuts you off, or you see someone marching in the middle of the traffic lane.

We may not all be saved, but we are all created in the image of God, and we were all important enough that He sent His Son to die for us… and for them.

“Broken people in a broken society, hurting broken people in a broken society… and it spirals on.”

Do you feel their pain? Or do you just mutter under your breath and condemn them because they look, act, think, or sin differently than you?

Christ’s Response to a Challenge

At that time Jesus passed through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick and eat some heads of grain. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “See, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.”

He said to them, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and those who were with him were hungry: how he entered the house of God, and they ate the bread of the Presence – which is not lawful for him or for those with him to eat, but only for the priests? Or haven’t you read in the law that on Sabbath days the priests in the temple violate the Sabbath and are innocent? I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. If you had known what this means, I desire mercy and not sacrifice, you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

Matthew 12:1-8

So, Jesus has walked His men across a field after an intense time of teaching and ministering to others. They are tired and hungry, and some of them begin to pluck the heads off of the grain and eat them as they walked. The Pharisees, who seem to lurk on the outskirts of the disciples like hyenas circling and waiting for their next meal, are ever watching, hoping that Jesus will slip up and make a rabbinical mistake so they can justify their disdain of Him.

“Oh look! It’s the Sabbath and your men are harvesting grain! Aha! This is a blatant violation of God’s command!” They had Him now, right? I mean, if He shrugged off this Sabbath violation, He would be defying God. And if He chastised His disciples, they might refuse to follow Him any further. Jesus was right where they wanted Him.

The first thing we need to notice here is that the disciples of Jesus were hungry and weary from their work in the ministry. These were not lazy men simply loafing and taking something on a whim. They had spent their energy in the service of God and were replenishing that energy.

Secondly, Jesus led them through the field. They did not simply wander there on their own. It was by His design. It is a truth that when you are in the service of God, there is no shortage of critics. They will criticize every move you make; your speech, your income, your apparel, your education, and even when and what you eat.

The heart of the Pharisees’ question was pride and rebelliousness. Jesus spoke nothing but truth. Jesus did nothing but good. Jesus, without flashy outward shows of piety, was truly pious in that He lived out the word of God daily. For Jesus, it was not about pomp and circumstance. There were no flashy garments drawing attention to Him. His entourage was not adorned in the finest priestly garments, nor did they command the respect of everyone who saw them. They were simple fishermen and a tax collector, a zealot and others. And yet, this rag-tag group of men who followed a humble carpenter’s son drew crowds everywhere they went.

Jesus new, of course, the content of their hearts and the motives of their challenge. He could have verbally decimated them. He could have read the book of every one of their shortcomings publicly and disgraced every one of them. He could have sarcastically mocked them.

What what exactly did He say?

“Haven’t you read…”

…and again, “Or haven’t you read…”

Jesus simply answered His skeptics by pointing them to the Word of God. The Word they were sworn to memorize. The Word they were supposed to live out and exemplify to those around them.

Haven’t you read?

But this is not the only instance in which Jesus responded this way.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he departed from Galilee and went to the region of Judea across the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there. Some Pharisees approached him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds?”

Haven’t you read,” he replied…

Matthew 19:1-4a

The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. When the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonders that he did and the children shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant and said to him, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”

Jesus replied, “Yes, have you never read…”

Matthew 21:14-16a

“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those farmers?”

“He will completely destroy those terrible men,” they told him, “and lease his vineyard to other farmers who will give him his fruit at the harvest.”

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures…”

Matthew 21:40-42a

The same day some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came up to him and questioned him: “Teacher, Moses said, if a man dies, having no children, his brother is to marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first got married and died. Having no offspring, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second also, and the third, and so on to all seven. Last of all, the woman died. In the resurrection, then, whose wife will she be of the seven? For they all had married her.”

Jesus answered them, “You are mistaken, because you don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like angels in heaven. Now concerning the resurrection of the dead, haven’t you read what was spoken to you by God…

Matthew 22:23-31a

Have you not read?

Such a simple question, but one that wields so much conviction!

The Pharisees, the chief priests, the scribes, the Saducees… all people who claimed to know the way, all people who claimed to be leaders of the faith, all people to whom society looked for answers. All of them shamed by a simple question: Have you never read?

It’s an ironic question, really. The very people who claim to be the keepers of the truth, the bearers of the law, the interpreters of the word of God left dumbfounded by the question, “have you never read?”

Yet, today, we see the very same thing. Debates among Christians rage on about everything from the simplest to the most complex of problems. Angry exchanges over the minutiae of doctrinal differences, scriptures thrown around out of context to “prove” whatever pet point we have or to support whatever agenda we are pushing. Yet, so few actually look to the source of all truth for the answers.

Ladies and gentlemen, God expects far more of us. He didn’t give us His holy word to sit on a shelf. He didn’t give us His revelation of Himself so we could go decades calling ourselves followers of His, and yet knowing so little about Him. He did not breathe His very thoughts into the hearts of scores of writers to tell us His nature, His character, and His will so that we would simply struggle through life clueless as to Who we serve, what He’s like, and what He wants.

Have you not read?

Lay down those things that absorb your time. Lay down those things that devour your attention span. Lay aside those things that drain you of your heavenly desire to grow in Christ. Put away your pride. Put down your selfishness. No longer allow yourself to be deceived by strange doctrines or aberrant teachings. Know the Word. Know it inside and out. Know it frontwards and backwards. Learn Who it is Whose name and image you bear. Learn what He has taught us about Himself. Stop filling your minds with the detritus of human entertainment, foolish and ungodly fiction, the myriad idolatries of our day and absorb yourself into the Word of God. Drink deeply from its depths and fill yourself with God’s divine revelation.

Have you not read?

Our First Christmas Gift

Our First Christmas Gift

In every family, holiday traditions are created and carried through the years. When I was a child, Christmas morning couldn’t begin until my dad turned on the stereo with the Christmas carols. That was our signal that we could come out and see what was under our Christmas tree. I’ve carried that on to my children, as well.

On Christmas morning, I get up earlier than everyone else and go in the kitchen to make hot cocoa and breakfast. Then I turn on the music and make enough noise to wake everyone else up.

I’ve added something to the tradition, though. Every year, the first gift that goes under our tree, and the first one opened is a gift for Jesus. It’s a simple little box with simple objects inside. After the kids awaken to the sounds of Christmas music and they gather around the tree, we reverently take this little red box out and open it up.

I explain to our children that the King of all the universe came to earth as a tiny baby, grew into adulthood, refused to be dirtied by sin, and died as a sacrifice for our sins. I explain that He is the Creator of all things, and that He owns it all. And I ask them, “What would someone like me possibly have to offer Him as a gift?”

The first thing I pull out of the box is a paper cutout of a person’s face. I explain to the family that God sent Jesus to earth so that we could know Him. I explain that lots of people knew about God, had read about Him, had tried to follow His rules, but few people really knew Him. I tell them that because mankind was lost and confused and full of sin, God sent His Son so that we could truly know Him and have a relationship with Him. I tell them that today we study His word to learn about His attributes, to see who He is, and to grow in our faith in Him. So we offer Him our minds.

The second thing I take out of the box is a little red paper heart. I explain to the kids that as we get to know who Jesus really is, He begins to change us from the inside out. I explain that in our naturally sinful state, our hearts are like a stone, impenetrable and closed off. But as Christ becomes more real to us, as He reveals His love to us, he changes our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh and we begin to experience true love on a very personal basis. We begin to see Him differently, to see ourselves differently, and to see others differently. So we offer Him our love, our hearts, as a sign that we are committed to Him. We become the bride of Christ.

The third thing I pull out from the box is a paper hand. I tell the kids that as we learn who Jesus truly is, and as He softens our hearts, the love we have for Him builds up until we can’t help ourselves but to serve Him. I explain that serving Him means actively doing things that please Him. I tell them that it often means lending a hand to other people and helping them see the love of Christ in us. So we offer Him our hands as an act of worship.

Our heads, our hearts, and our hands.

God gave His absolute best for us. What else could we possibly offer Him in return, but the best our our minds, our hearts, and our deeds?

From the Land Family to your family, may you have a wonderful Christmas. Enjoy your time with your loved ones. If you’re by yourself, know that you are truly loved. Recognize the beautiful gift that has been given to you in Jesus, and worshipfully offer back to Him your absolute best. May God bless you during this precious celebration.

God Made You- A Message to Mothers

God made you.

God; 

  • He who makes known the end from the beginning {Isaiah 46:10}
  • He whose understanding is infinite {Psalm 147:5}
  • He who is infallibly righteous {Deuteronomy 32:4}
  • He who does whatever He pleases {Psalm 115:3}
  • He who topples kingdoms and demolishes governments {Isaiah 40:23}

God made;

  • Created in His own image {Genesis 1:27}
  • Knitted together {Psalm 139:13}
  • Gave His very breath {Job 33:4}
  • Prepared beforehand {Ephesians 2:10}

God made you!

Would you think about that for a moment?

God made YOU!

The God who knows the end from the beginning and whose understanding is infinite… The God who is infallibly righteous and can do whatever He pleases… The God with the power to topple kingdoms and demolish governments created YOU in His own image, knitted YOU together in your mother’s womb, gave YOU  His very breath, and gave YOU all the tools necessary to accomplish His will!

In an age in which society tells you you are not enough, a time in which you are barraged with implausible ideals to which you’re expected to compare yourself, just breathe. You’re breathing God’s breath! He put it in you! He made you as He wants you!

Stop comparing yourself to others. Stop looking to the Norman-Rockwell-style perfection most people portray as their normal life on social media and realize that the only person you have to answer to is God, and He made you, knowing about every situation you’d ever face. And He loves you. Because you are created by Him, in His image, for His purpose.

You are enough. You are loved. You are cherished.

A Gentle Answer

A Gentle Answer

A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
The eyes of the LORD are in every place,
keeping watch on the evil and the good.
A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.

Proverbs 15:1-4 ESV

I love the Proverbs. The Proverbs break down deep truths typically into a “couplet” or a pair of complementing or contrasting statements. The wisdom therein is astounding.

I also love how timeless the Proverbs are. No matter what is going on in the world, it seems as though when you open the Proverbs, it addresses exactly what is going on. Of course, the wisdom of God is not bound by space or time. He exists outside of the timeline of history, and therefore is able demonstrate wisdom that applies to all epochs of time.

If you’ve read previous blog posts from Foundation Christian Ministries, you’ve seen where I’ve repeatedly mentioned today’s trend of snark, sarcasm, and name-calling toward anyone who disagrees with one’s point of view. It seems that our society has lost its ability to engage in civil discourse, opting rather for a derogatory form of verbal combat. Sadly, Christians do not seem to see the need to be different from the world in this respect. Christians seem to revel in the insults and name-calling of politicians and pundits toward those with opposing viewpoints. With the current hyper-politicization of the church, Christians not only feel but are encouraged to engage in heated political debates and seem bent more on crushing their opponents than on persuading people. We’ve forgotten the old idiom about catching more flies with honey.

These arguments occur quite frequently on social media platforms. On these platforms, we typically surround ourselves with those of like mind. This means that if we post a strong opinion it is typically met with the electronic version of applause and agreement. Since so many people of the same mindset tend to flock together, if someone dares to pose a different viewpoint, they are often met with almost a mob mentality where a multitude of people verbally attack them. This is obviously not a healthy mode of communication, and is extremely detrimental when applied to topics as delicate as one’s spiritual condition. A byproduct of this trend is not only an extreme polarization but a dramatic decrease in the effectiveness of the Church to evangelize. To put it bluntly, Christians are often seen as hateful and bigoted, not necessarily for our beliefs but for our lack of care in how we express those beliefs.

To put it bluntly, Christians are often seen as hateful and bigoted, not necessarily for our beliefs but for our lack of care in how we express those beliefs.

We don’t seem to care how we’re perceived. In fact, I’ve seen a rash of blog posts from major evangelical sources talking about how unimportant it is for a Christian to be polite and kind. We seem to have either become ignorant of, or have completely disregarded such commands as “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” [1 Peter 3:15]

This past weekend I read through just such an exchange on social media. It was a post that originated over seven years ago on the subject of North Carolina’s state constitution being amended to bar gay marriage. The gentleman who had originated the post is a very dear friend of mine.

The initial post was a simple and straightforward one. It simply said that it seemed North Carolina would be a great place to live. The comments added by others, though, quickly took on an aggressive tone. Those in favor of gay marriage passionately defended the practice. Those who opposed it attempted to outdo them in their aggression. Christians were called bigots and racists. Christians bluntly and often rudely responded. My overall impression of the conversation was that there were lots of words flying back and forth and neither group was digesting the other’s position or caring about how their harsh words impacted their readers.

My friend – the one who originally posted the thought – clearly communicated his belief in traditional marriage while skillfully refusing to insult those who believed differently. Most commenters, though, were not so friendly and the conversation had ended unpleasantly.

That is, until this weekend when a previous came back and wrote the following:

“7 1/2 years ago I was active in this thread. Dave, you have always been an ear to listen and have had the heart to pray… I never once felt judged by you… like all Christians should, you loved me through this, despite my lifestyle. For the rest of you, I’d like you to know, I have been set free from the bondage of homosexuality.

People, show love towards these people, stand your ground, but show love. My Pentecostal pastor and his wife loved on me and didn’t judge me… I have known in my heart that what I was doing was sin, but I justified it by saying God wouldn’t send me to hell for who I loved. I still believe that BUT I also believe that HE doesn’t send anyone to hell. He provided a get-out-of-hell-free card over 2000 years ago… Our choices are what lands us where we land. My prayer is that people are set free from this bondage as well as other sins that bind them. Thanks again, Dave…”

Shared by permission of author, emphasis my own.

I am sharing this comment to point out a couple of things.

  • No one is ever brought closer to Christ by name-calling and anger. In this case it was Dave’s patience, compassion, and grace that influenced a person who needed help. You might not see the results immediately, but a seed planted properly has a greater chance of creating a harvest than one planted on soil first compacted by the sower’s own poor attitude.
  • It is possible to firmly stand your ground while, at the same time, being loving and compassionate (See JESUS). You do not have to compromise in order to show love. You simply have to demonstrate grace.
  • Kindness, a vital part of the fruit of the Spirit, should never be cast aside in our attempts to “make a point.” I wonder how many people’s road to eternal damnation has been paved by our horrible lack of kindness.
  • When we speak, we are to share the grace of God, not the attitudes of man. Remember Jesus spoke harshly only to people who professed to be religious but who did not live out the purpose of that religion.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For we know in part and we prophesy in part,  but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13: 1-13 ESV

I leave you with this thought God placed in my mind when He was convicting me of my own tendency to argue and insult:

If I win an argument but lose a soul,

whose purposes am I truly serving?

The Gospel in a Conversation

The Gospel in a Conversation

Today I had the privilege of having a conversation with someone I deeply respect and who is a believer with a long history of faith in Christ. This person has been a blessing in my life in more ways than I could adequately describe.

During our conversation, this person shared with me a blog post by a prominent writer dealing with the topic of hell. When I expressed my agreement with the author’s views, the person stopped me short. This person, whom I’ll call Joe, began by wanting some clarification. Then, those questions became more passionate about how to know one is really saved. Whose “version” of the truth is the right one? Joe said, “Could there not be people who belong to the cultic religions who are actually saved, too? How does anyone even know if they are saved at all with all of the possibilities being thrown around?

Now, Joe and I have a long history. Joe knows me and I know Joe. We have earned the ability to speak directly, even bluntly, with one another without it being mistaken as hostility. So, many of our comments in this conversation lacked the superficial niceties more common in conversations with people less intimately acquainted. The candor with which we communicate should not be misconstrued as combativeness or argumentativeness. They were direct questions that received direct answers.

My response? “No. Jesus said that He is the Way. The only way. To believe in a fictional, idolatrous image of Him doesn’t work. You have to seek Him out. And, it is the responsibility of each person to think, study, and dig for the truth, not just to accept whatever they’re told. The Truth is available to all men, it is not hidden. Even in the deepest regions of previously untouched parts of the world, the Word has gone forth. He’s revealed Himself in His word. Those who embrace an aberrant version of Him do so by choice.

Joe pressed: “So even those who think they are serving God, saved by Jesus, are going to Hell anyway? All of the Mormons who live selfless, peaceful lives, serving God, raising their families, continually checking their hearts, and being more faithful than most people who reject the book of Mormon…those people are going to Hell, but people like me aren’t? People who are Christians, but mess up every day? People who don’t even totally know what they believe?

This is a valid question. Joe knows, as do I, people who subscribe to the Mormon faith who serve their communities, firmly believe what they’ve been taught, and are passionate about their faith. Nice people, who would do just about anything to help others. Family people. People of strong moral standing. How can God hold those people guilty while allowing “people who are Christians, but mess up every day” guiltless? Sadly, Joe is correct in the observation that many professing Christians “don’t even totally know what they believe.

My answer? I told Joe that these people aren’t selfless. They might think they are, but they’re working to earn their salvation. That, in it’s very essence, is not selfless. And, they are not serving God. They are serving a manufactured idol, fashioned in the image of the delusional mind of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and the fifteen subsequent “prophets” and “presidents” of the Mormon church, who have adjusted and rewritten their doctrines to meet political expediency and personal opinion throughout the years. I said to Joe, “They don’t live selfless lives. They aren’t serving God. They check their hearts against the book written by a horrible man that defies scripture. The whole thrust of Mormonism is to elevate self. It’s to achieve. It’s to become a god. It’s luciferian at its core.

This are difficult truths, but vital ones.

  • Ezekiel 13:9 “My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD.”
  • Jeremiah 23:16 “This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD.”
  • Matthew 24:24 “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”
  • 1 Timothy 4:1 “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”
  • 2 Timothy 4:3-4 ” For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.”
  • Acts 20:28-30 “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”
  • 2 Peter 3:14-18 “So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”

In this conversation, Mormonism was used as a general example. These same scriptures are applicable to any teaching that presents a gospel other than the one found in the holy scriptures.

Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you.

Galatians 1:8 NIV

There is a huge responsibility on leaders to faithfully and accurately communicate the Word of God.

But what about those deceived by those false-teachers? Joe wanted to know, too.

  • Matthew 7:15 ” Beware of false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.”
  • Matthew 24:5 “For many will come in My name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.”
  • Matthew 24:10-12 “At that time many will fall away and will betray and hate one another, and many false prophets will arise and mislead many. Because of the multiplication of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.…

When considering false teachers, false prophets, and doctrines “taught by demons,” one has to ask, to what end would Satan wish to deceive people in this way? Why preach “another gospel” or “another Christ?” The logical answer is very simple:

Satan’s goal is not necessarily to get you to worship him. He doesn’t have to, and he knows that worship would be fruitless in the end. Satan’s goal is get get you not to worship the Most High God.

Satan’s goal is not necessarily to get you to worship him. He doesn’t have to, and he knows that worship would be fruitless in the end. Satan’s goal is get get you not to worship the Most High God. He knows he is going to lose in the end. He knows God will conquer and bind him and cast him into the Lake of Fire. He simply seeks to do as much damage as he can, taking as many of God’s beloved creation with him. He is evil, spiteful, vengeful, and full of hate. He will use whatever means necessary to try to cause your view and, ultimately, your devotion to stray away from God.

Remember that point, because I’ll circle back to it in a moment. I must say at this point that I treasure these conversations. They are not a source of stress, but an opportunity for me to solidify my faith by articulating it in ways that I normally wouldn’t be able to. We all need that, the challenge of people’s questions. We all need to get to the point where we are forced to “give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...

Joe responded: “Joseph Smith was evil. But that doesn’t mean every person deceived by the Book of Mormon is evil or luciferian. There are many deceived people. People with sincere hearts that are in the wrong denomination (as they think) are going to hell? That doesn’t even seem fair.”

Joe is making some interesting points. It isn’t fair. People are deceived from the time they are small children, led to believe a certain way. People growing up in false-religions, cults, and even aberrant teachings that call themselves Christianity. This is why scripture is so strong in its condemnation of false teachers. Leadership may have its privileges, but the responsibilities a leader bears in the eyes of God far outweigh them.

People are passionate about their beliefs. Take a sampling of the conversations you hear every day. People argue about everything, everything. They argue because they are passionate about being right. However, not everyone can be correct. Somebody is wrong. And it doesn’t matter how convinced and passionate they are in their beliefs, if those beliefs contradict reality, they are wrong.

To Joe’s point: every person–period–is evil. (Full stop.) Sincerity does not save. Passion does not save. Truth alone saves. Jesus said “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” According to Jesus, where do we find the truth? In His word. That is the be-all and end-all of truth for us. Anything extra is to be taken with a grain of salt.

There are people in all denominations, cults, humanism, and atheism who are “nice,” “convinced,” and “passionate.” Without Jesus as He presents Himself in holy scripture, those people are lost.

And, to Joe’s last sentence: It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that the Son of God came and lived a sinless, perfect life. It isn’t fair that, though He was faultless, He was despised and rejected by men. Though He was sinless, and while we were yet sinners, He sacrificed Himself for the remission of our sins. It isn’t fair that mankind seeks every method to justify themselves other than the one true way that scripture points out. It isn’t fair that after laying His life down for us, we seek to manufacture a different, more palatable, less threatening path to the reward of heaven. It isn’t fair that we don’t care enough to learn Who He truly is, but settle, rather, for whatever we’ve been spoon-fed by fallen men. It isn’t fair.

That is the beauty of Christ. He loves us so much that He extends to us the perfection we can never achieve on our own. We can never earn it and will never deserve it, but He offers it freely in the sacrifice He made in our stead. He took our sin on His perfect shoulders and bore the punishment every man deserves. He washes us clean with the blood of His sacrifice.

Someone once said something like, the question isn’t ‘how can a loving God send good people to hell,’ but rather, ‘how can a holy God accept imperfect people into His kingdom?” It’s the mystery of His grace and mercy.

It is our responsibility, as Jesus said, to abide in His word. That’s where the true Jesus is. Any other source, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Graham, Land, any other source is imperfect. God’s word is perfect and complete and doesn’t need mankind’s additions, alterations, or apologies. Jesus Christ presented Himself in His word. He’s there if we seek Him. But mankind doesn’t want to spend the time getting to know Him. They want the easy, “tell me the formula” way of spirituality. It is our responsibility, and a dire one at that, to immerse ourselves in the Word of God because we hunger and thirst for righteousness. Instead, we follow denominations, leaders, and ideologies, making ourselves vulnerable to false teachers and doctrines taught by demons.

I mentioned earlier that the enemy will use whatever means he can to cause our view to drift from Jesus. He will manufacture artificial images of Jesus. He will raise up and promote men who claim to be leading us to Jesus, but who don’t drive us to the Word of God where we’ll actually find Him. He will cause us to find other things more interesting or entertaining than Jesus. He will alter the way the message of God is communicated to us, strategically leaving out important parts or adding others.

If any teacher, preacher or writer points you to any source of truth other than scripture, he is pointing you in the wrong direction. If any teacher, preacher, or writer adds another revelation or another testament to God’s word, he is conveying heresies. If any teacher, preacher, or writer adds rules and regulations that are not founded directly on scripture, he is contradicting the message of Christ. Jesus is the way, the only way, the only method of salvation. Jesus is the only source of forgiveness for our sins. We cannot earn our salvation. We cannot elevate ourselves to some level of importance. We are broken, sinful men and women whose only hope is in Christ alone.

All these cults, false-religions, and false teachings seek to elevate oneself or one’s perception of oneself to a role importance mankind is incapable of achieving. “I” get to decide. “I” am sincere. “I” am selfless and self-sacrificing. (The very act of telling someone of our self-sacrifice is abundantly ironic.) There are multitudes who are passionate and aggressive in their beliefs, like Saul was prior to his encounter with Christ. Not one of us has achieved the kind of perfection God’s holiness requires. The only source of truth is scripture. Not Calvin, not MacArthur, not Piper, not Luther, not Graham, and not me. We are all flawed and imperfect. That’s why the way is narrow, because people find it easier, more convenient, and more palatable to be spoon-fed man’s imperfect interpretation of the truth than to seek it out from the Source. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.” Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repenting of our self-sufficiency. Repenting of our idolatry. Repenting of our sinful desires, our ambitions, our weaknesses. We turn from them and walk according to His word. It is through this repentance and the belief that He is who He says He is that we are born again.

People want to add to it or take away from it. Teachers add to it in order to have some semblance of “control,” feeding their sense of self-importance, and attempting to get followers to idolize them. People take away from it because either they don’t want to give up their self-importance or their sin, or because they see it as so unattainable that they give up. The task of the believer is to acknowledge our imperfection in the light of Christ’s forgiveness. It is only through Him, directly, that we can be saved.

Jesus said, “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” It’s the same scenario today. The truth is readily available. People simply will not embrace Him.

An Update

We are having great response to the series “Biblical Advice for Healthy Relationships.” As we’ve mentioned previously, there is so much great scriptural content on this topic that our studies have become very immersive. As Christians, we are called the Bride of Christ, and Israel is compared to a wife in the Old Testament. The ramifications of this comparison are far-reaching and require study and insight in order to thoroughly understand and teach.

Rest assured, though there has been a brief pause in the production of our series, it has not stalled or stopped. Part 5 is under way, and there is far more to come.

As one could probably imagine, a household of four children doesn’t afford much quiet time to write. We are a very involved family, and choose to stay present with our children as they grow up. Time passes far too quickly, and we choose to be intentional in how we spend our time with them. That, on top of working full-time outside the home, means uninterrupted writing time is limited, to say the least.

Please bear with me as we continue to press onward in this study. More will be coming out soon, just not necessarily in the rapid-fire manner of the past few posts.

In the meantime, please take the time to focus on the all-important passages in 1 Corinthians 13 and the latter part of Galatians 5.

May we each press deeper into God’s Word for the answers to all the needs in our lives.

Biblical Advice for Healthy Relationships – Part 4

In our last post we discussed the primary ingredients in a godly relationship. Love is patient and kind. Without patience and kindness, human beings quickly find themselves driven apart. No one can sense love from someone who seems perpetually impatient or unkind to them.

Another key point is that love does not envy or boast.

That sounds so benign, though. Let’s look at it a bit closer. The ESV reads that love “does not envy,” however, the original word used here is ζηλόω, pronounced zēlóō. It is a Greek word that imitates the sound of boiling water. The word picture painted here would be a simmering jealousy that threatens to bubble over. To be boiling inside with jealousy.

We must be careful here to place this jealousy in its rightful context. Jealousy is not necessarily wrong. For example, God Himself is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14) Therefore, from the context of the verse we can gather that a protective jealousy of affections is a godly attribute. In a marriage, a protective jealousy of the affections of a spouse is right and proper. That form of jealousy communicates that this person is bonded with me and cannot be bonded with another.

The kind of jealousy mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:4 is more accurately represented as a jealousy of instead of a jealousy for. Imagine for a moment that both you and your spouse are actors in Hollywood. Your spouse releases a film and becomes a huge star. Everywhere you go, fans flock in giddy expectation of a word or an autograph. You, on the other hand, find yourself in your partner’s shadow, unnoticed and seemingly unappreciated. Well, you might think, he’s not so great! If only they knew the flaws that I see on a daily basis! I’ve got more talent in my little finger than he’s shown in his entire career!

I use the stereotype of the Hollywood marriage because we’ve all seen it happen a dozen times. But it happens daily in relationships that are far less public, as well. A wife excels in her career or has a very outgoing personality. The husband feels underappreciated or neglected. He attempts to level the playing field by cutting her down, being domineering, or passive-aggressively controlling her time. A wife gets annoyed because everyone thinks so highly of her husband. He makes people laugh, knows how to present himself well in public, and is generally admired by the people in their circle. She, on the other hand, sees herself as underappreciated because she is always busy taking care of the needs of the children. She begins to resent him because he spends all day at the office while she’s at home playing referee between bickering children.

We’re all guilty of this at one level or another. But the thing to remember is that love doesn’t see one’s partner as a competitor. Love sees one’s partner as an extension of oneself. My wife is an extension of me, and I of her. We are one. If my wife is recognized because of her skills, personality, or accomplishments, I should rejoice in that. I should be promoting and admiring her rather than being jealous of her. Love prefers to show honor to our loved-ones rather than to heap it on ourselves. Love exalts one’s partner, often at the expense of oneself. Love is self-sacrificing.

At this point, I think it appropriate to point out that the Greek language contains multiple words that are often translated to mean love. It is important to note that Christ points us to, and exemplifies, agape love. Agape is a selfless kind of love that causes one to be willing to set aside one’s own desires in preference of another’s, to sacrifice one’s goals in favor of another’s good, or to even lay down one’s life for another. It’s the kind of love Jesus showed when he gave His life for us. God doesn’t call us simply be collegial or cordial with our partners. He calls us to live lives of agape love, always willing to place our partner’s needs before our own.

This is not a popular thought in today’s culture. In the West, we are taught to look out for ourselves. We are taught to promote our own sense of self, our own desires, and our own ambitions. We are taught that we need to “love ourselves before we can love others.” Such a sweet sounding sentiment, but such an ungodly lie. Take a look at 2 Timothy 3:1-5, for example:

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 ESV

The point is, anything that calls itself love but is not a selfless, self-sacrificing love falls far short of that to which God has called us. If you’re jealous of your partner, feel the need to elevate yourself in importance above your partner, or are puffed up because you’re not feeling like the center of the relationship, you might need to rethink your definition of love.

One of the major keys to a godly relationship is this: true love places a higher priority on others rather than oneself. The world will tell you that you need to love yourself first before you can truly love others. This is a false and destructive piece of advice. The kind of love Christ points to–the kind of love Jesus–lived is a love unattainable outside of Him! It’s a kind of love that is so selfless as to allow oneself to want to lay down one’s life for one’s partner! It is an utter freedom from self-interest. It is a love that longs to serve and honor others without regard for one’s own interests.

It is freedom. True freedom! The world thinks freedom is defined as the unrestricted ability to please oneself. However, the joy that comes from pleasing someone else without regard to oneself is far beyond what any earthly, self-serving definition of love can ever afford. Love is the freedom to lay aside self-interest and the restrictions of selfishness in order to please and honor another. That is a freedom that cannot be adequately described. It is a freedom that cannot be attained while harboring jealousy and boasting.

When reading or hearing relationship advice, it is important to keep a godly perspective. The feel-good seminars, memes, and quotes must be held up next to scriptural standards to gauge their truth. Always ask: Does this advice point me toward a Christ-like love, or to a self-serving counterfeit? Does this advice directly or indirectly boast of my own strength, value, or importance? Does it draw attention to me, or shine a light of honor on another? Memes and quotes may sound soothing to the soul, but they can actually wreak utter destruction. God calls us to not conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds! Let us challenge the thinking of our society and focus like a laser on Christ’s example of true love!

Prayer…

Father, I thank you for the relationship with which You’ve blessed me. I thank you for the partner You’ve brought into my life. Help me to honor my partner and help me to honor You. Help me to seek to bring joy and honor to the spouse You’ve given me. They are a gift from you. Help me to experience the freedom that comes from Christ-like love. Help me not to be self-serving, proud, envious, or boastful. Help me, instead, to be caring, giving, and observant. Help me to love others the way Jesus loves me.