Tag Archives: love

Citizenship in the Kingdom of Heaven

“Hey, Ron – I just need to say that I believe in Jesus to go to Heaven, right?” Not exactly. Neither God our heavenly Father nor Son we call Jesus need or want our affirmation. They seek willing partners to introduce other people to the Kingdom of Heaven now and to join them in the age to come (2Corinthians 5:17-20, for instance). So, a better question might be: “Hey Ron – how do I become God’s partner?” Great question!

Anyone wishing to enter God’s Kingdom must be regenerated from above (a better rendering of the born again we find in John 3:1-15) through the Living Water Jesus offers and the Holy Spirit the Father gives in return for our devotion. Citizenship in God’s Kingdom begins with receiving the Living Water of Jesus by believing that He truly is the Son of God and then responding with complete dedication of self and resources. This is what ‘Jesus is Lord’ means. Devotion isn’t making God responsible for our choices or actions—it’s an offering to the King of Heaven of all we are and have. We are to put away our selfish nature—die to self (Luke 9:23-24; 1Corinthians 15:31). That requires obedience.

Obedience to what? In quoting the Old Testament (see Deuteronomy 6:5 and Matthew 22:34-40), Jesus said that we must honor the Father with all we are and have. He continued by demanding that we love others as we love ourselves (see my earlier post on love). If we love Him, we’ll obey those commandments (John 15:12 & 14:15; 1John 3:14). Everything the Old Testament teaches about what God desires, including about how to treat others, could be done just by putting others first and treating them like we wish to be treated as we live as servants and yet partners with the King.

To sum up, so far, applying for citizenship in God’s Kingdom requires belief, complete devotion, and loving action. When we do this and engage in the things of God through study, discipleship, and prayer, we are changed—transformed. The path of citizenship may seem challenging, if not impossible. But we have help! The Spirit in the born-again conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus is the Spirit of God. He teaches and comforts us and is our partner in devotion to the Father and loving others.  He also helps us change from the inside out, from mind to behavior. The Spirit also makes it possible for us to remain—abide— as a citizen of Heaven (see John 15:1-10, for example).

Believe. Devote. Receive the Spirit of God and move where He leads you! Have you already done and are doing that? Then, welcome, citizen of Heaven! Next week, we’ll continue to consider God’s desires as we delve further into Godly Obedience.

Blessings and peace,

Dr. Ron Braley

In Loving Fairness!

In our feel-good Christian culture, I’ve often heard said, “God is Love!”

God IS love; however, this love is often misunderstood. And, the common misunderstanding of the love that God is and does lends itself to a dangerous and pervasive view that anyone in His excellent favor should never suffer and will have anything they want. The misunderstanding is based on 1John (1John 4:8 and 16 in particular). The first thing we must do is understand the context of John’s comments about God being love. The next thing we’ll do is explore the meaning of that ‘love,’ which we’ll find is consistent, appropriate action—not emotion.

The theme and context of 1John Chapter 4 are a fair and just God that will judge the world and save the righteous. This text serves as a reminder that our actionable love, which is obedience to Jesus’ commandments out of our faith, mirrors God’s just nature and is the basis for our coming salvation. Here’s a breakdown of the verses—you may want to read along.

Verses 1-6: Differentiating Christians from the world.

Verses 7-17: God is actionable love. He has promised a savior for humankind and kept His promise.  We should be like Him and love one another with action, not just emotion, because He has done the same for us first.

Verses 18-21: A sobering reminder that actionable love born of our faith is critical to salvationrescuing from God’s judgment to come. Being nice, feeling spiritual, believing alone, or having lots of knowledge about the Bible without action is useless to God, our Christ, and the Church.

I keep mentioning ‘actionable’ love. It’s the kind of love that equates to, “I’ll treat you right despite how I feel.” We’re to be fair, kind, patient, repentant, self-controlled, etc.  Hmmm . . . sounds a lot like the actions (fruits) shown by those who belong to God and, therefore, have the Spirit as they remain in a relationship with Him:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. —Galatians 5:22-23.

So, God is love because He has treated us appropriately and kept His promise to send a savior despite the way He has ‘felt’ toward humankind at times throughout history. As so many New Testament letters show, He is just to save and forgive when we are in a relationship with Him. Act fairly, justly, kindly, and consistently as our God also has done for us . . . and live!

Next week, we’ll examine the will of God: what it is and how to discover it.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Yes, Judge—but who??

The idea of judging trips people up. We know our faults or sins and feel we have no right to judge others as a result. Conversely, some people behave as though they must inform everyone around them of every sinful act. The truth regarding judging others resides somewhere in the middle.

Who should judge whom? According to Jesus, God will judge the world – those people who aren’t His. Christ-followers will be evaluated for their works done out of faith and rewarded accordingly at the end of this age. Meanwhile, we must hold one another accountable for spiritual growth and moral positioning. For instance, the apostle Paul called out sexually immoral behavior in the Corinthian church and told them this:

… Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. . . . Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. —1Corinthians 5:6-13.

So, how are we to judge other followers of Jesus? We must be careful and gentle according to Christ’s commandments, not by what we feel. The goal must always be to help followers who are ‘sinning’ turn back to the truth and be reconciled to God (e.g., James 15:19-20). Jesus also reminds us not to tolerate the practice of sinful behavior inside the community of Christians.

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” —Matthew 18:15-17.

Now, I realize that some people will counter by quoting Luke 6:37, “Do not judge and you will not be judged . . .” But it and verses 38-42 deal with justice and mercy. And verses 41-42 remind us to become righteous before holding others accountable by God’s standard.

If you want to love your fellow Christians with the love of Christ, judge them according to His commandments with a sense of urgency before it’s too late for anyone practicing sinful behavior and earning a one-way ticket to God’s judgment! And let’s demonstrate God’s standard by not doing or condoning anything He opposes (such as sexual immoralities). Otherwise, we could be single-handedly responsible for leading the lost to their destruction.

Next week, we’ll look at healthy and unhealthy Christian relationships.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Love Yourself, Love Your Neighbor

Lately, I’ve been blabbing about loving yourself. So this week, we’ll go back to the Why and How?? so that you can love your ‘neighbor’ as you love yourself.

As we’ve learned, loving yourself positions you to love others. With healthy relationships (especially with God), finances, mind, emotions, and spirit, you’re armed to help others do the same. But, how does that look? We’ll learn that our love falls into similar categories as the spiritual formation I recently addressed. So, let’s frame my input like that.

Relationships. Our connections are vital! The Bible says much about interacting with others in a godly way to maintain and deepen those connections used to present God’s Kingdom to others. Here are several biblical tips for keeping those connections alive:

  • … be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger —James 1:19.
  • BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger —Ephesians 4:26.
  • … but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. —Matthew 5:39-42.

Finances. You cannot help others financially without money! But, once you get your finances under control, you may have resources with which to help clothe, feed, or house others—things on which Jesus said He’ll judge us (Matthew 25:31-46).

Physical health. Jesus told us to ‘go.’ The ‘going’ is necessary to establish new relationships with which to be and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Our healthy relationships also allow us to ‘go’ and help others.

Emotional and mental health. This area affects relationships. When we’re healthy emotionally and mentally, we’ll be positioned to mentor others, listen to them in their pain, aid in healing, etc.

Spiritual. Once healthy, we can be godly models of spiritual practices, including Bible study, prayer, accountability, and discipleship. That’s how others can grow spiritually; spiritual growth positively affects all others!

In summary, loving your neighbor can happen when we love ourselves. Being healthy relationally, spiritually, financially, etc., sets us up to aid others by being godly models, helping physically, ‘being there’ emotionally, and assisting in feeding, housing, and clothing the less fortunate. Here’s the good news: you can still love others even while you’re becoming healthy. Just do what you can, give to others as you can.

Next week’s topic will be Just Who Did Jesus Tick off, Anyway?? To support our passivity, we sometimes make Jesus passive. To support our angry, polarizing, and political rhetoric, we often make Jesus political. You’ll discover that the answer is somewhere in between, but always in God’s framework and mission, not ours.

Questions or comments? Email publisher@taylorpress.net.

Blessings and peace,

Pastor Ron Braley, Northview Christian Church

Love Yourself, Part III: How??

Last week, we learned that being Christian carries the responsibility of remaining healthy in body, mind, spirit, etc., to the best of our ability in obedience to the Father and Son so that we can honor them and help bring the Kingdom of God to others. The good news is that the Bible gives us much of what we need to figure this out in two distinct areas: spiritual formation and spiritual disciplines.

Spiritual formation. Once we say, “I do!” in response to God’s call through Jesus, we’re to embark on a journey of transformation—in all areas of life, which is possible with the Spirit of God. Our change matures and forms several areas:

  • Relationships. If we remember that we’re to treat others with the love of Christ and consider them better than ourselves, our relationships will likely flourish (Philippians 2:3-4). Don’t go to bed angry (Ephesians 4:26) and be sure to ‘turn the other cheek’ to allow reconciliation (Luke 6:29). Finally, remember the ‘golden rule’ (Matthew 7:12).
  • Finances. The Bible has a LOT to say about sound money management. Be cautious about borrowing money and be content with what you have (Hebrews 3:5).
  • Physical health. Eat and drink (if applicable) in moderation. Get off the couch and put your body to work, even if just a bit at first. Remember that God desires to move you to action in His plans.
  • Intellect. Stimulate the brain by reading, studying something interesting, playing games, or assembling puzzles, etc. Say “No!” to the electronic stuff more often!
  • Emotional and mental health. Do what you can to keep your emotions and mind healthy by tending to the body, relationships, finances, and intellect. But, again, do what’s within your control.

Spiritual disciplines.

  • Prayer. It is our communications with (not just at!) God. Use Jesus’ model (Matthew 5:6-13) and Adore God, Confess sins, offer Thanksgiving, and Intercede for others (healing, finances, salvation, etc.).
  • Study. Engage God’s words in the Bible and meditate on them—it’s how we ‘put on Christ’ and become spiritually mature.
  • Accountability. We must bear each other’s burdens and confess sins, at least to one person we trust.
  • Giving (money, time, talents, etc.). The Bible demands it (e.g., Matthew 6:1-4 and 25:31-40; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7). Not only is it a necessary outcome of the Christian faith, but it can also help emotional health too. Giving stimulates the brain and makes us feel better physically and emotionally. It’s also a great way to take our eyes and minds off our troubles.

So, move toward emotional, physical, relational, financial, and spiritual health one baby step at a time in God’s direction as you love yourself. Next week? We’ll put self-love to work as we dive into how to love our ‘neighbor.’

Questions or comments? Email publisher@taylorpress.net.

Blessings and peace, Pastor Ron Braley, Northview Christian Church

Love Yourself, Part II: Why??

Last week, we began our exploration of self-love, the kind of non-negotiable love we must have for ourselves (and other people). If we care for ourselves as God intends, we can then care for others. But why should we do this? Why should we be bothered?

We cannot love others with the love of Christ if we are unhealthy emotionally, spiritually, relationally, financially, or physically. I’m not talking about sporadic unhealthiness, which does occasionally happen outside of our control. I’m talking about managing our bodies, mind, spirit, finances, and relationships as God desires so that we’ve done all we can to be obedient and healthy and movable.

We also understand from last week that Jesus has commanded us to love others as we love ourselves. It’s not up for argument—this is what He requires. We who call ourselves Christian have no right to abuse our God-given body, mind, spirit, relationships, or finances. There are many good reasons besides obedience to be healthy, to love ourselves in these areas.

God wants us to partner with Him in His ministry of reconciling creation. However, he cannot do that if we are unmovable—if we’re distracted with chaotic relationships, mishandled finances, a lack of spiritual training, or self-imposed physical deterioration. Once we’re movable because we love ourselves as God intends, then we can set an excellent example as a witness for the Kingdom of God.

Christians are on display. Our lives are no longer ours, but the Father and Son’s. Therefore, we must present an excellent example of self-love and love for others so that those who have not met God can. As you can imagine, a lousy witness through selfish behavior and purposeful unhealthiness will keep people from experiencing God’s Kingdom. Who wants to be responsible for that?!?

In summary, being Christian, a ‘little Christ,’ carries the responsibility of remaining healthy in body, mind, spirit, etc. to the best of our ability in obedience to the Father and Son so that we can honor them and help in bringing the Kingdom of God to others. What about next week? In the last part of this three-part series, we’ll dive deeper into the ‘how’ as we continue seeking to mimic the love of Christ.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Love Yourself, Part I: What??

Early in His ministry, Jesus said something interesting to the religious Jews interrogating Him:

And He said to him, “’YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40).

What?!? Love your neighbor as yourself?? Just what does that mean, and why should I do it?

First, we must understand that this love of self and others is NOT an emotion that comes and goes with the wind. It’s the kind of unconditional love that is actionable and not negotiable or optional. It’s doing the right thing for the right reason, no matter how we feel.

Second, doing the right things for yourself sets you up for doing the right things for others, to love them with the love of Christ. If you’ve flown on a commercial aircraft, you’ve probably heard something like, “If you have small children, please put on your mask first and then assist your child.” Why? Because you’d be of no use to your child if you’re passed out or dead. Loving yourself is sort of like that—you can be of little or no benefit to others if you’re emotionally, relationally, spiritually, financially, or mentally unhealthy.

So, we love ourselves in that agape action-type love by tending to our relationships, body, mind, spirit, and finances as God has taught through His prophets, our Christ, the apostles, and others in the Bible. And we learn to like ourselves through healthy living and walking by the Holy Spirit, who reminds us of who we are in God and Christ. We can also observe godly examples which, in loving themselves, can now love others properly.

In summary, Jesus has commanded that we love ourselves and, in self-love (care and feeding of our body, mind, and spirit), love others appropriately. Next week, we’ll dig deeper into how we can make this happen.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Faith, Hope, & Love, Part III: Love

Last week, we considered hope – confidence in our future with God. This week’s look at the love of faith, hope, and love, comes from an article I wrote several months ago titled, “How do I love Thee?” In particular, we’ll look at the unconditional, charitable action that must come as a result of our Christian faith.

Unconditional Love. This love doesn’t come and go with an emotional wind. It’s doing the right thing for the right reason despite feelings. Greek noun agape is this love that God has for all creation. Verb agapao is love action. God is love (agape); God loved and loves as we should (agapao).

For instance, God hasn’t always been happy with humanity but still loves so much that He gave His Son for all people and takes His time before bringing judgment.

We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

… Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him (Acts 10:34-35).

So, how should we love?

… ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ (Matthew 22:37-39).

According to Jesus and the apostles, we are to be kind and charitable to others besides honoring the Father with all we are and have. So, we will behave in specific ways if we remain with Christ and have the Spirit of God working within us. We will be patient, kind, charitable, gentle, and self-controlled (Galatians 5:22-23). Being self-controlled is essential to bringing the Kingdom of God to those who don’t know Christ (yet). We must not react angrily or speak hatefully – especially in this day of social media when and where we’re on public display! One hateful word, especially attacking character over behaviors, can make God’s Kingdom unattainable for so many people!

Remember that God has loved us first. In response, we must love people and give Him complete devotion. Do the right thing and watch what we say and write, understanding that we must remain patient, kind, gentle, and self-controlled despite how we feel. Finally, our love from faith must move us to care for others.

Next week, we’ll have a ‘whale’ of a time with Jonah!

How Do I love Thee??

Last week, we looked at non-negotiable faith practices and contrasted them against subjective ways we worship. I also mentioned the phrase “Christian love.” We say that it is unconditional, but what does that mean? What are the different kinds of love?

“I love my car!”

“I love my friend!”

“I love Jesus!”

Several meanings, one word! Our English language limits how we express feelings and actions, including love. However, the Bible presents three primary loves: lust, fondness, and unconditional love. Let’s examine each.

Lust. Greek epithumia represents a firm intention to have something. Jesus tells us that someone who lusts after (intends to have) another’s spouse has sinned, even if the act falls through (Matthew 5:27-28). Intent (heart/mind) matters!! Our legal system tries people for intending to murder even if the plan was thwarted.

Fondness. Think words that begin with phil. These Greek words represent a fondness for something. For instance, philadelphia is a fondness for brothers and sisters in Christ (Hebrews 13:1). Indeed, you’ve heard of or visited Philadephia, PA, the City of Brotherly Love! Fondness for humankind is philanthropea (Titus 3:3-5), and of money, philaguria (Hebrews 13:5).

Lust and fondness are emotion-driven and, therefore, come and go. You may like me now but hate me tomorrow – especially if my articles conflict with your beliefs. So, neither love is the unconditional love God has shown or that we must have for each other.

Unconditional Love. This love doesn’t come and go with an emotional wind. It’s doing the right thing for the right reason despite feelings. Greek noun agape is this love that God has for all creation. Verb agapao is love action. God is love (agape); God loved and loves as we should (agapo).

For instance, God hasn’t always been happy with humanity but still loves so much that He gave His Son for all people and takes His time before bringing judgment.

We love, because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

… Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him (Acts 10:34-35).

So, how should we love?

… ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ (Matthew 22:37-39).

Next week, I’ll share the untold Christmas story.

Blessings and peace,

Ron Braley

Adopt a Bible!

Disappointingly, our plea for Bibles for Africa recently yielded no results despite the knowledge that most Africans have no Bible (including most Christian teachers and leaders!).

How can the people learn about God or become disciples effectively with no guide?

How can we who are wealthy by comparison and have an abundance of Bibles and Christian literature be obedient to Jesus’ commandment to ‘tell’ and ‘make disciples’ without doing our part to rectify this incredible disparity?

So, I thought I’d take a different approach by asking everyone to ‘adopt a Bible’. A donation of only $10 will buy one Swahili Bible. Obviously, Africa needs more than one Bible but if everyone buys at least one, we win in our obedience and Africa wins by being able to learn and teach their Faith.

Will you adopt a Bible for Africa by donating here? http://findingrevelation.com/FindingDiscipleship/Africa%20Bibles.htm

Blessings!

Ron Braley, findingdiscipleship.org & ronbraley.com