Genuine Love Does Not Consume

heart-700141_1920Genuine love does not consume the object of its affection. In Psalm 26:9-10, David asks God to spare him from judgement because he has not been a bloodthirsty man, “in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hand are full of bribes.”

When we think of bloodthirsty men, we correctly conjure up images of abortion doctors, husbands who murder their wives while on their honeymoon, and large corporations that stick thousands of employees in unsafe buildings that collapse and kill hundreds of poor people.

But the heart of bloodthirsty person does not reside exclusively on Wall Street or in the palaces of government power. It resides in senior adults, young men, and little kids. The bloodthirsty devour the lives of others for their own success. The senior adult who befriends a high school student to get some  technology help and then reneges on the contract employs evil devices. The young man who attends church to secure the love of his future wife and then removes himself from fellowship once rings are exchanged has taken advantage of others. And, the child who befriends the ‘smart girl’ so she can improve her grades and then refuses to sit next to her at lunch once grades are posted possesses the soul of the bloodthirsty. Those who love people like they love their favorite food reveal that have never loved.

True love does not consume others; it benefits others. If we love others well they should thrive at our expense. We should skip buying a new pair of shoes so that we can help our out-of -work neighbor buy groceries even though he can never repay us. We should invest in the life of the student, knowing we may never see her again and knowing she will bless countless others. And, we should take the senior adult to his doctor appointments even though he will never thank us because we desire to him healthy enough to attend church. If we love others, we will bless others, for this is the love of Christ.

He died for us because he loved us. He gets nothing from us and yet gives us eternal love. Those who have experienced the selfless love of God as they repented and believed on the finished work of Jesus should love selflessly. The world will know we are Christians by our love.

What about you? Will you be spared from judgment because you have love well?

The Pastoral Plan for Amissville Baptist Church

pastorFor all its vast complexities, Church ministry consists of two essential elements, preaching and love.

The church should preach the Word even when society opposes the Bible’s sexual ethic, even when the local community deems the Bible’s view of depravity outdated, and even when church members and pastors do not like hearing that God commands us to put the needs of others before our own. God’s Word is often unpopular. But it is also gracious, joyous, and life giving. Paul encourages Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:13-16 with the following advice:

Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you.  Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Salvation, hope, joy, kindness, and life are found in the Word of God. If the church loses the Scriptures or minimizes the presence of the Word in worship, in Bible Studies, and in the youth group, the church will die. Her building may expand, but her people will drift far from the God of the universe into eternal despair. Rather, the church must continue in the Word. If the people of God devote themselves to the preaching and the reading of the Word, they will save themselves and others. The church will grow, succeed, and survive.

As your pastor, I come to preach the Scriptures. During my first year at Amissville Baptist Church, I want to regularly and faithfully preach, teach, and share the Word in all that I do.

But great preaching cannot thrive on its own. The preacher’s devotion to the Word must be matched by his commitment to love others. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:2:

 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.

Though many associate 1 Corinthians 13 with romantic love that they have commemorated via the artwork hung on their living room wall, Paul is addressing the love of the believer. He is detailing how Christians should conduct themselves. Paul says believers should be known as those who love each other. A man can preach greatest sermons, fill row after row of pews with tech, savvy youth, and break into the conference circuit and still fail to love his family and his congregation well. Such a man is nothing more than a clanging cymbal. He is one who proclaims the majesty of God and then slinks into a hole because he cannot in good conscience encourage others follow his loveless lifestyle. His family knows he never has time to hear about their struggles or complaints or to attend their basketball games. His church members know not to call him because he has little time for talking, counseling, or prayer. And the advice he does give seldom goes beyond, “Read your Bible and pray more.” Lacking love, the preacher proclaims a gospel that he has not experienced. All people who have been deeply touched by the love of Christ cannot help but love their brothers and sisters.  The apostle John affirms Paul’s teaching and writes:

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 John 4:20).

When preaching is combined with love, the Gospel goes forward with incredible power. When men and women know their pastor calling them to change is himself being changed by the love of God, their hearts fill with joy and encouragement. I have been blessed to experience this joy first hand. Both at the Bible Church of Little Rock and at Fairdale Baptist Church, godly men regularly preached the Word in love and kindly confronted me when they saw sin in my life. God used their love for the Word and for me to shape and grow my faith.

Though I am definitely an imperfect man with many faults who daily repents, I desire to love the people of Amissville well. I hope to love you as I have been loved.

When I think about all that has happened over the last several months, my heart leaps for joy! April and I our counting down the days till our arrival! We look forward to introducing two (soon to be three) little kiddos to our Amissville family and to getting settled into Northern Virginia!

I cannot wait to worship with you on April 22! To Preach and to love! May God bless us all!

Are You Ready To Listen More and do Less in Church?

risk-all.gifAre you willing to listen?

Right before Jesus took off for the cross, he stopped and conversed with the rich young ruler (Mk 10:17). He delayed his march to Jerusalem, to his death, and to his victory over the grave to talk with the young man and to point him to Christ. As believers and followers of Christ, we must have the same disposition and mindset. We must be willing to stop and converse with others. We must care enough about our neighbors, our children, and our spouse to abandon our programs, our goals, and our ministries to care for them.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer rightly noted that “Our love for another consists first of all in listening.” The greatest success one can have is not found in creating a program that employees hundreds or thousands of people. Our greatest success, our most profound moments, our greatest times of influence often come when we stop and listen.

And we should not stop and listen simply to appreciate a violin solo or to notice the sunset. Those things are good and noble. They exist for our enjoyment and point to the beauty and majesty of our creator. We should stop and listen to hear people’s hearts, to learn of their sorrows and to point them to Christ. Many people wind up in crisis, depressed, hurt, and horribly broken because no one was willing to lay aside their schedules, programs, and ministries to care for them. As speaker, pastor, and counselor Paul David-Trip notes:

Perhaps the simplest reason for our lack of self-disclosing candor is that no one else asks.

Jesus took time to listen to the rich young ruler and to ask questions the drew out his heart. Jesus took the time to know what we all experience becoming human so that he could perfectly relate to us for the purpose of redeeming us. If Christ has so loved us, how can we not in turn love others?

If we Jesus and truly want to follow him, we too must be willing to stop, to listen, and to draw our the hearts of those around us. We must be willing to be thrown of task and schedule for the gospel. We must be willing to risk a large invest of time and be willing to receive a result that we deem less than desirable. We must be willing to follow Christ and love others not matter the cost.