The Right Here and Now Sort of Love

First and foremost, Love came and still resides.

Among my Christian friends and the various churches I’ve attended or visited in the past few years, I’ve heard a phrase – more specifically, a verse – used with an increasing frequency among believers. While I enjoy the passage, I think many of us are reading it unhealthily, to the point that what was written to teach us more about who we are, has caused many of us to believe in who we are not. As Inigo Montoya’s from The Princess Bride would say, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means,”

Here’s the verse,

“We love because God first loved us,” – 1 John 4:19

Where I believe we have identified ourselves wrongly concerning this verse, is in that we see these words as an excuse to not take initiative in showing compassion towards others because we tell ourselves that we haven’t experienced enough love for ourselves yet. While I would never downplay the significance or power of someone’s experience, I believe this verse is talking about something very different.

To expound, the passage above is highlighting our Divine-enablement, but to many of us, I’m afraid, it has painted the picture of a Divine-withholding because we think there needs to be a Paul-blinded-and-thrown-on-his-back sort of encounter with God before intentionality in expressing love can begin. We see ourselves on the wrong side of Love’s expression, and so we give ourselves the excuse of waiting for God’s love in our lives before we can begin showing it to others; while love, in like-manner, is waiting to simply be shown through us because its’ greatest manifestation has already been shown. The perfect example of love has been shown, as John points out only a few verses earlier,

“Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. And God showed his love for us by sending his Son into the world, so that we might have life through Him,” 1 John 4:8-9

We have turned the mission of love into our waiting for love to still be shown to us. We have taken our commission and said that others should fulfill that commission towards us before we can take it on ourselves. The problem with this is that there will always be the need of an experience to determine how loving any of us will be. Our love has become dependent on how we perceive our social experiences. But the passage is not talking about personal feelings of love – it is talking about a belief in the gospel itself; a belief that we have been loved and cherished all along and that Christ came to forever stamp that Truth on the gears of our hearts.

Compassion’s greatest expression has been expressed, and the Gospel resonates and becomes relevant to us when we believe the existence and ramifications of that love.

As I’ve often heard it said: love looks like something. It is not a mystical word to describe the butterflies we receive when people treat us with care; love certainly can arouse those feelings, but much more than the feelings it can produce, love is an action. Compassion is tangible and visible; it is intentional and holds incredible endurance with that intention. And of course our love can and will grow by our experiences and understanding – that goes without saying – but the enabling that love provides is not a magical gift that we are still waiting to arrive like a knock at our front door. Love already kicked in the door at the cross!

“For when we were still helpless, Christ died for the wicked at the time that God chose.” Romans 5:6

And Paul emphasizes it again,

 “God has shown us how much he loved us – it was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us!” – Romans 5:8

We have already been painted the picture of enduring and unconditional love. It is a love that pursues relentlessly, and would give anything – even to those who hate or show indifference to the expresser. Love came before anyone knew to ask for it, and it came loudly! Believing God’s love for us empowers and enables us to show true love to others. We do not need to wait for the stars to align, but are already free and invited to begin seeing and treating people different today; right here and right now.

The Power of Valuing Others (Warped Tour Edition)

It is the mobile city of stages, buses, full body tattoos and colorful haircuts; a city where music is king and the numerous stages are this king’s celebrated throne. Welcome to Vans’ Warped Tour.

For much of the Beautiful Feet team, this remarkable tour was our home for the past two weeks. We danced to band after band, sold many a t-shirt as we told passersby of our cause, and applied enough sunscreen to suffice a light-skinned, family of five’s vacation to The Bahamas for ten days. But more important than our dance moves, shirt sales, and protective skin measures, our team had a deeper mission behind our participation. We had come on tour to show value to a people that are often without; to believe in individuals who have rarely been believed in.

One of the first days on tour, I found myself in a conversation with a woman about my age. She was thin, wore a dark t-shirt, and had long purple hair with various piercings strewn across her body. I told her about Beautiful Feet’s work in Nicaragua and pointed her back to the pictures of poor Nicaraguan children and their community that we had on display at our booth.

She shook her head, “Why do you do this?” her eyes were skeptical.

I smiled, “We’ve been doing what we do long before we joined a nonprofit,” I pointed to myself and my friends behind the information table. “Yes, we are on Warped Tour to raise some awareness about a specific community in Nicaragua, but that is one small part of a much larger picture for us. We are just a group of guys who’ve discovered that God is a very loving One,”

The woman was taken slightly aback.

I continued, “We believe He’s a God Who finds value in everyone; no matter how small, or meek, or insignificant those people are to the rest of the world. And for that, we love people more every day. When we found out how important people were to their Creator, people became important to us. One outcome of that has been our wanting to help a small garbage-dump community in Central America, but those children are no more important than you are – or anyone else here at Warped Tour, for that matter,” I spoke very simply, and was surprised to find that my words had somehow brought tears to this woman’s eyes. “God sees your value, He loves you. And…”

“I need to give you a hug,” she interrupted me with a tight embrace. She stepped back again, wiping a tear from each of her eyes, “Thank you,”

We spoke for a few more minutes and she expressed how greatly what I said had touched her. Before she left, we exchanged one more hug and she turned away to quickly become immersed in the sea of people that I’d met her in. I returned to the Beautiful Feet booth and picked up one of the canned tour waters to sip at as I considered the conversation. “This is why we’re on tour,” I said to myself, but my conclusion was only partially true. The completer truth was that it’s for compassion’s sake we live, at all. Our nature has become our way of life – our nature is of the image of Love.

***
Photo by Pablo Amoretti at Little Crown Photography

Jesus Was Not God’s Plan C

Many people may be surprised to hear that Genesis is not where the Bible’s story begins. Sure, “In the beginning” may sound like a great place to start, but there is one detail that needs to come BEFORE the beginning to put the rest of scripture in its proper context. You see, something wondrous and mysterious happened before the opening verses of Genesis and to miss this one detail can be so fatal as to find yourself mistaking the masterpiece of a gifted artist for all that is made when a kindergartener spills his paint all over the classroom floor and then makes it worse by slipping in it and covering all of his friends (and their clothes) in his colorful mess.

This momentous detail is that our inclusion in Christ was God’s plan for humanity long before the first of light rushed from God’s lips at creation. The Gospel is the story of God’s intent, not His mistake and clean-up.

The Garden of Eden is not the story of God’s inability to make a creation that won’t fall apart five minutes after birth. In the same way, the Torah (Law of Moses) was not God’s failed Plan B as he attempted to reconcile mankind back to Himself. And Jesus was not a last-minute idea as Heaven’s Plan C for a small fraction of God’s children to barely scrape by and escape a sinking ship. As ridiculous as this may sound when I write it so frankly, many believers’ look at the Bible this way. Adam and Eve are seen as God’s original hope for mankind, but because that plan fell through, God tried to put a Band-Aid over creation through the 10 Commandments and when that still didn’t succeed, Jesus had to come as Heaven’s last resort.

But what if God is not so bound and limited to trial and error as we have portrayed Him? What if – I dare say – that for humanity to be identified, resurrected and rescued in Christ was His intent all-along?

On Easter I was considering man’s rebellion and what it meant in the context of our redemption. I took many notes as I prayed, read and listened to what I believed God was speaking to my heart, but one of my favorite notes simply read, “I never have to live as if I’m trying to get away with something, anymore. He overcame my rebellion.”

Some people may stop me when they hear, ‘rebellion’, and argue that their disobedience was not as intentional as I’m making it sound. “I can’t help it!” some of you may plea. And I would partially agree, it isn’t something you are trying to do, but perhaps I can expound the details of what I believe humanity’s rebellion is/was. Our rebellion was to think that we could live and function separate from our omniscient and life-giving creator. The very claim that, “I pray and read my Bible to draw closer to God,” is to render yourself separate from Him to begin with, and suggests a notion that you can live, breath and have your existence while experiencing a separation from the Creator of all of those wonderful things. You are rebellious insomuch as you think your relation to God is about your ability to associate or disassociate yourself from The Omniscient.

In separating ourselves from God in our minds, we give ourselves the excuse of living distanced from love and goodness. Whether consciously or unconsciously, this separation we’ve mustered up tells us that there are things that we can get away with because there is a gap between ourselves and our compassionate Maker. We grow curious of all that we can do behind God’s back without Him completely forsaking us, and often find ourselves acting upon those fruits of separation – even if the only separation possible is within our minds. But to separate ourselves from God, is to pose a question that humanity has wrestled with since the beginning of our rebellion: “Who am I?” We have fallen for the same lie that Eve did in the Garden of Eden, we don’t recognize ourselves in God (Gen 1:27 mankind is made in God’s likeness; Gen 3:5 mankind falls because they think they can become like God – they didn’t believe who God told them they already were).

And so the question lingers on. It spreads from generation to generation: “If I am not God’s child, who’s am I?” We find someone new to identify ourselves with and find ways of fashioning our own name. We become our own maker. We become our own god.

But let me remind you, even this was not an accident. Man’s rebellion was God’s intent. While I believe we could spend the rest of our lives studying the purpose in this, it has most clearly been understood to me as being God’s way of showing humanity that there is absolutely no distance we can run to escape His love and association. The quote I jotted in my notes finds relevance to every heart that has ever considered the notion of a deity. Each of us has wondered about the fine-line one must walk to still be accepted or blessed by Him. But what if God, wanting to show humanity just how unconditional His love was, purposed our rebellion into a climax, just to reveal His true heart and nature? This climax was Jesus’ death.

Have you ever consider that in man’s rebellion we committed mutiny against our own Maker? There is, literally, no further extent that a rebellion can take: We killed the one we rebelled against.

Creation murdered Creator!     

But what better way to conclude our rebellion? When Jesus gave his life, He made an eternal declaration that our darkest day was still flooded with God’s light. Our harshest actions against our Father could not separate His love from us. He used the darkest sin that we could ever commit to show just how unconditionally for us He truly is.

Man’s disobedience was not against God’s ego. Christianity is not about us behaving a particular way so that God will love us better – Christianity is about remembering who we are related to and how that relation has nothing to do with our actions, and everything to do with His unrelenting care for His children. Our disobedience was to believe we had a less-loving Father than we do, and living in such a way that harmed the very beings that God cared so deeply for.

Christianity is the restored memory of our origin in God. We were made in His likeness, and were functioning by His power, even when we lived ignorant to the facts. But when the facts are made clear, we encounter a freedom we never could have mustered up on our own, because we realize that we were significant long before we had the desire to prove it.

A Personal Gospel

I have been a friendly person all my life. I always knew to hold doors for others and to say “Thank you,” when someone helped me, but as frequently as kindness and love are attributed as synonymous to one another, I can personally attest that they are not. Kindness without love is certainly achievable and comes with the same consequence as any other personality in search of an identity: what that person does and who others perceive him or her to be becomes that person’s face and self, their significance is shaped by ideas and agendas set for making a particular name for one’s self.

Even in my most selfish year, and the year that I was most hurting, I won Most Conscientious for my class at school. I was a friendly person that year; I was every year. But my friendliness had little to do with honest love and much more to do with the name I had come to identify myself with, the name I needed to uphold to still think I knew who I was.

But four and a half years ago, when I first caught a glimpse of the selflessness of God’s love, everything began to change. I found my identity in His love. As powerfully and unconditionally as I saw His love for me to be, the scandalous idea that I was made in God’s image began to sink in and take on a radical new meaning. My arduous search for self was coming to a close, because I saw that I was already been found and known.

The same compassion that drew me was now becoming me.

The same selflessness that kept me in God’s arms was quickly being revealed as my identity and destiny.

Since this began, I haven’t been able to see anyone the same. I am still friendly, but it is no longer my mask. I am not kind so that you will accept me; I am kind because I have already accepted you. And as I grow deeper and deeper in my understanding of what it means to be made in Love’s image, I watch the conditions of my compassion fading quickly away into nothingness. My fears are dissolving. My selfish agendas are becoming hard to find, even for myself. Bad days are very hard to come by, anymore, and this joy has nothing to do with better or worse circumstances.

And none of this is to brag, but to celebrate because the Gospel is much better than I ever imagined or anyone ever told me. The good news is freedom from the agony, weight and stress of selfish living. The good news is an acceptance and a happiness that can never be stolen. It all means that this world’s Maker has become my best friend, but He has seen me as a friend all along – even when I only sought Him for selfish gain or ignored Him completely.

What can the world do to someone that has died to himself? The image every person spends their life chasing down and striving for was given to us freely, but it is only found when we give up searching, striving and digging. We trade all our efforts for a simple trust in the faithfulness of the God who knew who we were long before we ever forgot. He remembered our true selves even at the height of our rebellion against His goodness.

And what was this rebellion?

To me, it was believing that I could live and function independent of an omniscient and life-giving Creator. It was to live as if I was trying to get away with something behind His back – to become something that my own Creator did not design me to fulfill. But when I saw the speed and endurance Love had as it chased me down, I finally relented my efforts.

And to relent was my repentance; God’s goodness changed my mind.

Love has taken me like a river. Why would I ever swim upstream again, now that I know its course was everything I was created to follow? My life can never be the same again, because this Gospel is a personal one.

The Heresy of Having a Clean Conscience

When I last read Acts, a story stood out to me that I had never noticed before. In all of my previous readings I somehow skimmed over this gem and missed out on the power (and humor) that this short story presents. I’ll let you read it for yourself,

“But on the next day, wishing to know for certain why he [Paul] had been accused by the Jews, he [the Roman military captain] released him and ordered the chief priests and all the council [Pharisees and Sadducees] to assemble, and brought Paul down and set him before them. Paul, looking intently at the council, said, “Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.” The high priest Ananias commanded those standing beside him to strike him on the mouth.” Acts 22:30-23:2

This excerpt may not appear to have much to it, but something about Paul’s one-line appeal to this council of Jewish-religionists was packed with offence and heresy! Paul, who by this time may have been known to this group as being a leader in a fast-growing Jewish cult, claimed to have something going for him that a room full of religious-professionals was very offended by. He dared to brag that his conscience was squeaky-clean, and he was smacked across the face for this sparkling-claim!

But why should they care?

This statement was heretical insomuch as even the best of the best religionist couldn’t attain it! Paul knew this all too well from his time as a Pharisee within the Jewish tradition. Before Christ blinded Saul (later named Paul) in the height of his career of terrorism against Christianity, this young man would have spent most of his life immersed in the Torah, given entirely over to studying, memorizing and obeying its many laws and traditions.

Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi gives a remarkable glimpse into just how dedicated and disciplined he was in those days,

“If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” Philippians 3:4-6

In his own words, Paul followed the Jewish traditions so rigorously, that nothing could have been pinned against him – that is an enormous claim for someone that is held accountable to 600+ laws and 10 commandments. But Paul doesn’t bring up his stellar resume for any more than renouncing the very program that he excelled in. He goes on to say, “…those things I have counted as LOSS for the sake of Christ,” Because despite his fame, knowledge and impressive self-discipline, Paul’s mind was in turmoil while he lived to obey the law – his conscience was against him.

Hear his inner-agony as Paul recalls what living by the law did for him,

“For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” Romans 7:14-24

This is the only place in all of Paul’s letters where he uses ‘I’ as frequently as he does in such a short literary-span. And it’s in these I’s that we see the incompletion of what the Law of Moses had to offer mankind. The Torah caused an already self-seeking humanity to look for solutions within themselves even more than they already did, under the impression that man could better himself or find his identity by what he could accomplish separate from God – the very mindset that’s essence is the antithesis of the Gospel: God’s single-handed restoration of mankind to himself.

To clarify, The Law in and of itself was not bad, but without the knowledge of Christ (unveiled through the New Testament) it could only fuel man’s rebellion, as sparked by mankind’s misunderstanding of their relationship to God. When humanity lost sight of their nature in the Garden of Eden, the mission of making an identity for one’s self began in the heart of each of us. But God’s triumphant declaration in Christ was that He had always loved humanity, and that we had carried His nature long before we ever went to create our own.

To make an identity by living under law and tradition was fickle – an individual could only be as good or bad as their last good or bad action!

To go back to our story of Paul being smacked for his bold remark: What was so heretical about this claim? He was suggesting that he lived guilt, shame and condemnation free to a council haunted by these same loud demons. Paul knew that his salvation and life had nothing to do with his strivings, and so he didn’t let his mind and feelings define who he was!

Pastor Dan Mohler summarizes this concept very well, “Guilt says, ‘I’m not forgiven’. Condemnation says, ‘My life is worthy of judgment’. Shame says, ‘This is still who I am’. [Each is] anti-gospel.”

While I wouldn’t wish anyone be smacked in the face for any reason, I will say that if you’re going to be hit, someone striking you out of their sheer jealousy for your freedom is a pretty cool cause for the momentary abuse. But whether this freedom only exists within your own mind or it is so loud that religion expels you for your heresy, I have only to wish that you live every day in your new-found liberty from guilt, shame and condemnation because those burdens are no longer yours to carry.

The Gospel, as far as religions are concerned, is the heretical belief that God’s love was so outrageously for you that He accepted and loved you long before you even considered Him.

Why Innocence Has Nothing to Do With Your Experiences

There is a lie in the world that says innocence can only be experienced in someone’s ignorance. We see the thoughts and behaviors of children and convince ourselves that we can never again relate to their bliss because our experience and knowledge have stolen that purity from us. We think that because we have seen, touched and experienced hardship or injustice that the weight of life is now our burden to bear, the world’s greatest curse becomes merely ‘growing up’.

But I would like to argue the case of a matured innocence, a purity that can only be found by those that have looked evil and adversity in the face. Because all of us will have these experiences, but when most of us encounter injustice and pain, we find a way of relating ourselves to that pain. We let experiences become our mirror and identify ourselves by how we have been wronged and the situations we’ve lived through. But the beauty of the Gospel is that when we see evil and darkness in this world, God reminds us that it has no part in us; he tells us that we are identified in His righteousness, purity, holiness and glory. Our mirror is not our circumstances – it is Christ.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” James 1:22-25

And what word has been planted in our hearts? Salvation: new life.

The beauty of the Gospel of Christ is that our identities are not set or shaken by our actions or what has been done and said against us. We are children of God and so the nature of fault-finding and living from our hurts is no longer how we have to take on this life. You are not a victim. Victory has already been given to you.

Our Creator tells us who we are so we never have to define ourselves by situations, again.

“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old selves and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator… as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:9-11

The purity of this new nature changes everything. It is not a reactive nature waiting for circumstances to determine who we are and so Paul tells his readers at Colossae how their new life should appear; in the same way that a parent might teach a child to walk, the legs are already there but kids don’t always see their ability to run. Notice that Paul called his readers ‘chosen, holy and loved’ before instructing them in the attributes that followed. Who they were needed to be understood before Paul could tell them how to live, or they would forever exist trying to make an identity for themselves by their good works. His readers were already formed in the likeness of Love; Paul was merely telling them what love looks like.

In what has come to be known as the Love Chapter in the Bible, Paul lists many things that we often attribute to being love by the good that is accomplished, but he explains these actions to not be love in and of themselves. Not even our good works can give us an identity or heart of love, and even remarkably kind actions can be done apart from the love’s nature. Love is more than choosing good actions over bad ones; there is a heart behind true love that is only found in living selflessly, like our Father.  Paul concludes by showing the Gospel to be an eternal unveiling of innocent, love nature that we have been given freely as sons and daughters of God,

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:11-12.

This is a beautiful hope and knowledge to grow in, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll ask if there is a shortcut to seeing this image more quickly revealed in yourself – and there is one:

Having grown up in a ‘church culture’, the warning, “Don’t pray for patience,” was a frequent joke and note of advice that many people took to heart. They saw scriptures pointing to hardships being a key in growing one’s patience and they purposely avoided asking God to mature their patience because no one wanted to be made uncomfortable for the sake of maturing. But by this mindset of pain-avoidance, we are forfeiting ourselves from seeing the full power of the Gospel at work in and through our lives. We are no longer identified by our circumstances, and so we are empowered to take on anything life throws our way without wearing our situations; instead, we change them. After all, what better way to shine than for light to stand in darkness? What better way to see God’s supernatural power than to be immersed in sink or swim situations?

When we do not allow our circumstances to define us, everything that once harmed us will only cause our new nature to shine brighter, but you will never find that out until you step full force into the situations that would have previously scarred, burned and defined you!

In Daniel 3, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego could have easily avoided the fire by following the crowd, but the whole point and beauty of their story is the fourth man that joined them in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace. If the gospel was about God helping us avoid hard circumstances, we might come to form doctrines of how close or far God is to us based on what is going right and wrong in our lives. But we serve a Lord that is with us through every fire.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

To live your life for no more than avoiding hardship, Jesus’ words here will probably frighten you; but to live for the unveiling of your and other’s identities, there could not be a more inspiring benediction. No matter where you go, what you encounter or what tries to rise against you, the innocence of your heart will only be sharpened because nothing can defile what God has made clean.

Why I Won’t Always Pray For You When You Ask

Four and a half years ago, I discovered a very simple, but powerful truth about the God I had believed in most of my life: He loves to answer prayers.

I began seeing God respond supernaturally to an incredible-many of the requests that I brought to him. Sometimes that would mean healing for someone, another time it would mean provision or understanding. Sometimes the answers were practical and expected; while other times they were simply bizarre and unnecessary – no more than fulfilled wishes that had crossed my mind in a particular day. And I don’t say any of this to show off or brag, or that anyone should consider me more loved or favored than someone else; because I honestly believe this ought to be expected and normal within the life of every Christian. I’m sharing from what I presume each of us is invited to walk in (and much more so). We are possessed by the Creator of the universe, after all.

But early on in this discovery of God’s supernatural tendencies, I found myself being asked to pray for a lot of people and situations. I began receiving numerous Facebook messages, texts and phone calls; each asking me to pray for a particular need or desire. I loved it! I was so honored that I could bless other’s lives by simply talking to a God I already wanted to chat with in the first place.

But as I’ve matured, my appreciation for truth has strongly influenced the prayers I say. Often, the very things people will request from God, are freedoms that have already been provided for, and my prayers do little more than show an unbelief for what the Bible says was already imparted to each of us. As Bethel Church’s pastor, Bill Johnson, so greatly puts,

 “The biggest enemy to prayer is praying for what you already have,”

and so I won’t always pray for what people ask of me.

The gospel is about believing what God says instead of what our situations, world view and other spheres of influence speak about our lives. In the same way that your repentance and prayer did not send Jesus to the cross (He died for you while you were still lost and ensnared by sin, Romans 5:6;8) but rather, repentance and prayer served as a response to His love, growing in our understanding of what was given to us by Christ’s finished work at the cross and resurrection will continue to renew and transform us, every day. Truth setting us free can be a daily experience when we live to grow in the knowledge of it.

None of this is to say that I will not pray for the person that presents need or request; it just means I may remind that person of their identity in Christ first, and then change the request slightly to keep both of us in an understanding and belief in truth.

If you ask me to pray that God would love you or a family member more, I’ll remind you of His unending love and I may pray that you believe in it more than ever before.

If you ask me to pray that temptations go away, I’ll remind you that you received an entirely new nature that is not ruled by sin and then I may pray that God brings a greater understanding of that new nature.

If you ask me to pray that you grow closer to God, I’ll remind you that He has come to live inside of you and I may pray that you never stop believing in His closeness to you.

There are real needs in the world, I would never deny that. But sometimes love does not mean praying for everything that is asked of us to pray. That is kind, yes; but love is much better than kindness. Love will give everything to unveil Truth in those that don’t see it for themselves, and I will proudly pass up a prayer when I can watch Truth bring immediate and everlasting freedom to a friend in need.

“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.” C.S Lewis