Excelling in Love

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more,
1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 NIV

A group of 4-8 year-olds was asked, “What does love mean?” Here are some of their answers:

“When my grandmother got arthritis, she couldn’t bend over and paint her toenails anymore so my grandfather does it for her all the time, even when his hands got arthritis, too. That’s love.”

“Love is when a girl puts on perfume and a boy puts on shaving cologne and they go out and smell each other.”

“Love is what makes you smile when you’re tired.”

“If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.”

“Love is when you go out to eat and give somebody most of your French fries without making them give you any of theirs.”

Our world struggles to define real love. But even when we can define love correctly, we still struggle with being loving.

These two verses teach us several principles about love.

God’s example of love sets the standard.

The only way to love as He loves is to let Him love through us.

God puts no restrictions on the people we must love.

The first part of verse 10 reveals the Thessalonians love for all. Again, here is an example of a church with a vibrant testimony. They loved all the brothers. Some people are harder to love than others, but we must love those folks too.

God puts no limits on how much we should love. 

We are to excel in love. Regardless of how much we love, we can always love more.

Find someone today who needs love.

Praying for the Nations

On August 13, I began preaching on the subject of prayer. I have benefitted from this study. I concluded the preaching series yesterday, but I sincerely trust that we will forever be growing into a “House of Prayer.”

Yesterday, I preached from the text in Matthew that gives us this sentence:

“Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

The context is a summary of Jesus’ ministry. (Matthew 9:35-38) The specific passage also immediately precedes Jesus’ appointment of the disciples who are being tasked to go to those who need to hear about Jesus. Therefore, the summary passage at the end of Matthew 9 gives us an excellent point of view from Scripture regarding the primacy of prayer in the endeavor of preaching the Gospel to the nations.

Praying for the nations is a command.

What specifically are we to pray?

We are to pray “to the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

I find this interesting. We are not commanded to pray for the harvest. We are to pray for workers. The implication is clear. The harvest takes care of itself if the workers go.

This Prayer for the nations is…

Consistent with the Situation.

The News is Good—The Gospel is good. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But, God, in His love, loved us while we were sinners. He proved His love toward us in this way: He died for sinners. And, if we confess with our mouths, having believed in our hearts, we can be saved. We will be saved from our sin, forgiven from our sin, and saved for everlasting life to be with God forever. That is good news!

The Needs are Great—Jesus saw. He felt compassion. Real compassion always leads to action. At the least, seeing the needs ought to lead us to the action of prayer.

The Harvest is Ready—As Christian cultural commentator Jim Denison writes: More people are coming to Christ today than at any time in Christian history.

The Workers are Few—What was true when Jesus spoke these words is still true today.

Confident in the Savior.

The early disciples of Jesus understood that the missionary endeavor depended upon prayer. As a matter of fact, they understood that everything depended upon prayer. We have this example to pray. Then, in Acts 13, we have another example to pray. Before sending out the first missionary team, the Bible says that the church met, fasted and prayed, then sent the team. The first great missionary, the Apostle Paul asked the Colossian church to pray for him with these words:

Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray for us that God may open a door to us for the message, to speak the mystery of the Messiah. (Colossians 4:2-3)

A Commitment that every Saved person can make.

We have multiple opportunities to go. This year, folks from our church have gone to Brazil, Haiti, Alaska, and Romania. We have a couple of young men who will go on our behalf in a few days to Nicaragua. We have people from our church who have been sent to the far corners of the world. We rejoice in this. Others have given. We all participate weekly when we give our offering to this local church. Not all can go. Not all can give, especially large sums of money. But here is something that every single person can do and yet few really do. We can all pray.

When Jesus cleared out the Temple that day and proclaimed, “It is written, My house will be called a house of prayer,” he was quoting the prophet Isaiah. For reasons that we will never know for sure, either Jesus did not give Isaiah’s whole statement or Matthew did not record that Jesus gave Isaiah’s whole statement. (This is more likely because the parallel passage of Mark 11:17 includes an additional phrase.) But, if we go to Isaiah 56:7, we learn that Isaiah had an additional phrase: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

Let it be so!

(This post is based on the message “How to Pray for the Nations” which you can watch at fbclaf.org/video)

Are We Ready?

I love football. This is my time of the year. But, I didn’t have a good football weekend. The high school I played for lost and is now 0-3. The college I played for lost and is now 1-2. The local college, Louisiana’s Ragin Cajuns lost. Our state school, LSU, got embarrassed. And the Saints . . . well you know.

I don’t make a lot of predictions, but let me make a minority prediction on one of those teams—LSU. Everything will be fine, maybe even better. I wouldn’t be shocked if they do not lose another game. To be more conservative in my prognostication, they will probably lose one (yeah, unfortunately, that one) and maybe two, but no more.

Why such optimism after a terrible and embarrassing performance? It’s what I read in the paper this morning (yeah, I still do that and love it). Coach O said, “We didn’t practice well last Tuesday and Wednesday.” That’s it! Take nothing away from Mississippi State. They have a great team and played a great game. But, LSU did not prepare well. I don’t think the average fan has enough appreciation for how hard it is to win. Winning doesn’t just happen. Preparation is necessary

We see in athletics what lack of preparation will do. Lack of preparation in our spiritual lives has the same effect but with dire results.

Consider what the Scriptures say about our preparation in several key areas.

1. We must be prepared to share our faith. “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:15

2. We must be prepared to fight the enemy, Satan. “This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand.” Ephesians 6:14

3. We must be prepared for the return of Christ. “You also be ready, because the Son of Man is coming at an hour that you do not expect.” (Luke 12:40)

4. We must be prepared to meet God. “Therefore, Israel, that is what I will do to you, and since I will do that to you, Israel, prepare to meet your God!” (Amos 4:12)

Are we ready?