Resurrected Living
"What are you going to do with your new resurrected life? This is the heroic question." Richard Rohr

Jul
13

03 - Dodd-Levins

This is a guest post by Danny Dodd.

Ordinary is an interesting word. It was a word once used for some of Christ’s disciples (see Acts 4:13). It usually denotes “nothing special,” “average,” “normal.” Nothing to see here, so just keep moving on.

An ordinary story? I’ll pass. Give me the extra-ordinary; the dramatic; the one filled with exciting special affects; the tearjerkers. Those move the needle. Those create blockbusters and best sellers. Ordinary is just not interesting.

Until it is.

Until ordinary reveals something else.

Those Jesus followers in Acts 4 certainly were ordinary guys without any special pedigree, but yet there was something quite different about them.

What was it?

It was noted that they “had been with Jesus.” Jesus has a way of making ordinary interesting.

I am not sure that LaVelle Travis (L.T.) Blevins would ever be considered just ordinary, but his story has ordinary beginnings. Born during the Great Depression in the small backwater Arkansas delta community of Gordneck, L.T. grew up like so many others of his era—poor but happily surrounded by a loving family.

Again like thousands of his contemporaries, L.T. answered his nation’s call and served in the U.S. Navy during both WWII and the Korean conflict. He married his sweetheart, began a family, started a successful small business and worked diligently to provide and care for them.

On the surface—this describes an ordinary life. It was the kind lived all across America. Yes, he lost his first wife too soon. He retired early to care for her. Later he had serious health concerns of his own from which he was not expected to survive. But really that is all fairly common. It is normal. L.T. Blevins? Not much interesting to see here, so let’s just keep moving on.

But before you do, I ask you to look a little closer. There is more to this ordinary story. Remember how I stated that Jesus has a way of making the ordinary interesting? If you spend any time around L.T. Blevins it becomes obvious. He has “been with Jesus.”

He just turned eighty-eight years old. The ever-present twinkle in his eye reveals a joyful soul shaped through the years by his relationship with Christ. He has this wonderful adventurous side that once led him to wrangle horses on the back lots of Hollywood movie westerns after WWII; ride across the country on a Harley knucklehead motorcycle; fly (and crash) without lessons or licenses in small planes; and physically build a lake house with his second wife, Kathleen, while in his seventies. He has all kinds of extraordinary stories to share.

But his most extraordinary stories are about being with Jesus. They are about his beloved Levy Church of Christ in North Little Rock, Arkansas; it’s beginnings; it’s growth; it’s ministry. He has been here through it all—serving as teacher, shepherd, cook, missionary, and everything in between.

Always here. Always faithful.

He reared his family here—now into their fourth generation. He carried the burden of leadership. He made personal and financial sacrifices for the Levy family. He mentored the current generation of leaders. He did not waver. He never created any drama. He is a peacemaker, a visionary and a great friend to preachers.

He has been with Jesus. Just an ordinary man in some ways, made extraordinary through faith in the Christ; just another boy from the Arkansas countryside, but one whose legacy of quiet dedication to God, family and church continues to shape and influence them.

He is a part of what has been tagged “the greatest generation.” Great—because of sacrifice, hard work and personal integrity. Once this was just considered ordinary and normal. It was simply how you were supposed to be.

It certainly does describe L.T. But that is not why this “ordinary” man is great. Rather:

The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. – Matthew 23:11-12

The power in this story really is found in the Christ and in the good, humble man who allowed Jesus to do the extraordinary within him.

L.T. inspires me. Throughout his life he just consistently did the right thing without any big fuss. It is an ordinary story, but it is not. It is a story of quiet and consistent faith lived out through the normal variations of life, but never wavering.

I remember one summer camp session where several people shared their faith stories with the campers. All were dramatic and meaningful. One brother showed the needle marks on his arm and gave God the glory for empowering him to overcome his addiction. It certainly was a powerful story.

But there is also the need to share the power in stories absent of all of this—a story of faith that never ventured away. That is the power I see in L.T. Blevin’s story and in his person and that is why it is so meaningful to me.

It is the kind of life I wish to live and for my children—just consistently being with Jesus everyday in a normal, ordinary, drama-free, yet incredible kind of way.

Danny Dodd is the preaching minister for the Levy Church of Christ in North Little Rock, AR. He is originally from Greenville, MS. His wife is Terri, originally from Melbourne, AR. Their daughters are Taylor (13) and Jordan (9). Danny also has served at the Gateway church in Pensacola, FL; as a resident missionary in Vilnius, Lithuania; and in churches in Mississippi.

Jul
11

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At the end of 2 Corinthians, Paul encourages the congregation to “examine yourselves.” In the book of Philippians, he says to “work out your salvation.” The focus throughout much of Paul’s letter is what we can do as individuals to bring about positive change in our lives. Religious people are sometimes known for telling other people what to do with their lives (This criticism is sometimes true, but other times it is an exaggeration), but our main focus should be on our own lives. Why? It is not because we are not concerned about others. We are, and we should seek to share Jesus with as many people as possible. We need to focus on our own lives because that is the life we have control over.

In the book of 1 Peter, we are reminded to always be a good example. We are to be a good example in a culture that does not acknowledge God (1 Pet. 2:11-12). We are to be a good example while living under a government that does not share our values (1 Pet. 2:13-17). We are to be a good example while working for someone who may be mean or even abusive (1 Pet. 2:18-20). We are to be a good example when married to a spouse who is an unbeliever (1 Pet. 3:1-2). We are to be a good example by imitating Jesus in our lives (1 Pet. 2:21-25). Peter never advises us to protest, argue, or criticize those around us. Instead, we are to focus on our behavior and actions so that someone may ask us about the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15).

By striving to live a Christian life we are caring for others by imitating Jesus in their presence. This is likely to have a greater impact on them than any critique we may offer. It is easy to point out the flaws in someone else. It is much more difficult to change our own lives to look like Jesus, but this is exactly what we are called to do. We cannot change the behavior of another individual simply by screaming louder at them than they are screaming at us. We can change our own behavior, and we can greatly influence others by loving them and showing them the blessings of living the Christian life.

Jul
09

02 Holly Barrett - Recovery Story

This is a guest post by Holly Barrett.

There comes a day in every recovery story where the rock bottom floor gets too uncomfortable. It’s cold and dark and miserable. My body aches for the release my habits bring but my head says I just can’t go there again. I gut it out until I just don’t have any guts left.

It’s a long fall to get to the bottom. Along the way there are signposts and blinking billboards that tell you life will always be this way. The map of your life is laid out and there is no detour you can take. Your choices are already set into the route so you might as well just follow it anyway. The lies repeat themselves until you decide they must be truth. And even though you can see the end of this route, and it’s totally not where you want to go, you decide there is nothing you can do to stop it. And so the cycle repeats itself.

A friend once told me that when the pain gets to a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, change becomes attractive. Because surely the pain of change can’t be as bad as the pain of the habit. On this day the pain scale rises to 100 and I determine there has to be a better way. 

Flipping open my Bible, I land in Romans. A hard book to understand sometimes, to be sure. What could I possibly see anew in a book I’d read many times before? It starts with the question of continuing in sin, banking on the love of God and His continuing grace and forgiveness to save us. Been there, done that. That’s where I was living every day. The lie that I can do what I want, handle my problems with my own brand of feel-good release and still be okay with God. The lie ringing louder, but more hollow, every time the cycle repeated. 

As I prayed to be open and to receive true release from the darkness, my eyes fell on these words,

“Could it be any clearer? Our old way of life was nailed to the cross with Christ, a decisive end to that sin-miserable life—no longer at sin’s every beck and call! What we believe is this: If we get included in Christ’s sin-conquering death, we also get included in his life-saving resurrection.

That means you must not give sin a vote in the way you conduct your lives. Don’t give it the time of day. Don’t even run little errands that are connected with that old way of life. Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God.” Romans 6:6-7, 12-14 MSG

It couldn’t be any clearer! My sin didn’t have any power over me beyond what I let it have. I was elevating it to the power of the truth of God’s word and the truth of what Jesus did on the cross. I was giving sin a vote…every day. I was running sin’s little errands…every day.

Until that very moment when I realized that Jesus had recalculated the route. He broke open the HOV lane for me to bypass the detours that nearly derailed my life.

It wasn’t easy…and there was still a long road ahead. Many days spent in prayer and planning with those who provided the rest stops of accountability and a new route. But suddenly I saw that it was possible. 

Beth Moore wrote in So Long, Insecurity: You’ve Been a Bad Friend to Us,

“We’re going to have to let truth scream louder to our souls than the lies that have infected us.”

The power of a recovery story lies in the truth. The truth that God’s word always trumps the lies. The truth that Jesus’ power always trumps the enemy’s. The truth that I could access the very same power that raised Jesus from the dead to raise me from the death and depths of rock bottom.

Your truth lies there too. When you hit 10…or 100…on the pain scale, Jesus will be waiting. Waiting, with the power of your own recovery story.

Let God’s truth scream into your soul today. 

Holly Solomon Barrett is a minister, speaker and writer who encourages all people to reclaim the redeemed life they have been given in Christ. She currently serves as Assistant Director of Residential Life for the ministry of The Crossnore School in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains of NC. Holly’s greatest earthly joys are her adult children and three precious grandchildren. To connect with Holly, visit www.hollybarrett.org.

Jul
06

summerblogtour

This is a guest post by Steve Ridgell

Jesus often used stories to illustrate how to live as his disciples. I believe hearing the stories of Jesus still equip us to live out his call on our lives. And here is one example of how I think that works.

I have often heard people talk about the Great Commission passage in Matthew 28, but I wonder if we have missed what it means. It is too easy to simply make the point that “go into all the world” means go out of your front door and into your world.

What does that mean in terms of real life action? I believe Jesus explains exactly how his followers go into their world and make other followers. I think he shows how to go, where to go, and what to do when we get there.

Listen to the stories he told about going into your world.

How do I go? I go living forgiven.

She was a woman caught in adultery. The response by those who caught her was the familiar refrain of guilt, shame, and feelings of worthlessness. But Jesus offered forgiveness, not condemnation. And then he told her to “go and leave your life of sin”. Go back among her friends and family as a changed person. Live forgiven. That is how we demonstrate the truth that Jesus changes lives. We are the living examples of God’s work in this world.

Where do I go? To those in need – and then serve them intentionally.

The story of the Good Samaritan was told to illustrate who is our neighbor. It is the story of a man who saw someone in need and then did something about it. He cared for them. Your world, your neighborhood, is full of hurting people in need of help. Physical needs, emotional needs, spiritual needs. Sick people, abused people, lonely people, addicted people. The last thing Jesus said after the story of the Good Samaritan was for us to “go and do the same.” So we go into our world as servants committed to helping others. But we do it with purpose.

We serve intentionally in the name of Jesus. This gives us credibility to speak into lives. Our lives are living proof that Jesus works. Our service is the proof that the Jesus story is worth hearing.

What do I do when I go? Speak with courage the story of Jesus.

He fought so many demons he was called Legion. He was lonely and in pain. Jesus met him, connected with him, and healed him. When Jesus left that place, Legion was ready to go with him. He was all in for a mission trip with Jesus. Except that Jesus told him no. Instead, he told him to go home to his family and tell them what the Lord had done for him and how he had mercy on him.

Our lives give credibility to the story of Jesus. Our service gives opportunity to share that story. But you will not make followers of Jesus in your world until you tell them the good news of Jesus. Tell your story. Tell His story. And invite them to become part of the story.

Go into all the world. Go into your world.

Live Forgiven.

Serve with Purpose.

Speak with Courage.

And you will make followers… who will make followers… who will make followers.

Steve Ridgell lives to share the story of Jesus with this world. In addition to his work as Director of Ministry for Hope for Life, Steve is a regular writer for Heartlight.org and has written books. His latest book is Can I Tell You a Story?

Steve also serves as an elder at the Southern Hills church of Christ in Abilene, Texas.

Jun
29

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My house is anything but quiet. If you have ever experienced the combined noise levels of a six-year-old and ten-month-old boy, then you know it can get loud quick. The noise rarely ceases from the time they wake up until the moment they go to bed. My wife and I enjoy the joyful sounds of our children, but we also cherish the few moments of quiet we get in the early mornings and late at night. When I get out of bed I softly tip-toe around the house in the hopes I will get to enjoy one cup of coffee before anyone wakes up. Silence is a precious gift.

Researchers tell us our world is getting louder and louder. It’s hard to find a quiet place or a moment of silence. We are surrounded by noise all the time. Sirens, Cars, Television, Radio, Airplanes, Construction, Trains, and much much more. Quietness is a rare commodity in our day and age.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, the author offers an interesting piece of wisdom.

“Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.” (Eccl. 4:6)

Qoheleth is offering some insight on what it means to have a meaningful and happy life. He says instead of gripping our work with two hands, we should have a handful of quietness.

If this were the only verse about this subject, then it might be hard to figure out what the author of Ecclesiastes is getting at, but we find verses throughout the Bible about being quiet. Here are a few.

The psalmist in Psalm 46:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Knowing God has something to do with stillness and being quiet.

In Isaiah the prophet looks forward to a time when God will make all things right. He says,


“My people will abide in a peaceful habitation
 in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.” (Isa. 32:18)

We long for quiet resting places. This is a desire deep within us. It is part of our design. It is who we are, but what do we find in those moments of stillness? Why are they so special?

Perhaps, we find the answer in 1 Kings 19:11-12.

“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

The psalmist said be still and know God. After searching in the wind, fire, and earthquake, Elijah encounters God in a gentle whisper.

In the New Testament, Jesus instructs his followers to pray by going into an empty room and shutting the door (Matt. 6:6). There is something about the stillness and quietness of an empty room that assists us in our communication with God.

I struggle with finding times to be still. I need times of silence and quietness, but I admit they do not come very often.

Last week I got to experience more quiet time than usual. My wife and I went on a retreat in the Texas hill country. We stayed at a lodge in a canyon in the middle of nowhere. There was no cell phone service. There was no internet service. We were surrounded by trees, rivers, hills, birds, and wildlife. It was quiet. This allowed me time to clear my thoughts and focus on God. In the quietness of the canyon, I was able to reflect on God more than usual. This was a blessing. After four days, I felt refreshed. I felt a sense of peace, and I felt I was able to draw closer to God, not by getting away, but by being still and learning to be quiet.

The Bible is clear. We need moments of quietness in our lives. Quietness blesses us. It refreshes us, and it helps us draw closer to God.

May you find quiet times in your life where you are able to be still and know God.

Jun
25

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“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21)

One of the greatest challenges for Christians is doing. We have no problem with believing. We talk a lot about what we believe. We argue about what beliefs are important. We post belief statements on websites. It is important to know what we believe, but it is just as important to act upon those beliefs. Jesus does not say, “Believe me.” He says, “Follow me.” Walking in the footsteps of Jesus is essential to being a Christian. The disciples did not always believe the right things (e.g. Matt. 16:23), but they continued to follow Jesus. The doing eventually led them to the right beliefs.

At the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), Jesus turns his attention to doing. In Matt. 7:24 he says that a wise person is someone who hears his words and acts upon them. In Matt. 7:21 he makes it known that only those who do the will of the Father will enter the kingdom. What is it that we must do? It is everything he has already mentioned in Matt. 5-7. These words are like an invitation. He is telling the people who have just listened to this sermon that they now need to put these things into practice.

The Sermon on the Mount is full of things to do that many consider difficult. We are to love our enemies (Matt. 5:44). We are required to turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39). Jesus says, “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” (Matt. 5:42). We are to give to the poor (Matt. 6:3). We are to devote ourselves to prayer (Matt. 6:9-13). We are to fast (Matt. 6:16). We are to follow the golden rule (Matt. 7:12). There are lots of things Jesus wants us to do in this sermon, and at the end of the sermon he does not say, “Believe these things.” He says, “Do these things.”

“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:14-17)

Jun
11

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“Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Tim. 4:13)

The New Testament does not provide us with a clear picture of what an early Christian worship service looked like. We cannot go to one chapter or one book to find a full description of worship. Instead, we pick up hints and pieces along the way. While observing a Passover meal, Jesus institutes a new practice known as the Lord’s Supper (Luke 22:14-23). We know that the Lord’s Supper was a meal that included bread and wine to remember the sacrifice of Jesus (1 Cor. 11:17-34). Worship included the singing of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Col. 3:16). The singing done in the early church was more like chanting. There was no four-part harmony, but instead they would chant the psalms and perhaps other parts of Scripture like Philippians 2:6-11. Of course, there was teaching and preaching, and then there was the “public reading of Scripture” (1 Tim. 4:13). This was something different from teaching and preaching. It was to be done on its own.

When we gather to worship there should be a public reading of Scripture. It is important that we hear not only from the preacher, but that we also hear from the word of God. God’s voice needs to be present in worship assemblies. In the early church the Gospels, Paul’s letters, and other NT documents were read aloud in the assembly. Moses commanded that the law be read aloud every seven years (Deut. 31:9-12). A priest or worship leader may read the entire passage themselves, but sometimes the congregation was asked to join in the reading of God’s word. For instance, some passages of Scripture were designed for congregational participation. One of the most famous of these passages is Psalm 136 where the refrain “for his steadfast love endures forever” is repeated 26 times.

A responsive reading where the congregation participates in the reading of Scripture is beneficial in many ways. It is more in engaging than if one person stands to read. When a single person reads a lengthy passage it is easy to zone out, but when we are asked to participate we are more focused on what is being read. We pay attention to the words because we have a part in the reading. We read Scripture in worship because we want to be formed by God’s word. We all learn in different ways. We learn by hearing, seeing, and speaking. When we read Scripture together, we are not only hearing it but we are also speaking it. This means it has a better chance of sinking in and shaping us into the people God would have us to be.

In worship, we are accustomed to hearing the word of God read aloud. We often sing songs that are taken directly from Scripture. We hear together. We sing together, and we should on occasion read together. Reading God’s holy word aloud together as a community of believers is something the people of God did in the Old Testament. It is a practice that was continued in the early church, and it is something we should seek to do today.

Jun
04

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“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking” (Matt. 6:7, KJV).

The phrase “vain repetitions” comes from the translation of Matthew 6:7 in the King James version. It is a translation of the Greek word battalogeo. This is the only time this word is found in the entire New Testament. It is related to the Greek word battalos which means stutterer. The ESV translates this word as “empty phrases” and the NIV translates it as “babbling.” Jesus used it to describe the prayers of Gentiles. These pagan prayers contained “many words” and it sounded like “babbling.”

Jesus is arguing for simplicity in prayer. Immediately following this warning he gives what we know as the Lord’s prayer (Matt. 6:9-13). He instructs us to “Pray then in this way…” (Matt. 6:9). In the Gospel of Luke, he gives the same prayer again and says, “When you pray, say…” (Luke 11:2). We are commanded not just to use his prayer as an example, but also to pray the very words he prayed. This means that “vain repetitions” does not refer to using prayers that have been handed down over the years. The Jewish people prayed the Psalms, and even Jesus prayed them from the cross (Matt. 27:46). They prayed the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9) multiple times each day. Jesus never condemned this practice. In fact, he speaks favorably of the Shema and calls it the greatest command (Luke 10:25-28). Jesus condemned the Jewish people for praying just to be heard (Matt. 6:5), but he never says anything about them using the same prayers over and over again. Praying the prayers we find in Scripture is not “vain repetition.”

What is condemned in Matt. 6:7 is “vain repetition” and not simply repetition. There is nothing wrong with repeating something. In fact, this could be a beneficial practice. In Psalm 136 the phrase “for his steadfast love endures forever” is repeated 26 times. The word of God is not “vain repetition.” Psalm 136 is not “vain repetition.” The repetition of certain phrases within God’s word can help mold and shape us. It can help to remind us of God’s faithfulness and enduring love. When we sing a song on Sunday morning, we often sing the chorus multiple times. We are repeating the same words over and over again, but this is not “vain repetition.” Repetition is not condemned in the Bible. What is condemned is “vain repetition.”

When Jesus used this phrase in Matt. 6:7, it referred to something specific. It referred to pagan prayers that sounded like babbling and were full of many words that had no meaning. Our prayers are to be simple prayers from the heart. The idea of something being vain refers to the condition of our heart. We can sincerely say the Lord’s prayer and mean every word, or we can mumble through the words and not mean any of them. We can stand before the congregation and pray a prayer from the bottom of our heart, or we can get up and just say what pops in our head and maybe throw in some phrases we have picked up over the years (e.g. guide, guard, and direct). We can stand and read Psalm 136 together focusing on the steadfast love of the Lord, or we can think about how silly it is to read together and never contemplate on the deep love of God. We can make anything vain. The choice is up to us. Are we truly worshipping God on Sunday mornings, or are we just going through the motions? One is vain worship and the other is not.

May
07

One of the most trying times when you are a parent of small children is nap time. Both of my boys fight sleep. If you lay them down, then they cry. If you try to rock them, they kick and wiggle around and won’t stay still. If you let them stay up, then they are cranky and fussy. They need sleep, but they don’t understand that. Their goal is to avoid the one thing they need the most. This can be frustrating as a parent, but you respond with patience and love until eventually they lay down their little head and close their eyes.

The truth is we all need rest, and sometimes adults are just as bad at avoiding it as small children. Rest is a theme throughout the Bible. The first things we learn about God is that he is the Creator and on the seventh day he rested. Later in the Bible, Sabbath will become an important concept for the people of God. This day of rest would set them apart from the other nations around them. The concept of Sabbath was bigger than just one day. There was a Sabbath year. Sabbath was extended to animals and the land. Sabbath is where we get the modern idea of a sabbatical. Jesus also finds time to rest. He withdraws to be alone and pray (Luke 5:16). If Jesus and God needed to set aside time to rest, then shouldn’t we also?

Why is there so much attention given to rest within the Bible? It seems like something that is ordinary. At first glance, it looks like an idea that is simple and does not need to be taught. The problem is that God knows we are like small children, and we need to be reminded to rest over and over again. If not, then we will skip it, and we will not get the rest for our soul that we desperately need. There are multiple kinds of rest. We need rest each night. We need a day or two of rest each week from our jobs. We need times throughout the year where we can get away and maybe spend time with family. We also need times where we can be alone and reflect on our lives and pray. Rest refreshes us. Rest reenergizes us. Rest allows us to gather our thoughts and recenter our lives on what is important. Rest is a time to reflect on God and his creation and praise the one who has blessed us beyond measure.

“The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. And he said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.'” (Mark 6:30-31)

Apr
17

Canada Island

1 Corinthians 13 is one of the more well-known chapters within the Bible. It is read at weddings. It is quoted by religious and non-religious people. It is a meditation on love. We are called to love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19). The two greatest commands are to love God and love others. God is love, and we are to imitate God. Love is an important topic for Christians. It is also a challenging topic. None of us have mastered the two greatest commands. None of us have perfected our imitation of God. We love, but we often do it imperfectly. We need practice. We need to keep pursuing love.

The greatest example of love is Jesus on the cross, but most of us need something more practical. We are in awe of the cross. We are moved by the cross. We see the cross and we see love, but most of us will never achieve a level of love like that. God understands this, and so we are given other examples and instructions. Love for our neighbor is defined in the story of the good Samaritan. Paul describes love for us in 1 Corinthians 13. He presents various ways we can practice love. In verse 7 he writes, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Paul explains in this verse what love looks like in the communities in which we live. This is what love looks like in the church. This is what love looks like in our families. This is what love looks like on the job.

What makes a strong community is trust. As Christians, we are called to believe the best about a person. Love means that we hope for the best and work toward that outcome. When trouble arrives, we are to bear the burdens of others and endure the hard times. We do not abandon people. We do not give up on people. We do not gossip or turn our back on others. A strong church is one built on trust. When we trust each other, we strengthen the bonds of friendship. Trust allows us to learn from one another. Trust means we are comfortable confessing our sins. Doubt will destroy a church. When we doubt we will not confess. When we doubt we will not develop the friendships we need. When we doubt we will not learn from others because we will always be leery. Pride grabs a hold of us, and we think we know better. Trust means we are humble. Trust means we are sometimes vulnerable. We love by learning how to trust and by growing together in Christ. This is what it means to become a mature Christian.

May we imitate Jesus as we practice bearing the burdens of others, trusting one another, hoping the best for one another, and enduring whatever obstacles get in our way. May we be patient and kind with one another as we walk in the ways of love.

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