Loving God More

Loving God is an interesting thing. Many Christians think that they love God simply because they say that they love God. But loving God surely has to be more than just an affirmation. It’s too easy just to say it.

I can say that I love someone without it really being true.

When Jesus was asked to name the greatest of all of the commandments in the Bible, He said: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37). He identified this as the first (in priority) and greatest of all of the commandments that God has given us.

We are to love God with every fiber of our being. Loving God is of no little importance.

But how to do it is the issue.

How can we love God more?

This morning I read this passage which sheds some light on the subject. Jesus said: To whom little is forgiven, the same loves little (Luke 7:47).

Loving God begins with understanding just how much we have been forgiven. Without a proper understanding of our indebtedness we will never love Him the way we should.

The event that led up His statement was a dinner to which Jesus had been invited. During the meal a woman who possessed a less than stellar reputation came into the room and began to act rather strangely.

A brief explanation will help us understand the situation. When guests visited a home they would be greeted with a kiss on the check similar to the custom of some cultures today.

Then because of the hot climate some provision would be made to have the dusty feet of the guests washed before they reclined on low-lying cushioned “couches” or mats arranged around a central table. Depending on the exact arrangement of the mats, it was possible for the feet of another guest to be a little too close to your nose. Not a pleasant thought if their feet had not been washed.

Apparently the normal customs were not provided at this particular dinner.

Back to the woman and her strange behavior. The story says that she began to wash and dry the feet of Jesus. Nothing too strange at this point – these were accepted norms in the culture. It would not have been unusual for the other guests, if they were not paying close attention, to assume that she was one of the house servants.

But she went beyond what was expected and began to kiss his feet and to anoint them with a fragrant oil. Definitely not normal behavior.

If the other guests, however, were paying attention they would have noticed something unusual in the demeanor of the woman. She was in deep anguish of soul. The text says that she stood at His feet behind Him weeping: and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wipe them with the hair of her head (Matthew 7:38). Definitely not normal behavior.

That brings us to the question: What produced this unusual action?

The clue is in the words of Jesus: To whom little is forgiven, the same loves little (Luke 7:47).

This woman was not just a sinner – she was a sinner who had been forgiven. And she understood the magnitude of her forgiveness. She understood that she had sinned greatly and that God had forgiven her greatly. This was no little thing to her.

Her love for Jesus sprang out of her understanding of her forgiveness.

The same will be true in our lives. When we understand our forgiveness it will lead us to not only say that we love God, but to demonstrate our love the way this woman demonstrated her love.

Those who understand just how much they have been forgiven by God will be the ones who Love God More and it will be reflected in their behavior.

Stay in the Word

Pastor Steve


Never Be Satisfied – Yet

Being satisfied is a dangerous thing. So is being dissatisfied. Satisfaction can lead to complacency; dissatisfaction can lead to frustration. But satisfaction can also lead to a sense of peace and dissatisfaction can push us to attempt greater things.

So how do you know when to be satisfied and when to be dissatisfied?

That’s a personal call that will differ by individual and circumstances.

As far as the Christian life goes there is a danger in ever being satisfied. As long as we are on this earth there will always be room for improvement. When we stop growing spiritually we become spiritually stagnate. There should always be a nagging sense of dissatisfaction somewhere deep within us.

If there isn’t, something is wrong.

The Apostle Paul expressed his dissatisfaction with this life and all that it had to offer and a longing for something better.

Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Romans 12:24

We ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:23

That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Philippians 3:10-12

Christians should never be satisfied with lingering sin; never satisfied with our level of love for Christ, our spiritual growth, our commitment, or our service; never satisfied with this life or what the world has to offer us.

In fact there should be a high level of dissatisfaction. Don’t be satisfied to be who you are. Until we see Him we are incomplete, imperfect, unfinished as it were.

But there should also be a certain satisfaction that we have because of Jesus.

We should be satisfied in His love; we should be satisfied with who we are in Him; we should be satisfied with what He is doing in our lives; we should be satisfied in the prospects of eternity with Him.

In short, we should be satisfied in Jesus. Totally, completely.

On that day when we stand before Him we will be like Him (1 John 3:2), finally complete. Finally satisfied.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

In the House of Suffering

I’m in a series in our church that we’re calling No Life for Sissies. It’s about the Christian life. If you live the Christian life the way the New Testament lays it out for us, you’ll find that it’s not easy – in fact it’s a hard life.

Which brings me to this – if you’re a Christian and you find that the Christian life is easy, you’re probably not doing it right.

Do it right and you’ll find out that it’s hard. No all of the time, but much of the time.

Several weeks ago I spoke on It’s Not Easy to Suffer.

As Christians, God has called us to a life of suffering. Suffering for your faith (1 Peter 3:14), suffering for others (2 Corinthians 1:3-7), suffering for the name of Christ (1 Peter 4:12-16).

When you suffer your response is what matters.

So how should we respond to suffering?

Since there are different types of suffering there are also different ways to respond. But there are some general responses that will apply to all types of suffering. Here are three things that you can do to turn your suffering from a negative into a spiritual positive in your life.

Try to understand what God is doing in your suffering.

We believe that nothing happens to us by accident. That God has a plan and a purpose for everything that takes place in our lives. That means that when you go through times of suffering, God is working. He has a purpose for your suffering.

And while you may not be able to definitively determine His purpose, it’s helpful to try and understand to the extent that you can.

Spend time in the Word. Spend time in prayer. Look for answers. Ask God to reveal some spiritual insight to you that will help you understand His divine actions.

Even if you never come to a conclusive answer, the effort will be beneficial.

Let your suffering move you closer to God.

It’s true that everything in life will either move you closer to God or farther from Him. And in the mystery of the Divine/Human cooperative, you get to decide which will be true in your moment of suffering.

Allow your suffering to move you closer to God. Closer in fellowship with Him. Closer in worship. Closer in prayer. Closer in dependence. Closer in trust. Closer in love.

View your time of suffering as a holy place.

We don’t normally think of suffering as a place of holiness – but it can be. It can become that place where you grow in the spiritual disciplines of Bible reading, meditation, prayer, silence, solitude, and learning.

Most likely your place of suffering will either become a place of holiness or it will become a place of carnality. It will either be a place that feeds your soul or a place that feeds your flesh.

In our humanness our natural inclination is to allow our sufferings to become times of unholiness. Fight against it – make it a holy place.

Suffering, for whatever reason, is never easy. But it can be beneficial. Don’t waste periods of suffering. Allow them to be times of spiritual growth in your life.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Frustrated With God

Admit it – we get frustrated with God. Every Christian does at some point in his/her spiritual journey. We get frustrated with God when He doesn’t act the way we want Him to act. This is especially true when it comes to prayer.

Yesterday I preached a sermon called It’s Not Easy to Pray. We looked at five of the major oppositions to maintaining a meaningful prayer life.

This morning I read the following article by Chuck Lawless who is the Dean of Doctoral Studies and Vice-President of Spiritual Formation and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, NC.

I thought it was a good follow-up to yesterday’s sermon – and good even if you didn’t hear the sermon. For those of you from SVBC, I thought that #4 was especially pertinent to what we talked about yesterday. See if you don’t agree.

8 Things to Do When God Says, “Wait”
By Chuck Lawless

Many of us are impatient, yet God often tells us to “wait.” The tension that results is sometimes a faith challenge. If God has called you to wait, here are some things you can do in the meantime.

1. Forget about the calendar. We get stressed with God’s timing because we think He operates according to our calendar. That assumption leads to frustration.

2. Embrace the truth that God has a reason. He really does, even if He doesn’t give us the details. That means that whatever He has on the other side of the wait is better than what we might get through our impatience.

3. Remember that God’s not worried. His timing is always, always, always right. He knows that. You know that, too, actually. Trust what you know.

4. Be faithful today. Trusting God for tomorrow means being obedient today. We should not expect God to respond to our prayers about tomorrow if we’re ignoring His leading today. In my opinion, our unfaithfulness today is one of the primary reasons we wrestle with waiting on tomorrow’s stuff.

5. Spend some time studying God’s Word about waiting. Check out, for example, Psalm 40:1, 130:5-6; Isaiah 40:31; Lamentations 3:25; James 5:7-8. Let the Bible give you hope in waiting.

6. Invite somebody else into your wait. Waiting alone only magnifies the loneliness of the wait. Simply knowing that someone’s sharing your burden can be hopeful.

7. Tell somebody your testimony. This one may sound like a strange suggestion, but here’s my point: when you tell your story, you’ll remember that God has always taken care of you in the past. He’s still taking care of you now, even if His timing is different than yours.

8. Keep praying. The waiting time is not the time to stop talking to God about this issue. Keep praying, doing so in faith that God will provide His answer in His timing, in His way, for your good, and for His glory.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Don’t Give Up! (or Keep On Pestering God)

One of my favorite parables in the New Testament is found in Luke 18:1-8. It’s often referred to as the Parable of the Widow and the Judge or the Parable of the Persistent Widow. As with most of the parables Jesus told, it’s not all that complicated.

There are just two characters, a judge who didn’t fear God and didn’t care what people said about him and a widow who had been treated unfairly (we’re not given the details). The widow went to the judge expecting justice, and apparently went more than one or two times – she went persistently until the judge agreed to hear her case.

In the end the judge ruled in the widow’s favor, not because it was the right thing to do (although the implication is that she had been wronged) but because she was becoming a pain in the neck.

The text is explicit that Jesus told this parable to teach us that we shouldn’t become discouraged in prayer even when the answer isn’t readily apparent.

That in itself is a lesson. God knows that we are prone to give up easily. O we of little faith.

The part of the parable that always challenges me is the application Jesus made in verse eight: When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?

That is, when Jesus returns will he find people who have enough faith that they are willing to pray, and pray, and keep on praying without giving up even though they haven’t seen an answer to their prayer?

It takes a deep faith to keep on praying when heaven is silent.

The implication to His question is that when Jesus comes that kind of faith will be rare. There won’t be many Christians who will have enough faith to keep on trusting. Trusting that prayer is the right way to handle the situation. Trusting that prayer really works. Trusting that God actually hears prayer. Trusting that God still answers prayer.

In a recent study on prayer I came across an interesting thought. The writer asked the question, How do we know which prayer God answers? Does He answer your first prayer? Or will it be your one hundredth prayer? Or will be the culmination of all of your prayers?

The answer is that we don’t know. We don’t know how God works, especially in the area of prayer.

So we keep on praying.

We don’t give up. We’re persistent. We keep knocking on the door of heaven. We keep pestering God (from our perspective, not His).

We keep exercising faith.

Don’t be like the judge whose actions were dictated by his earthly, self-centered view of life. Be like the widow and refuse to quit on God even when you can’t see the answer.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

Spirituality by Osmosis

We all know it’s not possible. You can’t become spiritual by osmosis – the process of unconsciously assimilating something while you sleep. You won’t wake up one morning more spiritual than you went to bed the night before.

It just doesn’t work that way – but we act like it does.

Growing in spirituality is a process. But it’s more than simply a process – it’s an intentional process. You have to choose to be godly and then take the proper steps to move in that direction.

And that’s where so many Christians today come up short. They want to be more godly but they don’t want to do what it takes to be more godly. There is a spiritual neglect evident in the church today. Call it spiritual laziness.

Some people blame it on our culture. We live in a culture that wants instant access to everything. So we have fast food. We have same day delivery. We have apps that eliminate the need to wait for a cab, a date, a table at your favorite restaurant or the latest movie.

When was the last time you were upset with your computer because it didn’t load fast enough?

And we want our spirituality to be served up the same way. Easy and fast.

But blaming the culture is too easy. And it eliminates personal responsibility. Your responsibility for your own godliness.

Yes, it’s true that without God’s work in our lives none of us would ever be spiritual (Psalm 127:1, John 15:4-5, Philippians 2:13, 4:13). But every command of scripture tells us that we also have a part in God’s plan and a responsibility to grow in grace (Ephesians 4:15, Hebrews 12:14, 1 Peter 2:1-2, 2 Peter 3:18). You have a responsibility for the level of your spirituality. It won’t happen by osmosis.

Here’s how scripture describes it.

Reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come (1 Timothy 4:7-8).

Pursue peace with all people, and [pursue] holiness; without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

From a human perspective it’s up to you.

Fortunately God has provided the means to godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4). God has given us everything we need to become spiritual people. The old theologians called them the spiritual disciplines. They were talking about things found in the Bible that, if practiced on a consistent basis, would promote holiness of life. Included among the spiritual disciplines are bible reading and study, prayer, fasting, worship, meditation, and service. There are others and depending on who you read the lists will verily slightly. The point is that there are specific things that you can do – that you need to do to promote holiness in your life.

Practiced on a consistent basis with a humble heart, the result of the spiritual disciplines will be spiritual growth. Ignore them consistently and you will be a spiritual pygmy. Or as scripture says, a spiritual infant (Hebrews 5:12-13).

If you would like to know more about the spiritual disciplines we’re teaching on them in our Adult Bible Fellowship at SVBC or you can read Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, published by NavPress.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve

You Have Been Called to Give Up

Every Christian has been called to give up for Jesus. So the question for each of us is simple, What are you willing to give up? What is God asking you to sacrifice for the good of His kingdom?

It’s not a comfortable question but every Christian has been called to make sacrifices for the Kingdom of God.

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably read a missionary biography (if not, you should) or heard a missionary speak about the sacrifices they had to make for Christ. But the idea of sacrificing is not just for missionaries. The Bible teaches a theology of sacrifice that touches every Christian.

-We’re to give ourselves as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1).

-We’re to offer spiritual sacrifices to God (1 Peter 2:4).

-We’re to give the sacrifice of praise to God (Hebrews 13:15).

-Our lives are to reflect the sacrifice of Christ (Ephesians 5:2).

-In the Communion we celebrate sacrifice (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

-We’re taught to take up our cross to follow Christ (Matthew 16:24).

-We have been crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20).

Sacrifice is an integral part of the Christian life.

So, What are you will to give up? What are you willing to sacrifice for the Kingdom of God?

Here’s the catch – it’s only a sacrifice when it’s something you really love; something that you want to hang on to; something that hurts. Otherwise it’s not.

I teach each year at a small Bible school in Haiti. This coming year will be my thirteenth year. It’s something I really love. Some people think that I’m making a sacrifice. Are you kidding?!! I remember Harry Bollback, the co-founder of Word of Life and my wife’s former boss, say something like, To serve God is not a sacrifice, it’s a privilege. He was right.

I love having the opportunity to train pastors. I love being with my Haitian friends. I love working with the missionaries. I love the fact that God lets me do this. I love teaching theology; I love preaching in the Haitian churches; I love the diversity this gives me in ministry; I love the Haitian people. I love authentic Haitian food – boy do I love Haitian food! In fact I love everything about this part of my life and eagerly look forward to it each year.

Recently God has given my wife and me the opportunity to help a young graduate of our Bible school continue working on his Master of Divinity degree (MDiv) at another school in Haiti. Eventually he would like to teach at our school. We need good, qualified, Haitian men to teach.

As we’ve worked through this process it has dawned on me that God has a plan going on here and I’m wondering what it is. I’ve even thought that this young man might be the one who takes my place and teaches my classes.

Not that I want to end this part of my ministry. In fact my plan is to teach as long as I have good health and the necessary funds to travel. If I’m still doing it when I’m 85 I’ll be a happy camper. I’m not being facetious. But what if that’s not God’s plan? What if He asks me to give it up because there is someone better qualified to teach?

I’ve been reading in 1 Samuel recently about Saul and David. It was no secret in Israel that God had chosen David to be Saul’s replacement instead of his son, Jonathan. That really rankled Saul (1 Samuel 20:30-31). His plan was for Jonathan to assume the throne (figure of speech – not sure Saul had a throne). God’s plan was for David to be the next king in Israel. Saul had a choice – to submit to God’s plan which meant sacrificing his goals, ambitions, and legacy, or not to submit. To sacrifice or not to sacrifice. To give up or not to give up something for the good of the kingdom.

When the time comes for me to step aside I don’t want to be like Saul. It won’t be easy but I want to be willing to give up this thing I love for the Kingdom of God. I want to make the right choice. I want to be willing to make the sacrifice.

We have been called to give up, to make the sacrifice for the good of His Kingdom.

Stay in the Word
Pastor Steve