Reposted From Crosswalk.com
Who God Loves above All Others
Why does the Great Commandment instruct us to love God first, others second? Because this is the order in which God himself loves. God’s love did not begin in Genesis 1:1. It is eternal, existing before creation, having found eternal expression within the Trinity. It required no object outside the Godhead. We love because he first loved us. He loves us, having first and eternally loved himself.
Self-love is not always commendable in humans. While loving ourselves accurately is good, and even necessary for loving our neighbor, the Bible also speaks to the negative category of those who are “lovers of self” (2 Tim. 3:2). We have all known people whom we would label as an egotists, those who think of themselves more highly than they should. Egotism is an impossibility for God. He is irreproachably a lover of self, being the only one worthy of total love. For God not to love himself would be irrational. God’s worth is infinite, making him alone worthy to receive infinite self-love, as well as the unqualified adoration and veneration of everything in creation. It is impossible for anyone, including God, to love God too much.
We Can Love the Love of God Too Much
But it is possible for us to love the love of God too much. We do this when we emphasize the love of God at the expense of his other attributes. Sin can cause us to love a version of God that is not accurate. This is the basic definition of idolatry, a disordered love. Ironically, one of the most common forms our idolatry takes is the disordered love of the love of God. The overemphasis of God’s love is even evident in non-Christians. They may know very little of the Bible, yet many know and are quick to quote the truism that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The statement “My God is a God of love” often has as its subtext the idea that his love precludes him ever acting in wrath or justice, or in any way that does not fit our human conceptions of love.
All of God’s Actions Are Loving
But God’s love is both holy and infinite, which means that all his actions are loving, even when we cannot perceive them to be so. Not only are all his actions loving, but all he withholds or refrains from doing is also loving. When God acts in Scripture in ways we perceive to be unloving, the problem is not with his actions but with our limited perspective. When we endure hardship or loss, we may be tempted to question whether God loves us. This is why the Bible takes such care to remind us that hardship and loss are to be expected in this life. Hardship and loss are agents of separation, but nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ. It is high and long, wide and deep, and if we fix our eyes on it, perhaps we may be able to begin to grasp some of that even in this lifetime.
And as we grasp it, we can then press it upon our neighbor.
Love without Bounds
Once we recognize that the love God has bestowed upon us is not merely an emotion but an act of the will, we are forced to reevaluate how we love others. Specifically, we must reevaluate our categories. No longer can we parse our fellow humans into the categories of “lovable” and “unlovable.”
If love is an act of the will—not motivated by need, not measuring worth, not requiring reciprocity—then there is no such category as “unlovable.” This is what Jesus teaches in the parable of the good Samaritan. When the lawyer seeks to qualify the meaning of the Great Commandment by asking, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29), Jesus responds with a story about a man who shows love to the “unlovable.” It is, of course, a story about himself—and a story about everyone of us who has received rescue at his hands. As the parable is careful to illustrate, it is a costly and unsought rescue, an unsought rescue, bestowed upon an undeserving recipient
Love, No Matter the Cost
The costliness of agape is evident in the cross. Thus, those who resolve to take up their cross resolve to love as Christ loved, in a costly manner.
When we begin to follow Christ, we resolve to love God even if it costs us. And it does cost us—it costs us our pride, our comfort, our self-will, our self-sufficiency. At times, it costs us amicable relationships with family, our expectation of safety, and more. But in laying these aside, we learn the worthiness of the object of our love in a deeper way. We find increasing freedom, and as we mature, we resolve to love God no matter what it costs us.
Loving Our Neighbor Costs
When we begin to follow Christ, we resolve to love our neighbor even if it costs us. And it does cost us—it costs us our preferences, our time, our financial resources, our entitlement, our stereotypes. At times, it costs us our popularity, respect, and more. But in laying these aside, we learn the brokenness of the object of our love in a deeper way. We find increasing empathy, and as we mature, we resolve to love our neighbor no matter what it costs us.
This is the kind of love that marks believers as distinct from the world. What is the will of God for your life? That you love as you have been loved. When faced with a decision, ask yourself: Which choice enables me to grow in agape for God and others? And then choose according to his will.
God has a purpose for your life. If that weren’t true, He’d have taken you home to heaven at the moment of salvation. Do you ever wonder why He left you here?
The Lord intends to influence others through you. Our purpose is to be a vessel through which Christ overflows to others–touching those who hurt and desperately need a Savior. Once we are saved, Scripture teaches, our involvement is threefold.
First, we love others. Jesus clearly stated that this was one of the two greatest commandments (Matt. 22:38-39).
Second, we share the good news of salvation (Acts 1:8). Some travel across the world to spread the gospel, while others teach neighbors across the street. The Holy Spirit will direct us to the right people if we are willing to obey.
Third, we serve in a variety of ways, like helping those in need, sharing our resources, and lifting others in prayer. Jesus is our perfect example of all three. His entire life was marked by caring for people–both those who loved Him and those who did not. In fact, the Bible teaches that He humbled Himself and became like us, willing to give up His life for our redemption. There is no greater love; there is no greater act of service.
Scripture clearly defines the believer’s purpose. Aligning ourselves with God’s intentions for His children–loving others, witnessing, and serving– bring us great satisfaction. In fact, we’re still on earth not merely to hear more teaching but to act on it and share with others what we learn.
Reposted from In Touch Ministries
Reposted from Radical Mentoring
Fathers can be mentors, but mentors aren’t necessarily fathers. Mentors choose to mentor, but once a man becomes a father, he is always the father. I believe that’s why God chose the father-son paradigm to explain the relationship He wants with us. God as the permanent, perfect, never going away, never giving up, always giving and forgiving Father. And me, the beloved but immature son.
Because our role as a father is permanent and not optional, it’s easy to live it out unintentionally. To relax into routine, blindly replicating what our fathers did. Responding to our kids out of authority and arrogance versus love and understanding.
And it’s easy to take fathers for granted. Our kids get used to receiving the love we give and the way we give it. Over time, it’s routine. And invisible.
Mentoring is for a season. Fathering is permanent. Mentoring is usually around a goal, or a specific skill (i.e., I mentor to lead men toward God-centric lives.) Fathering isn’t specific. It offers opportunity and duty. It has no limits. It’s about finances, health, life skills, family responsibilities, and submission to authority.
As a father, mentoring is an ‘above and beyond’ opportunity. One of my greatest blessings was having my son in one of my mentoring groups. Stepping into the role of mentor helped us reframe our relationship into a more mature one. It added objectivity for both of us. It wasn’t just dear ol’ dad harping on something. It was group assignments where the value was apparent, and the whole group was involved. Looking at me, seated at the head of the table, facilitating the conversation and sharing my heart, he saw an older, wiser man who wanted to add value. Rather than a critical, meddling, overreaching dad trying to change his son.
This being a holiday week, offers an excellent opportunity for a check-up on our fathering work. Find a time to get each of your children off to the side and ask this question . . .
“Tell me three things I can do (or stop doing) to be a better father for you?”
Don’t argue. Don’t defend. If you ask questions, make sure they’re for clarification, not opposition. As soon as you can, get somewhere and write them down. Word for word. Next week, ask God to show you what He would have you know from this, and what He’d have you do with what you’ve been shown. Set some goals, put some to-dos on your calendar and follow through.
As you look at this feedback from your kids, look for opportunities to mentor. Think about what they are interested in learning or doing . . . areas where you might be able to mentor them.
Reposted from Radical Mentoring
- Courage – Most of the time, men know the right things to do. Call it conscience, call it intuition, call it whatever . . . more often than not our challenge isn’t knowing what to do as it is mustering the courage to do it and live with the consequences. Which is why a man needs a mentor to stand behind him and say, “Hey, you’ve made a good decision. You’re on the right track!” “I’m proud of you.” “I love the Godly man you’re becoming.” This kind of encouragement propels a man who’s on the right track to stay on it . . . to go farther faster.
- Wisdom – Many of the decisions men wrangle with don’t have right or wrong answers. Some of them have consequences that will be felt by your children and your children’s children. Questions around marital fidelity and divorce, financial responsibility and debt, parents, in-laws, your children’s education, career progression and relocation of your family . . . ‘big stuff’ issues. A mentor, because of his age and experience, provides a source of wisdom that can’t be found anywhere else because he knows you. And he’s already made most of the decisions you’ll face himself at an earlier time in his life. Sometimes he made them well, sometimes he didn’t. But he has experience and that’s an important source of wisdom.
- Objectivity – We men get so intense, so proud, so focused, so “caught up” in what we’re doing, we lose sight of the bigger picture. When we have problems; at work, at home, at church, with the kids, with our siblings or in-laws, we sometimes struggle to see things clearly. A mentor offers a safe place to air it out . . . where we can unload and not be afraid of having things thrown back in our face. A mentor is someone who can listen, empathize, relate and commiserate with you. He’s going to ask you the questions you were too emotional to ask. He’ll ‘play the tape’ back to you, helping you sort out what’s important and what’s not, what’s fact vs. what’s emotion, and what are the likely outcomes of different decision alternatives.
- His network – As we make our way through life, we meet people from all kinds of industries, from all levels within the hierarchies of organizations, and people who perform all kinds of services. But it takes years for networks to become robust. Mentors enjoy tapping into their relationships to help the younger guys they mentor. It only cost them a little time . . . a quick email or phone call and a door is opened. And as the younger guy’s network gets wider and deeper faster, that empowers him to be a more helpful mentor as he starts to pay it forward.
- Loneliness – No matter how many golfing buddies, hunting buddies, or bowling buddies, when we get down to it, men are sort of lonely. When a man has a mentor, he’s got someone who has perspective on life’s questions. Mentors don’t have all the answers . . . no one does. And loneliness isn’t solved by countless hours of two humans being physically together. But it’s greatly relieved when a man knows that he has a mentor who cares about him. Knowing that his mentor is accessible; that he’s “safe” to talk with, and just knowing that someone is there who understands the deal makes the loneliness less lonely.
Scripture: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17)