Do everything in love

“Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:14)

How much do I do everyday that follows the instructions in this verse? Not enough. If I broke down my actions, a lot of them would be selfish (done for my comfort or pleasure), out of reluctant duty (I have to do this just because), or not at all (putting off things I should be doing).

But in this verse, I spy an attitude that should fuel my actions. Everything I do can be done for God — and done in love. I can change a diaper in love. I can do a tedious project for work in love. I can spend time with my family in love. It’s an inside-out effect that makes all the difference in the world (or, more accurately, in heaven) when love motivates me to do my best and to be selfless when I do it.

To do everything in love also means that there are some things we cannot do if we want to hold to this. We cannot hate in love. We cannot get revenge in love. We cannot be selfish in love. We cannot sin in love.

I desire that my life would radiate love. I don’t think I often accomplish this. It’s a challenge that can only be accepted with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Sheridan Parkside’s Health Fair

Last Saturday several members of Knox Church went over to help with a special health fair at Sheridan Parkside in its community center.

Ellen Keller helped to organize the fair, which was designed to promote healthy lifestyle choices for the surrounding community.

People came in to grab lots of freebies, including Knox’s blessing bags, books, fresh veggies, snacks, and health brochures.

Each Knox participants helped in his or her own way, from taking blood pressure to making popcorn to “selling” free books!

Individuals and families came through, many delighted to be loved and serviced in such a fashion. The kids particularly liked the bounce house and fire truck outside.

It may seem like a small measure of help to do something like this, but Jesus can take our efforts and magnify them a thousandfold for his glory.

Remember that Jesus was often ministering to the physical needs of people first — and then to their spiritual needs afterward. We as Christians need to be mindful of all of the ways people need our assistance.

And we had a lot of fun doing this — it’s always a blast when the Knox family gets together for a service project!

To God be the glory!

Blessing Bags

Looking for a simple, effective, and practical way to serve others in the name of Jesus Christ? Grab a blessing bag!

Spearheaded by Katrina, the Blessing Bag project uses donated purses, toiletries, and other essential items to create kits to be handed out to those in need. These bags contain useful items as well as spiritual guidance for those who are struggling. We have about 100 of them, both in purses and ziplock bags, and are encouraging church members to pick up a few to pass out as they see people during the week who could use an extra “blessing!”

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Six underrated books of the Bible

If you poll people about their favorite books of the Bible, chances are that the results will be heavily weighted in favor of the same grouping of the gospels, Romans, James, Genesis, Exodus, and the Psalms. And while all of those are definitely terrific, there are some books that don’t seem to get as much recognition or study from Christians as they should.
So to encourage all of us to branch out in our Bible reading, I want to present a list of three Old Testament and three New Testament books that are underrated — and definitely worth your time.
Old Testament: Deuteronomy
A lot of people struggle to get through the rule-dense first five books in the Bible, but Deuteronomy (literally, “Second Law”) is a great recap of God’s Covenant with his people, has amazing verses (such as the Shema in chapter 6), and marks the transition between the desert wanderings of the Hebrews and their move into the Promised Land. Deuteronomy’s retelling of the Law is useful for us today to reflect our sinful patterns back to us, restrain us from future sin, and reflect on the nature of God.
New Testament: Ephesians
Ephesians is what I call “Romans Cliff Notes” — an abbreviated version of Romans’ elaborate systematic theology in an easy-to-read format. Plus, Ephesians has a lot of practical advice for daily Christian living — and don’t forget about the Armor of God passage in the last chapter!
Old Testament: Ezekiel
Clocking in at 38 chapters, Ezekiel is a massive book! It’s also a gripping saga of a priest of God seeing the apocalypse of Judah happen. God uses Ezekiel and many object lessons to try to communicate the message of this judgment — but also hope for the future restoration that would come. The metaphor of the Valley of Dry Bones is a wonderful one for us Christians, who were dead in our sins but God made us alive again.
New Testament: 1 John
Have you ever worried if you were truly saved? 1 John tackles this issue and offers a whole lot of reassurance for the believer whose hope is in Christ. It’s also a powerful series of essays about the love that Christians need to bear for each other, which is always something we should revisit on a regular basis.
Old Testament: Micah
If you love courtroom dramas, then you might find Micah absolutely fascinating. It’s basically a court case between God and Israel, with God as the prosecutor and the plaintiff and Israel as the defendant. But even as the sentence is being passed on a criminal nation, God vows in chapter 5 to bring salvation out of the very smallest portion of Judah… a small town called Bethlehem.
New Testament: 1 Peter
The first of two of the apostle Peter’s letters is a rousing call to persevere as Christians even in the midst of suffering and trial. We discover who we are as Christians in this book: a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation. There’s so much encouragement here that you can’t but feel your heart lift and your lips sing when you read these words!

It’s not about us

A good verse for mulling over today, especially for all of us who share in the ministry of Christ:

“I planted, Apollo watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1 Cor. 3:6-7)

It’s so hard to separate ourselves from our ego, our desire to be the center stage, our cravings for praise — our selfishness, really. And Paul, who planted many churches and trained many pastors, is basically saying, “It’s just not about me. I didn’t do any of the really important work here — God did.”

God uses us as instruments to do his will, but the work of the Holy Spirit is his and his alone to do. I don’t save people; God does. I don’t convert hearts; God does. I don’t foster growth in the body of Jesus; God does.

It doesn’t mean we’re insignificant, just that God deserves all the glory for the success of ministry. God allows us to participate, but we can’t get to the point where we’re Moses striking a rock to cause a spring of water to come out and then taking the credit for it. That’s hubris and arrogance, and God is not partial to that attitude.

It’s why I’m very leery of praise and acclaim, particularly at church. I know that I crave it, a lot. And I know how quickly such words can go to my head and create a desire for even more. I have to remind myself that nothing good that’s happened here is my doing; God did it through me, and if I wasn’t here, he’d do it through someone else. I have the privilege of being a part of it, but it’s not my doing.

It also means that we can do our part and rest assured that God will do the heavy lifting of making the seed planting and gospel watering grow into something glorious for His Kingdom!

The man of a double portion

I’m diving into 2 Kings in my devotions and am studying the character of Elisha. Prophets are criminally under-examined in the modern church, I think, and that’s a shame because they are absolutely incredible folks, not to mention pre-echoes of Jesus. Like his mentor Elijah, Elisha has this tremendous faith and courage in a land that’s mostly rejected God and turned to idols.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied.

I like how his post-Elijah career starts, as he asks his mentor for a “double portion of your spirit” (2 Kings 2:9). His life from there becomes this epic story that includes numerous miracles that foreshadow Jesus (such as his raising the dead and feeding a hundred people with a few loaves). There’s also the often-used-to-bash-the-Bible account of Elisha calling down a pair of bears on 42 youths who mock him, but for the believer, it’s a sobering reminder that God is not to be mocked and that our lives are forfeit for being his enemy.

Also, like Elijah, Elisha has this sarcastic wit about him that makes me laugh. In chapter 3, three local kings, including King Jehoshaphat of Judah, team up to take on the Moabs. Jehoshaphat isn’t a good king but he’s somewhat less evil than his parents (3:2), and Elisha tags along for the ride.

But there comes a point where the combined army is in the wilderness and is out of water, about to die. Instead of clinging to one of his other gods, Jehoshaphat calls for a prophet of the Lord, recognizing the true power. Elisha comes and drawls, “What do we have to do with each other? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.” (3:13) In other words, “Oh, NOW you believe that God is the one to fix your problems? You’re such a fair-weather hypocrite.” But Jehoshaphat insists that God called the armies together, and Elisha agrees to help because God still supports Judah.

Just reading these accounts makes me connect with the people of the time. They’re in a land blessed by God but have largely turned away from him — yet there are those who still do believe. And Elisha is like this powerful force as God’s voice and messenger, making waves throughout the area. People recognize the authority behind him and they either hate it or are attracted to it, much the same as it would be in Jesus’ time.

God, you love me too much

Have you ever done a Bible search and study on the theme of God’s love? If you do, one theme that keeps coming up, over and over again, it’s how lopsided, uneven, and overwhelming God’s love is to us. He is faithful, we are not. His love is unconditional, ours is conditional. His love is steady, ours is based on whims and feelings.

What clicked in my mind was an episode of New Girl that my wife and I watched a few days before. It has perhaps one of the absolute best demonstrations of this lopsided love and our response to it when we take notice.

In the episode, 30-something Schmidt comes back to a shared apartment and gives his macho roommate Nick a cookie. Nick takes it with a thanks, but after a bite pauses to ask Schmidt why he got the cookie. “I don’t know, I was just thinking about you,” Schmidt said. This unnerves Nick and prompts him to keep asking questions about the gesture. Through those questions, he discovers that Schmidt is a guy who thinks about his friends a lot and wants to do nice things for them.

Nick has a strong reaction to hearing it. He hates this. He’s bothered by it. He gets angry, tells Schmidt that guys just don’t do this sort of thing, and storms off — then spends the episode trying to reciprocate the favor. In the end, he gives Schmidt a cookie back, thinking that this makes them even. But what Schmidt wants to hear is that Nick loves him back — that he spent time thinking of how to do something nice for his friend.

Nick breaks down during this scene. He realizes that the level of Schmidt’s love and devotion as a friend far outmatches his own. “You love me too much!” Nick shouts through tears. “And you picked the wrong guy!” Nick knows that he abuses Schmidt’s friendship. He knows that there’s not enough good things that he can do to even out all of the good things Schmidt does for him. It makes him finally cry to face overwhelming, unconditional love like that, because it turns a mirror on his own imperfect love.

And this is us. This should be our response when we read this:

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

We are not cast in a flattering light in these verses, but it’s hard to deny the truth. When God chose to love us, when he chose to die for us, we were ungoldly, weak, sinners. God didn’t wait for us to become perfect and then love us. He didn’t wait until we did enough good things to even the score. He got into this lopsided relationship fully knowing just how broken we are — and he loved us anyway.