You may have heard that phrase before or recently seen flags with this slogan.
On the one hand its meaning is ambiguous because normally a definition goes along the lines of “A cat is a small four legged house pet.” A definition by nature defines something.
Regardless of the ambiguity in this case the meaning is clear. ‘Love is love’ is put forward to mean that any emotional attachment we might feel toward someone (or something) regardless of who (or what) that is, is justified merely on the basis of the emotion being displayed. It doesn’t matter who or what you love because ‘love’ trumps all values.
Imprecision in definition is a practice open to abuse.
In 1971 Oxford defined love as “that disposition or state of feeling with regard to a person which manifests itself in solicitude for the welfre of the object, and usually also delight in his presence and desire for his approval; warm affection, attachment.” Aside from neglecting to note love as a verb and not a noun (an action and not a thing) at least 1971 Oxford has a meaty definition.
Today Mr. Oxford defines love as “a very strong feeling of liking and caring for somebody/something [sometimes romantic].”
The best definition I’ve ever encountered for love (Greek, agape) means to prefer, to prefer someone or something more than yourself, to prefer what God has said, and to show this through one’s actions. This is the definition we find in 1 Jn 5:3a:
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.
By definition then, to love means to prefer what God has said (the truth) and do it. If we prefer anything and do anything other than what He has said it cannot be love but is sin; and we humans love to sin. Thankfully God preferred us so as to send His Son to rescue us from sin (Jn 3:16) so we might live a life of true love, love for God and others as defined by Him, the author of reality.
Because words have meaning and meaning conveys truth and truth never changes (Heb 13:8; 1 Pet 1:25) it actually does turn out that ‘love is love’ after all but not in the way many think.
The story of the thieves crucified with Jesus is an iconic story from the Bible (unless you don’t know anything about the Bible, as is the case of some).
Matthew 27:28 says, “Then two criminals were crucified with Him [Jesus], one on the right and one on the left.”
Three men: one the perfect Son of God; two guilty, yet one railing against Jesus until the end and the other softening, trusting and being assured eternal (Lk 23:43).
On this story I came across an anonymous historic quote that struck me with an angle of this story that I had never considered but which I found very profound. It said:
“One thief on the cross was saved, that none should despair; and only one, that none should presume.”
May we remember this simple story and quote when confronted with those who doubt salvation is possible or those who presume upon it.
What shall we call "Easter" or "Easter Sunday"?
You may have noticed that in recent years Christians have begun to question using the term “Easter” to refer to the period in which we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection (including Holy Week and Good Friday) and the Resurrection itself (Easter Sunday). This may in part be the fault of the Easter Bunny (secularism) or be a post-Christian Christian reaction to paganism (e.g. Eostre was a pagan fertility goddess in Northern Europe—the non-Germanic Christian world calls the holiday Pascha or Passover in continuity with the Jewish feast when Jesus died and rose). So with “Easter” behind us, what should it be called? Given the fragmented state of much of Western Christianity it is doubtful whether we’ll settle upon something here but may you never know?
Here are some options that have been suggested:
Have your say....
Have you ever read the Bible and seen something new, something you’ve never noticed before? You should, that is if you’re regularly reading the Bible, because it is living and active (Heb 4:12).
Recently our family finished part two of Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan’s allegory of the Christian life. Knowing this someone gave our son an illustrated children’s work, which is very accessible yet without compromising the message.
As Christian carried on his journey to the Celestial City (Heaven) he entered the Valley of Humiliation, but he did so having just visited the Palace Beautiful (Church), being equipped with the sword of the Spirit (the Bible). In the Valley of Humiliation Christian knew he would face Apollyon (Satan). The book says, “Christian was terrified. He wondered if he should turn and run. But he had no armour protecting his back, and Apollyon could easily attack him there.” The chapter makes evident use of Eph 6 and the Armour of God. What struck me were those words, “But he had no armour protecting his back.”
In reading those words a thought crossed my mind; I had to look up Eph 6 to see if this was borne out. Is the armour there described in that way? Firstly, even though portions of a soldier’s armour described there wrapped around a soldiers body (e.g. the helmet and belt) all of the armour described is design with the soldier’s outward orientation in mind (i.e. facing the enemy). Though more advanced and later armour could protect a soldiers back (hence an interpretation of the old phrase “being stabbed in the back”), the backs of those bending legs and the back with the rotating shoulders were oh so hard to protect. So soldiers were safest when they maintained an outward orientation.
The Church, the Army of God pictured in Eph 6, is likewise to have the same orientation. When we forget to stand alert to Satan’s prowling’s (1 Pet 5) and become embroiled in needless internal squabbles about tertiary matters (or even mere opinions like the colour of the carpet) we very much end up looking like the Church in Eph 4, orientated inward.
Changing metaphors, think of Bison. When they are threatened they don’t turn inward and dispute with themselves (or kick aimlessly with their legs). No, they form an outward oriented circle (with the young in the middle). So it should be with the Church. We are strongest when we remain united on the essentials with an outward orientation on our mission.
Turning back to Eph 6 we also see the fight is forward (i.e. it is not a retreat, c.f. Mt 16). While it is true words like “withstand” and “stand firm” are used that don’t seem overly offensive and most of the armour is defensive in nature, combined they certainly don’t suggest retreat either but rather head on confrontation. Building on this, there is a clear offensive streak in the passage. The sword is offensive and so is everything connected with the advance of the Gospel.
Like the Bison, their focus is outward so that they can fight forward against the foe. The Church is not only best when we’re outward oriented but when we’re forward fighting, that is when we—in faith—aggressively conduct ourselves in the Great Commission.
We don’t run away from Satan’s advance, we meet it. We don’t turn inward and implode through futile disputes and carnal controversies, we unite in Christ and face the foe.
Aren’t you glad the Word is living and active?
Recently our small town has become host to, not one, but two pot shops (and also boasts a grow op)! Additionally, in visiting someone in the community I came across their legal limit of marijuana plants growing on the deck. Canada is truly going to pot.
Aside from critiquing the fact that the government is promoting this and yet also promoting not smoking and other contradictions (such as the argument that legalized marijuana would get rid of the black market), what shall we make of Christ and Cannabis as Christians, are they compatible? As a general statement, NO! I can think of at least 7 basic Biblical principles:
1. Delight and Idolatry
The Bible resounds that we were made to enjoy God. To find ultimate enjoyment, or delight, in anyone or anything else is idolatry, the worship or enjoyment of someone or thing other than God. Certainly this does not mean we cannot enjoy lawful and good exercises but arguably (see below) substances don’t fit this category, and what is more so, they are consumed purely for the purpose of getting a ‘high.’ If we knew the Lord we wouldn’t have need of such a high and so at its very core people seek it out for idolatrous spiritual reasons rather than rejoicing in the Lord.
2. Upon Whom Do You Trust?
The Bible likewise resounds with the call to faith, to trust in the Lord and His word. Those who use substances are placing their trust in a substance to meet their deepest and spiritual needs and not the Lord.
3. Dominion and Lordship
The Bible, again, is very clear that Jesus is Lord. He is our creator, we’re meant to love and serve Him. The addictive nature of substances means that our lives come to be under another power (the substance) rather than Christ.
4. Loss of Control
The high received by substances comes at the expense of one’s mind such that we lose self-control, something which the Bible says we are to be vigilant to maintain. This can lead to other sins, which is why the Bible prohibits drunkenness for example.
5. Harm to Bodies
We were created in God’s image, given our whole person (including our mind and bodies) to be stewards of (not to mention our finances). Being ungodly stewards is therefore sinful. Further, if we are a Christian, as we are united to Christ, to smoke pot would be to make Christ a pot smoker Himself! Not only does smoke harm our lungs it also harms our brains. Studies have shown how progressively the brain dies as one smokes marijuana.
6. Seek Goodness
The Bible commends us pursuing things that are noble and good and lovely. Smoking something that smells like skunk, not to mention the other negative spiritual and moral outcomes, surely doesn’t qualify here.
In Scripture we’re called to live above reproach and not associate with questionable company. Cannabis, however, has a long and present history of being associated with the morally questionable to the outright dangerous (like gangs). It is a portal into darker things.
Whether a non-Christian or a Christian there is ample evidence why you should put a lid on pot; Christ and Cannabis don’t mix; nor should Cannabis be legal in Canada.
(We really do more than plod, but sometimes he can be difficult to understand)
Recently we’ve been reading through Paul’s first letter in the New Testament, Galatians. This book is a treasure, but Paul’s penetrating logic is not always straightforward to follow. Sometimes his meaning is easy (Gal 6:10), but sometimes it is more difficult (Gal 5:1). It might come as a consolation that even the apostle Peter recognized this:
…our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand… (2 Peter 1:15b–16a).
Yet, Peter affirms that such words are still “Scripture” (v. 16b): inspired, meaningful and for our good (2 Tim 3:16).
It might be asked then, why did God choose to inspire Paul to write some words that were difficult (though not impossible) to understand?
One answer is that it keeps us humble, dependent upon Him. It reminds us that spiritual truths are spiritually discerned. It reminds us of our need for the Teacher—the Holy Spirit—to guide us into all truth, both the easy and the difficult to understand.
So the next time you come across a difficult passage of Scripture, don’t fret! Instead, humble yourself and trust the Lord will open His Word to you.
Reading through the opening chapters of the Book of Acts reveal some key marks of the early Church. These are helpful to recognize to see what ought to be the marks of the Church today:
May we pray that the Church of today will reflect our glorious beginnings!
Among the 120 that made up the earliest body of believers after the Resurrection, were not only the Disciples, the women, but “His brothers.” (Acts 1:14b). His brothers! You mean the brothers who it says in John 7:5 didn’t believe in Him? His family who thought He was mad (Mk 3:21). Those brothers, James, Joseph, Simon and Judas (Mt 13:55)? Yes!
They grew up with Jesus, no doubt beholding His uniqueness, but also His commonness. They had difficulty believing He was their Messiah. Perhaps difficulty seeing what their mother, Mary, saw.
Yet, somewhere in the 40 days between the Resurrection and the Ascension they saw their Risen brother and came to believe. Everything that had happened to Him, including His perfect life lived before their eyes, now made sense when the one they’d [presumably] seen slain, they now saw risen from the dead in glory.
The most famous of these, James, went on to be a pillar in the Jerusalem church and author of the Book of James. He came to be a slave of the very brother he had once not believed in (James 1:1).
The mere words “His brothers” should cause two things in us:
 Joseph and Mary went on to have other children and then, presumably, Joseph had died before Jesus’ ministry.
The Jews, led by Zerubbabel, had returned to Judea and Jerusalem, yet many things were not as they appeared to be and their glory was not as of old. They felt very small (as the church can today) in a much wider world (the Persian Empire). They felt as if it was a day of “small things.”
“For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice.” (Zech 4:10)
Despite how they felt, moment by moment, day by day, they trusted God’s promises and waited upon Him believing that He would use His people to accomplish great things, chiefly: the coming of Christ through Zerubbabel’s line. All of the steps along the way were part of God’s plan to, as John the Baptist proclaimed, prepare the way.
As Christians in our daily walk, or as a local church, it can be easy to feel as if our lives and ministry are “small things,” insignificant to God’s plans, not useful in the grand scheme of ministry or the vastness of the world. May Zech 4:10 call us to think again! Consider these examples:
There once was an old farmer’s wife who died. Prior to dying she expressed a very odd request; she wanted to be buried with a dessert fork. Her pastor, who very much believed that “you can’t take it with you when you go,” questioned her thinking until he learned of the reason. She said that all through her life, being an expert baker of pies, tarts and puddings, she would always tell her quests, “the best is yet to come.” She wanted to be buried with a fork so her pastor could preach on the gift of eternal life Jesus had provided for her and that was available for all who’d repent and believe!
In the book of the prophet Joel there is a similar promise of better things:
I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you. (Joel 2:25).
Joel prophesied at a time when things were difficult for God’s people (before, or just after the Exile). He drew people’s attention that both past and present judgements (“the Day of the Lord”) were a result of the people’s sin. However, he called people to draw near to the God of mercy and repent, truly. Because of God’s faithfulness He would then reverse the curse of judgement and restore His presence and blessings (progressively, ultimately pointing to Jesus and lastly the future and final Day of the Lord).
What is beautiful in this message is that whatever your locusts have been, whatever hardship, disaster or trial has come upon you because of your sin, there is still hope. Whether you’ve never trusted in Jesus or you’ve grown cold to Him and wandered, there is hope that the best is yet to come. In Christ your life that was empty and purposeless can be filled and full of meaning. In Christ your finances that were self-oriented, under God’s principles, can be channelled and used for His glory (and your good). In Christ your relationship or marriage that is on rocky ground can be restored. In all these things, regardless of how much waste there has been and how irretrievable they may seem, through repentance and faith and looking to Jesus Joel’s promise can be true for you: in large part in this life, but in whole in the hereafter. Your best days can be before you. Whatever we face, may cling to this promise and look to the great Restorer in repentance and faith and be amazed at what He will do!.