Defining Love In 600 Words or Less

August 28, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Alan Mowbray –

1 Corinthians 13:13 (The Message)
“But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”

When you stop to think about love, what comes to mind?

Affection—admiration—desire—need—attraction—overlooking the faults of others—forgiving—giving to the poor—helping others who are suffering—being a friend—going to battle for someone, etc.

Sophocles said, “Love frees us of all the weight and pain of life.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. called love, “…the master key that opens the gates of happiness.”

Playwright Karen Sunde pondered: “To love is to receive a glimpse of heaven.”

Since the instant love touched the hearts of Adam and Eve, mankind has been trying to define exactly what love is. Everyone has their own definition of it. When you search the word love on the web, you get conflicting results:

“An emotion of strong affection and personal attachment.” Yet, is it not true that neither affection nor attachment is required to love people? There are many individuals I have shown love to over the years and I guarantee you that for some, I had no affection nor was I particularly attached to them.

“To have a strong liking for.” Hmmm, I would have to say again, that a requirement like that would preclude me from loving a lot of people I know.

“Passion or desire.” Okaaaaay. Now the field just got narrowed down to one. Uno—as in less than two. Yeah, you guessed it, my wife. I would say that using that criterion would exclude everyone else on the planet.

So, love remains an elusive definition, yet, everyone knows about it.

There are at least eighteen characteristics of love given in the New Testament. Together they help answer the question, “What is love?”

Love suffers.
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love is not jealous.
Love does not brag.
Love is not arrogant.
Love does not act unbecomingly.
Love does not seek its own.
Love is not provoked.
Love keeps no record of suffered wrongs.
Love does not rejoice in unrighteousness.
Love rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things.
Love believes all things.
Love hopes all things.
Love endures all things.
Love never fails.
Love does no harm.
Love covers a multitude of sins.

We know one thing for sure—the Word of God focuses on love, teaching us that our goal must be to put love first, and that any spiritual gifts He gives us must operate out of love. Love is a powerful, but not an impersonal force. It is not a vague mist or a dreamy concept. It is not an idea, but an actual entity.

But what is love, really?

1 John 4:16 (NKJV) tells us: “We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.”

God is love.

There you go. It doesn’t say God has love, but that He is love. Don’t mix up the order. Love is not God. God is Love.

Let me show you the difference—it’s huge.

My dog is a girl.

My girl is a dog.

Do you see the difference? Don’t get ‘em mixed up.

There’ll be a war.

God is love.

These three words say so much yet only scratch the surface. Sigh, if only I had another 9000 words—

Just Start

July 6, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Alan Mowbray –

I’m pro-life.

I post stuff about it on Facebook. I tweet about it. If I come across someone who is commenting on the merits of “pro-choice,” I stick my nose in it and argue.

The other day, I experienced something that made me think. I read an article exposing hospitals that forced nurses to assist in abortions against their moral will under the threat of termination.

Incensed, I posted the link to my social networks.

The reaction was immediate and positive. People voiced their opinions against the practice and I was happy to see that people I had friended were on the same page as I on this issue.
In amongst the discourse, a pro-life activist whom I had friended jumped in. Although I expected agreement and encouragement, what we all received was a holier than thou attitude with statements like, “This is old news—I knew this stuff already” and “You’re clueless so quit posting things that you know nothing about, so quit condemning people.” I was floored. Although we were both pro-life, I understood those comments to mean that unless I have walked a mile in her shoes, I had no business even talking about the subject. I was confused for a few days on what I had even done wrong.

I told you that story not to put down the activist, but rather to say this: Just because you have been up to your eyebrows into a worthy cause or a certain subject, be gentle around those who are only ankle or knee deep. People have to start somewhere.

Imagine a church whose doors were open only to those with a doctorate in Biblical Theology or a small group where the members scoffed at the new people for asking questions about old topics—saying, “Oh puleeze! We’ve been over that time and time again!”

Or think about that new Christian who, for the first time, celebrated Christmas with a new understanding? What if, while they were realizing the immensity of that day they became visibly and emotionally shaken, and you came up and told them, “Hello? Of course we’re celebrating the birth of Christ. What did you think you were celebrating at this time every year, ya big baby?”

We are imperfect. Yet somehow, we easily forget that. Each of us, including myself, has done this to some degree. I’ve judged people almost as a reflex—opening my mouth and inserting my foot before thinking. I’ve belittled people because they weren’t at the level I was. I’ve even yelled at some for not knowing what I thought they should know—even though I was or should have been their teacher.

We live in a period of major growth in the knowledge of God, His Son, and Holy Spirit. Each of us is the student at one level and a teacher at another. Hearts are open to new things and new understanding. We must keep ourselves in check if we are to connect together as the body of Christ. I implore you to put this filter in your life!

Father God, help me to be gentle with your children. Forgive me for hindering their growth instead of helping. Holy Spirit, help me to see them with God’s eyes not mine.

I’m grateful that this experience opened my eyes to my own failures. Again.

But I know this. Just because I don’t know everything there is to know about abortion and the pro-life movement, it doesn’t mean I can’t be vocal about it. Hey, ya gotta start somewhere. Just start.

Potential

June 2, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Alan Mowbray –

William Shakespeare wrote, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Or would it? If Donald Trump changed his name to Gladys Smith, would all the prestige, trust, and brand recognition follow him to his new name? Hardly.

Our names are important. They appear to be an empty slate when we are born; yet, when our parents named us, they bestowed upon us part of God’s plan for us—potential waiting to be realized as we grow and learn. Have you ever wondered how your name fits into God’s plan for your life?

In Acts 4, a man named Joseph sold some land and gave all the proceeds to the apostles for the use of the young church. He received great honor and blessing for this act. His name means “he will add.” Prior to this, he had been given the nickname of Barnabas, which, as stated in verse 36 means “son of encouragement.” Was he living up to his name?

Israel sent 12 spies into the Promised Land to scope out the situation. Only two had a positive report upon return. Do you remember their names? Joshua and Caleb.

Joshua means “Jehovah is Salvation.” His report to Moses, if followed, would have permitted a whole generation to see the Promised Land. He saw that the Lord would see them through. Because his report was unheeded, that generation perished in the wilderness.

Caleb, whose name means “dog”(as in tenacious fighter, loyal), yearned to enter the Promised Land as well, boldly asking for the most dangerous lands to conquer—at eighty years of age..

Barnabas honored God with his giving. A couple named Ananias and Sapphira coveted the honor and blessing that Barnabas received and sold some land as well. Their story in Acts 5 does not have a happy ending. Conspiring to steal honor and blessing they lied about the sale total to the Holy Spirit and the apostles. That lie carried a price of immediate death.

The name Ananias means “Grace of God.” He took advantage that grace. And, with a meaning like “Woman of Beauty,” isn’t it sad that such a beautiful name as Sapphira is considered cursed by the world?

So the question is… How sweet is the fragrance of your name to God? Is its scent filled with the vision of provision that God has promised you, or does it stink of defeats, compromises, and lies to the Holy Spirit? Looking at myself, I’m not pleased. There are parts of my life that are flowing great, while other parts reveal weakness, failure, and deception. And still He loves me. Praise God for his grace!

As for the other ten spies, here are their names and meanings:

Shammah – Renowned, or heard of God

Shapat – Judge, to judge or avenge

Igal – Avenger

Palti – Deliverance from the Lord

Gaddiel – the fortune of God

Gaddi – Fortunate

Ammiel – People of God

Sethur – Hidden

Nahbi – also means Hidden

Geuel – Majesty of God

What if each of these men had returned an honest and accurate report instead of doubt?

Would their names be honored like Joshua and Caleb?

What if?

Father God, whose name is the Name Above All Names, I praise you! Thank you for my name. Guide me in fulfilling the destiny to which it is linked. As a child grafted into the vine, I will strive to honor my Father’s name through my actions. I ask for wisdom and draw from your love and strength to release that potential which you have given me. Glorified is your Name! Amen!

Too Much Salt

February 7, 2020 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Alan Mowbray  –

We all know about salt. You put it on french fries, potato chips, pretty much anything your mother-in-law cooks (well, not mine, of course), and foods that just don’t make your tongue dance.

Why? ‘Cause it tastes good. Well, technically, that’s actually the result of using salt, but it doesn’t answer the question of why adding salt makes things taste good.

Salt is a flavor enhancer. Those of you that bake know that recipes for sweets often have a bit of salt added. It’s there just to make the sugar and other ingredients taste better. This is where the “Salt” part of this comes from.

As a Christian, the Word tells me (Matthew 5: 13-16) that I am “…the salt of the earth.” This is a description of who I am – or should be. Salt enhances flavors; not by making them saltier, but rather, by enhancing the flavors already present in the other ingredients.

If I am to be salt, my life, my actions and my character should enhance the life of others. How I think, speak, act, and interact should be run through this filter of: “Am I actually making this other person’s life ‘taste’ better to them, or am I actually making it worse?

Worse? How could that be?
Did you ever put too much salt on something? Bleh!

By being a bit too overbearing and lording our Christianity over others, we can cause their taste for Christ to bitter. Our lifestyle, demeanor, reaction to adversity, and etc. all reflect on whether we are enhancing the flavor of others’ lives or whether we are too “salty.”

When first learning how to witness my faith to others, I was trained to boldly confront everyone with the message of Jesus Christ, but the tactics I was trained to use gave ME a bad taste in MY mouth. I couldn’t stomach banging on a stranger’s door, asking him if he know where he would go if he died tonight, and telling him he was destined for hell if he wasn’t saved… not that this is necessarily bad, but is it a proper use of our loving salt?

Was I enhancing these people’s lives, or did they shut the door on me – solidifying their belief that Christians were pathetic and highly annoying losers? Even worse, there were times when the people I was with got into arguments with them.

Would you say that walking around picking fights on unsuspecting people is counterproductive, yet being ready for a fight, if you are attacked, is prudent? Using this thought pattern, let’s compare confrontational witnessing versus living a holy lifestyle – ready, at a moment’s notice, to explain why when asked?

I’ve spent a few years tossing this issue in my head and I understand now that I was being too salty. Instead of enhancing and watering seedlings of hope and faith, I was flooding them with briny, brackish fleshly water.

Now, I still believe that one should tell others about Jesus, but I’ve changed my personal message. It’s no longer – “HERE’S WHAT JESUS CAN DO FOR YOU IF ONLY YOU’D JUST BELIEVE – YOU IDIOT!!!!!” My message is now – “Here’s what Jesus does for me every day, even though I don’t deserve it!”

When you become salt of the world, you aren’t pushing the Gospel down people’s throats; you’re living life with them – loving them. That is true witnessing. That’s what Jesus did.

We are here to enhance the lives of others. Done in love, our lives too, will taste sweeter as a result.

This Little Light is None of Your Business!

December 30, 2019 by  
Filed under Faith, Faith Articles

By Alan Mowbray –

As a child, I remember singing the words,

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine! (Verse 3X)
(Chorus)…Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine.

The next verse started,

Hide it under a bushel, No! I’m gonna let it shine…

We sang this in Sunday School. We sang it in Vacation Bible School. We sang it at summer camp. We sang it on the road to…. everywhere.

So what happened?

We don’t sing this song anymore. We, as a people in this country, claim that our faith is a – ahem (holy clearing of the throat) – private matter. Shhhhhhhh. Let’s all whisper in the glory of our private, personal holiness. From politicians, fellow employees, friends, family, we’ve all heard the phrase, “My faith is a private matter.”

Puleeeze! This is a deception from the pit of hell!

As people who worship the Most High God, the King of kings, our Creator, and our Father, Who loves us and Whose thoughts of each of us number greater than the sands on the shore… isn’t a bit strange that we feel the need to hide behind an excuse as weak as privacy?

Isn’t this the same God Who sent His Son to live as man, sinless, and without fault? A Son who then took a beating for our bodies’ healing, while bearing all our sins and paying the ultimate price for those sins – DEATH? Isn’t this the same Saviour who, prior to ascending into heaven, told His disciples – and ultimately, all professing Christians as well – to go forth and preach the gospel to all nations?

In The Message, the Great Commission (remember that?) goes like this:

‘“Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.
Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”’ Matthew 28:16-20 (The Message)

Where did we get the idea that faith is a private matter? And, if you profess to be a Christian and claim that, shame on you! Why profess to be a follower of Christ Jesus at all? Don’t you find it odd today, that the “private Christians” are applauded by the world, while those who stand by their beliefs and refuse to hide behind a “Privacy Please” sign hanging from their spiritual doorknobs are vilified?

Revelation 3:16 (NKJV) states, “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”

That’s a pretty hard statement. It describes an involuntary reaction to the taste of something that is unpleasing to God. How does your life, your fruit, taste to your Father God?
I look at myself. I’m guilty in this as well. There are times I have hid behind the privacy excuse as well. Not by saying “It’s a private matter,” but, rather, by not saying anything at all…
…when I should have spoken up.

Lord, forgive me for hiding behind this lie of privacy. I repent. Help me to stand boldly and steadfast, honoring Your Name. Thank You for Your grace. Amen.

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