“For God is not unjust. He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love to him by caring for other believers, as you still do.” -Hebrews 6:10

“There are things that are never separated from salvation; things that show the person to be in a state of salvation, and which will end in eternal salvation. And the things that accompany salvation, are better things than ever any dissembler or apostate enjoyed. The works of love, done for the glory of Christ, or done to his saints for Christ’s sake, from time to time, as God gives occasion, are evident marks of a man’s salvation; and more sure tokens of saving grace given, than the enlightenings and tastings spoken of before. No love is to be reckoned as love, but working love; and no works are right works, which flow not from love to Christ.” – Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Hebrews 6:10

 

Top Priority

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:28-31

“Now in the answer our Lord gives to this insightful scribe’s question, you have his listing of the priorities of life:

Number one is to begin with God. When you are troubled, when you do not know what to do first, when you feel you do not have enough resources to handle something, or are puzzled and bewildered, start with God and love him.

When we think about our own lives, we have to admit that we seldom start with loving God. Almost always we start with the demands made upon us, instead of looking to the God who will lead us through the puzzle, the problem and the pressures that confront us. We are so wrapped up with the problem that we can’t get our minds off it and onto God. He says to start with loving God. When you start with God you start with one who sees the whole problem — not just a part of it — but the whole problem and everything involved in it. Our trouble is that when we start with our own situation, we are so limited that we do not see it in the right perspective. And so we are to start with God’s thinking, with God himself.

But God himself does not begin there. There is something that precedes our love of God that our Lord takes for granted. What is that first thing? It is that God approaches us first. The command from Moses in Deuteronomy 6 that Jesus quotes here is a command that man is to love God. But that love is not possible until we have begun to see that God has loved us first. Our love, therefore, is the response of man to God. If all we were faced with was a demand for love from a God up there somewhere, we would find it difficult to respond. He would appear to be our enemy or our judge, or even our executioner. But the Scriptures never really start with our response. Do you remember how John put it in his letter, in First John 4:19: “We love, because he first loved us.”

Man’s responsibility is to respond to God’s love, which is reaching out to us on every side — reaching out in nature, reaching out in the supply of all that is being given to us day by day. We are never to forget that the things we enjoy — the food, the air, the sunshine, the shelter — all these material things of life that we need — come from the hand of God. It is God who gives them. It is God’s goodness protecting us, sheltering us, and watching over us that keeps us from being ravished and destroyed by the forces that are at work for evil in our lives. God’s sheltering hand is protecting us. So when you think about the love of God, and especially the love that redeems us, the proper and only response of the heart is to love God back with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

Now notice that Jesus tells us the process by which we are to love God. You see, love is not just a momentary feeling; it is a logical and specific action. If loving God is the key to life, the central truth of our humanity, how do we do it? Jesus quotes Moses as indicating certain processes by which this happens; the order given in the verse proceeds from the heart through the soul and mind to the whole man, the strength. This is reversed in our experience. In experience we begin with the mind. Truth comes to us from observation. We see things, we feel things, we hear things, we read things about God, we observe the record of our lives, the experience around us, and truth hits us first in the mind. That is why Jesus said that we are to love the Lord our God with all our minds and think about what God is doing for us and through us and to us in our life.

Next, the truth lays hold of the emotions — or the soul, as it is listed here. Love the Lord your God with all your soul — that is the quality of your emotional response. Truth hits the mind and then it moves to the emotions and grips them and you begin to feel moved by the truth your mind comprehends.

The third step is to assault and lay hold of the will — the heart, it is called here. This word “heart” is used in several ways in the Scriptures. Sometimes it refers to the will, sometimes to the emotions, but here it is the will that is in view. We are to choose with the heart, choose with the will — “For man believes with the heart and so is justified” (Romans 10:10), the apostle tells us in Romans 10.

Once our will (heart) is moved, then the whole man is involved. We love God with all our strength, which means we obey what he says. How do you love God? Observe the truth, allow the truth to touch the emotions, then to challenge and move the will, and finally to engage the body. We are to do this again and again and again. You start solving problems by responding to God’s love in this way. Only then can you love your neighbor as yourself. That is putting things in the proper priority.” – Top Priority, Ray Stedman

 

 

“Let my heart be broken with the things that break God’s heart.” -Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision

 

 

Why I Go To Church Even When I Don’t Feel Like It

“I have the same memories as many evangelicals who grew up in church at the same time I did: felt-board Bible stories, Sunday school donuts, praise chorus lyrics on overhead projectors.

Even before I was old enough to do much besides doodle during sermons, church was a fixture in my life. I was sometimes bored and sometimes enjoyed myself, but going to church wasn’t a choice—it was just what everyone did.

As I got a bit older, I realized that not everyone went to church, but I gathered that being someone who did was a moral imperative. It meant I was taking my faith seriously, being a good person and making God happy (or avoiding God’s anger). By the time I was old enough to join the youth group, other factors reinforced my involvement: church was where my friends were, where the cute boys were and where much of my social life took place.

Heading off to college meant that my parents no longer took me to church, and my social life was no longer headquartered there, but I still saw my attendance as a basic requirement of following Jesus. Where else could I grow in my faith and find spiritual community?

Over the next few years, however, something strange happened. I followed Jesus right out of church and into the streets, communing with homeless people over slices of pizza and hearing sermons in the words of the people who lived in the shelter on skid row where I served breakfast on Sunday mornings. Jesus showed up in all sorts of unlikely, unofficial places.

I continued to journey alongside other Christians, but I no longer understood the importance of attending church. It occurred to me that perhaps what was more important than how often I showed up for a Sunday service was how often I showed up for people who were in need: quietly listening, crying with them, sharing my food and time and space and joining my voice with theirs to demand justice.

The more I learned about poverty and systemic injustice, the more frustrated I became with churches whose weekly programming is disconnected from the world beyond their sanctuaries. I was tired of prayer without action; simplistic spiritual formulas without any mention of the Gospel Jesus preached: good news for the poor, freedom for the captives, sight for the blind. I lost hope that most of the Church would ever get its act together enough to closely resemble Jesus.

But then another strange thing happened. I kept following Jesus, and eventually, He led me right back into church. I was surprised. There were plenty of people there working toward justice, but I realized that church was not a place to go because everyone had their act together and was doing things right.

It was more like a refuge where all sorts of people could gather to remind each other of the story we were all in—the one about how God loves us, and is renewing our world and our souls in spite of all the damage that’s been done. It was more like a school for conversion where we were all stumbling through basic lessons on how to love.

We sang about this love and this mission to be part of it; we sang about our brokenness and our hope. We looked each other in the eye. We confessed our sins. We shared bread and juice and remembered that we are all tied together in this dysfunctional family that God has cobbled together.

I’ve slowly learned that going to church can be about something other than moral requirement, fear of punishment or even social connection.

It wasn’t perfect—sometimes I felt frustrated, bored or hurt—but it was good, and God was in it. Yes, church people could be apathetic, judgmental and selfish, but so could I. And just like everyone else, I needed to be welcomed and loved anyway.

Then one day, an older church lady put my husband and me in charge of finding people to serve communion each week. We were still “the new couple,” so I’m pretty sure she was just trying to rope us into consistent, punctual attendance—and her plan has absolutely worked.

Now that we’ve shouldered even just this tiny bit of responsibility, we recognize how many people have to show up consistently to create the prayerful, welcoming, worshipful space we experience each week. If everyone involved in leading music, running sound, teaching kids’ classes and preaching sermons only showed up on the days when they didn’t feel stressed, busy, tired, bored, sad, frustrated or enticed outside by beach weather, we wouldn’t have much of a church at all.” – Why I Go To Church Even When I Don’t Feel Like It, Trudy Smith, Relevant Magazine

 

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