Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Love is a VERB

James 2:18-20 (NIV) But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that-- and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?

Zealot Tim the Younger was sitting at his desk one day at lunch reading his bible. The quietness of lunchtime in that particular place was an incredibly serene setting compared to most offices. As the prophet sat feasting on the bread of Life, a Catholic acquaintance of his came skipping by and noticed Tim lost in the Word.

Wanting to impress the studious man of God with his scriptural prowess, "skippy" pierced the tranquility like the first cannon shot in a volley of artillery. He fired off a quick quote of John 3:16 as he passed by Timmy's desk. To this the prophet stood and responded with equal self-righteous vigor, a line from the above verse, “Well, even the demons believe and they shudder!”

You would have thought “the Rev” (as he was known by many back then) had just set off a tactical nuke! The gophering that took place in that cube farm was nothing short of well, biblical proportions. Heads popped up with the ensuing interrogation from a few that went something sort of like this:

Faceless crowd member: “So you are saying it takes more than faith to be a Christian?”
Man Of God: No. I’m saying if you have real faith, your feet will follow what your mouth professes.
Insignificant sojourner: “What you’re really saying is that we are justified by works?”
M-O-G: No greasy grace guy, I’m saying if you believe what you say, then your faith will be on display in your actions.
Carnal "Christian Wannabe": “That sounds a lot like works to me.”
M-O-G: Um – do you use a black “highlighter” on the parts of scripture you don’t like? What I quoted was as much scripture as your beloved Baptist once-saved-always-saved so set the cruise control and onto heaven we go John 3:16 passage. If you don’t like James as much as John, just tear out that part of your bible and be done with it, otherwise take it up with the Holy Spirit, He wrote it not me. I’m just trying to walk it out. Any one else?

Heads slowly disappeared behind fabric of beige and crickets began their chorus of chirping once again. I returned to my bible study of one, unfazed by the spiritual wounds I had inflicted. Tim – 0, Others – 0. That exchange happened about 16 years ago. My oh my, how time flies when you’re slaying demons…and Christians.

Since that time I have gone more charismaniac, got burned out and left the church completely, embraced ooey-gooey-greasy-grace, returned to church, and finally discovered some modicum of spiritual balance while noting I am still in this tremendous glorious incredible and frustrating journey. Thank you Jesus.

I find that through it all there is still this battle between faith and works, and where one ends and the other begins. What I often discover is that others are okay with someone else doing “works” but are rarely okay in being challenged to engage themselves.

“That’s not my calling.” Newsflash: It doesn’t take a “calling” to recognize a need in someone. Insert primal scream here. I can see the “anyone can yell the truth” rebuke coming. Yep – and anyone can whisper “fire!” too.

If God is Love, and Jesus is the full expression of the Father, and Jesus is the Word, and the Word of God is living and active, then what in the wide world of sports are we “doing” in a proactive way to further God’s Kingdom?

It’s like we’ve become the Cousin Eddie character in Christmas Vacation who has been waiting for a “management position” for about 7 years. Hey Lord, I’ll just hang our here until someone in need falls in my lap, then I’ll call someone else who I know can help them.

My bride called her “Women’s Ministry Pastor” at a church we used to go to and asked for her to gather a few ladies to come with her to minister to a friend whose husband had left her. The agreed upon plan was to get two or three women to meet her at this lady’s house and just love on her and pray with her while my wife Ally cleaned her house.

A week or so later, at the appointed time, and as she was on the way to meet them, she got a call from the “women’s pastor” saying that no one would be meeting her and they felt like since it was her friend, she would be better equipped to minister to her (and clean too I guess). I’ve seen this type of nonsense in “the church” repeatedly, and we wonder why congregations dwindle and the world thinks us hypocrites?

Our Christian cliché of "Jesus is the answer" is really not enough to the world anymore – or even the hurting in the church for that matter. While that statement is truth it is not the whole Truth. The “Truth” is that the Jesus IN us may be the answer that responds to someone's pain or meets another’s need. If there was ever an example of Love as a verb it was Jesus and his relentless walk through this life meeting needs along the way, and ultimately submitting to a torturous death.

He spoke of examples like: the rich man and Lazarus, the Good Samaritan, and "the least of these." He taught us how in the sending out of the 72. He became the ultimate verb on the Cross, out of the grave, and on the throne. What's not to understand here? Pardon my passion but its time to get off your butts and love someone like He loves you, because this is how we know you are His disciples.

I am no longer impressed by the confession that rings hollow from the couch. Don't hear what I'm not saying. I know “good works” don't save you, but they are a pretty good yardstick for where you are in your journey. Some of you set up camp when you got saved and never broke it.

In the grace and blessings we all have received, how is it we still struggle with sharing our time, talents, and energy outside the Sunday morning church service? I love the local church, it does great things, but we can’t use that as our excuse to insulate us from where the rubber truly meets the road.

Galatians 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

We have had 12 straight days over 100 degrees here in DFW. I bet there were some homeless people that have died of dehydration. How difficult would it be for us to just load up a cooler of Gatorade, or even bottles of water, and take it to the streets and hand them out? Just giving someone a bottle of water and telling them that Jesus hasn't forgotten them might change their life. Jesus is our and their only hope-eternal and we need to share that with them.

Do the thing that is next, saith the proverb, And a nobler shall yet succeed: 'Tis the motive exalts the action; 'Tis the doing, not the deed. Margaret Junkin Preston

My friend Byron, a father in the faith, does some marriage counseling. One of the most important principles he teaches a young lady is to not pay as much attention to what a guy says, but pay close attention to what he does instead. As the bride of Christ, that is valuable information to have right there. Jesus’ actions matched his words. Does ours? Activity void of love is a clanging cymbal. Faith without works is dead. Marry those two up and it’s life. Let’s live it and move it!


Brian said...

AMEN bro. Shure stepped on my toes some. Thanks for the setting things straight, and pulling no punches.

Barry Garrett said...

Good stuff Tim. Really challenging. Thanks for showing the way, not just talking the way!

Anonymous said...


Once again you've spotted the flaw in the paint. But does this flaw really detract from the overall beauty of this nice low ride?

You've grown a bunch in Christ and you're starting to see with eyes you didn't have 5 years ago.

Challenge the "Do nothing" Christians to allow Christ to work through them. As you say so well, their feet will follow their convictions.

Or take on one that really gets me, and you touched on, and that is "Christians" being so un-Christ like as to make others judge all of us as hypocrits. How much wrong has Religion done in His name?

I mention this for one thing you said you must be careful about. . . . the "Baptist" that believe once baptised always baptised (or saved if you wish). If I didn't know you like I do, I'd say that was Religion talking, not Him through you.

Really good post. Got me thinking yet again.

The Trailing Arbutus

Bulldog said...

I looked up the word 'prolific' and there was a picture of you, bro. You are the man. I can't take this much truth in all at once.
Love you, brother.

"I don't know whether I'm alive and dreaming or dead and remembering."