"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

When Politics Trumps Your Love, Your Soul Suffers

We're living in a day when people seem willing to sacrifice friendships for the sake of politics. Polarization is the norm. "Unite with me in politics, or I'll separate from you in friendship" becomes the mantra of many.

George E. Demacopoulos of Fordham University opines, “Most of us allow political allegiances to predetermine the moral calculus that we perform individually.”  Politics is the easy path. We find a problem, blame someone else, and nothing gets done.

But for disciples of Christ, we must refuse to take the easy road. 

Love should trump our politics every day. There used to be a day when placing friendship and love before politics was the norm in America, for both Christians and non-Christians.

I remember those days. When I first began to vote at the age of 18, I had the pleasure to cast my first Presidential ballot for Ronald Reagan. I watched as the new Republican President of the United States formed a friendship with Tip O'Neal, the Democratic Speaker of the House.

Listen to essayist Stefan Kleinhenze describe the Reagan/O'Neal friendship of the early 1980s.
"(They) were opposites politically–yet they never allowed that to define their relationship. One time Reagan confronted O’Neill about some nasty things said in the newspaper, and O’Neil replied with: “That’s just politics, after 6 o’clock we’re buddies–we’re friends.” And that’s exactly what they were–frequently going out after work and simply having a beer together, and after Ronald Reagan was shot, the first person to come and visit him was Tip O’Neill. Reagan took it, that when things would get a little heated in some of their meetings, he would visibly set his watch to 6 o’clock, as a frolicsome reminder of their true identity in friendship.
The Christian life is to love. Mark Dayton, the governor of Minnesota, was once giving a speech to both state legislatures, when he suddenly collapsed. As he falls, the entire room of opposing opinions and beliefs stand up in unison out of concern for their fellow man, and those who were close, rush to catch him before he hits the ground. It’s a simple story, but a profound testament to the nature of humanity–that we are created to love. It is in the love of one another that we draw near to God, and it is in the love of one another that we find our political party. We should absolutely welcome politics, but never at the expense of our neighbor–because our opinions, discussions, and debates won’t be there to catch us when we fall. My brothers and sisters in Christ, the course of history has arrived at our hour, it is time we ask ourselves: is it 6 o’clock yet?"
I'm setting my watch.

How about you?

Voltaire, "A Bloody Religion", and Life vs. Death

Voltaire once criticized Christianity as a “bloody religion."

The French philosopher felt Christians placed too much emphasis on blood, particularly the bloody death of its founder, Jesus Christ. 

Many, like Voltaire, who read or hear the word "blood" only think of the red internal liquid of the human body. And thus, Christianity is called "a bloody religion."

Those who deem Christianity "bloody" misunderstand the significance of blood. In the Bible, blood is used as a synonym for life, and the loss of blood as a synonym for death. 

For example:
"For life... is in the blood" (Leviticus 17:11)
"Without the shedding of blood (ie, loss of life), there is no forgiveness of sins" (Hebrews 9:22).
In the Old Covenant, the blood of the sacrificial animals played a prominent role in Jewish worship. 

From the priest dipping his fingers into the blood and sprinkling it on the ground and the altar to the various instructions for the use of the blood according to the kind of sacrifice being offered, blood was a predominant theme. 

However, there was no magic in the blood of the sacrificial animals, and there is no magic in the blood of Jesus Christ

The blood represents life, and the loss of blood represents death.

When Christians sing songs like Nothing But the Blood, or Are You Washed in the Blood?  or Oh, the Blood of Jesus, and There Is Power In the Blood, the thought processes of the worshipper often wrongly move toward the red liquid plasma in the body of Christ. 

We should be considering the death of Jesus Christ, not the red blood cells of our Savior. The shedding of Christ's blood is simply a synonym for His death. God, in His love for us, sent His Son to die in our place. 

It is not the actual blood of Jesus that saves us, it is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ - conquering death for sinners - that saves us from the punishment of sin, which is death.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried,that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (I Corinthians 15:3).
Christ died willingly (voluntary). No man took His life, He laid it down for us (John 10:18). 

Christ died and took the punishment for sin (penal). The word penal, as in 'the penal system,' means "punishment" for offenders. 
"God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus." (Romans 3:25-28). 
Christ died as a Substitute for us, the real sinners (substitutionary). 
"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (II Corinthians 5:21). 
God punished the Son He loves with death so that He might remove the punishment of death for those who love His Son. He gives to those who embrace Christ the free gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23). 

Because the emphasis in Scripture is on God providing His Son to die for sinners, salvation from God's punishment is called "salvation by grace."

Sinners who believe in Christ "gain approval with God by faith" (Hebrews 11:39). 


Accountability to the Creator

Ultimately, the problem skeptics have with Christianity is the idea that God holds people accountable for their sins--or maybe to drill down even further--that there is even such a thing as sin.

 Yet, it is clear from logic and the logos (the Word) that God, that the righteous Judge of the universe, punishes those who hate Him and harm others with death. 

What kind of judge would He be if He didn't?

Yet, God's punishment is not arbitrary or capricious. He is holy and righteous in all His actions. The punishment will always match the crime. 

This is why Scripture declares that the sentenced pronounced by God for sinners varies according to one's sin (Matthew 10:15), but the end of all sinners is ultimately a death (Proverbs 14:12), called "the second death" (Revelation 21:8) because it is different from the first death in that there is no resurrection - it is a final punishment. 

John Stott came to the conviction that the judgment of God for sinners is always temporal and the ultimate punishment from God for sinners is eternal (eternal death). Stott believed God righteously judges sinners according to their sins, meting out sentences of judgment in various degrees and lengths, but in the end, every sinner experiences the second death. 

I am convinced that Scripture teaches eternal punishment (death), not eternal punishing (torment). The punishment is eternal; the punishing is temporal. There is a difference. 

On the other hand, all the riches of God's grace are the possession of every believer in Christ. 

Christ died for our sins. He rose for our justification. 

All the rewards of Christ are ours because of His active obedience (His life) and His passive obedience (His death). 

As those who trust in the work of Christ, we become co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). 

So the next time you sing about the blood, reflect on what it is that you are actually singing. The emphasis in Scripture is not on the red corpuscles in the body of Jesus as if they possess some magical powers...

The blood of Jesus Christ is His death.

There is a difference between literalism and a belief in the infallible, life-giving Word of God. 

Wise is the one who understands the difference.

The Difference in History and Hysteria Isn't Much: 5 Good Reasons to Ignore The Trump Prophecies

At the recommendation of a friend, I just finished reading The Trump Prophecies: The Astonishing True Story of the Man Who Saw Tomorrow...And What He Says Is Coming Next.

I marvel at the number of evangelical Christians who seem to think this book is prophetical, biblical, or even logical.

The Trump Prophecies is a book about an alleged vision given to retired firefighter Mark Taylor when he was deathly ill in April 2011. Mr. Taylor says the "Holy Spirit revealed" to him that Donald Trump would be President of the United States before Trump even "announced he was running for President."

This alleged "prophecy" later fell into the hands of charismatic authors, Don and Mary Colbert, and God "used this new team of passionate individuals to lead the nation into a fervent prayer chain that would accomplish one of the most incredible miracles our country has ever seen." (Their words, not mine).

I find it startling the number of evangelicals who think God cares more about he who sits in the Oval Office than He who reigns over the eternal Kingdom.

Most American evangelicals struggle with myopia. We blur the little "k" of our nation and personal prosperity with the big "K" of Christ and the principles of grace.  It seems to me God is more concerned that His people live committed to careful allegiance for the big "K" than He is that His people live comfortable with captive attention on the little "k."

As an evangelical, I find it remarkable that some Christians deem American economic and national prosperity more important than "every spiritual blessing in Christ" (Ephesians 1:13). As a historian, I find it sophomoric and puerile to equate Donald Trump to Persian King Cyrus. As an American who cares about my country, I find it distasteful to act as if a vote for Donald Trump is a vote for God.

Before you criticize these words, understand that I voted for Trump, and I very well may vote for him again. I'm not anti-Trump. What I am is anti-anything that exalts Trump, American politics, and America's future over the real Triumphant One, Kingdom principles, and eternity.

Empires rise and empires fall. Countries come and countries go. Leaders are established and leaders are removed. People are born and people shall die.

The Kingdom of Christ alone shall stand.

5 Good Reasons to Ignore the Trump Prophecies

The authors give five reasons why The Trump Prophecies should be read by Americans. I will give their five reasons and then briefly unwind them to show why the book should be ignored.

*"If you read the book and will learn How the Lord can and will use anyone regardless of education, background, or health to communicate His message to the Church of Christ." 
1. Of course God can use anyone to communicate His message. The problem with The Trump Prophecies is the message. The message we all need to hear is one about Christ and what He says about how to live our lives. You won't get that message in The Trump Prophecies.
*If you read the book you'll learn what led to the miracle of the 2016 election, the role of we the people for the will of God in the future, and what the Body of Christ needs to do to keep His blessing on our nation."
2. Doing something to "keep His blessing on our nation" isn't grace or mercy; it is merit and works. Anyone who "works" for the blessings of God will always ultimately fail (ask Israel). If one really wants the blessings of God, trust the Good News He gives us through the Person, work, and teachings of Jesus Christ. The power of a gracious God from within transforms individuals, societies, and only ultimately nations.
*If you read this book you'll learn how the enemy has utilized techniques of distraction to keep the Body's focus off of God and onto internal, demoralizing disputes and how this can be overcome.
3. That's a nice way of saying, "If you disagree with us, you're the enemy." Sorry, that's the methodology of spiritual abuse, and those who use such methods should always be ignored, no matter what they say. 
*If you read this book you will be given insight into the astounding, world-altering changes in our US government that Mark sees on the horizon. 
4. Even if a retired firefighter could tell me what was on the horizon of the US government, why should I care? I have enough on my plate listening to the reigning King of kings telling me how to live my life. In short, I'm a citizen of a country not built with human hands, and to the King of that eternal Kingdom I owe my allegience. 
*If you read this book you'll receive the positive message of hope and encouragement that points to fresh methods of spreading the Gospel to the lost.
5. Of all the reasons given, this is the worst. I've never met a drug addict, a prisoner, a businessman busted for stealing, a career woman caught up in an affair, a married couple in the midst of a divorce, a politican who failed to get elected, a pastor arrested for a secret sin, or anyone else harmed or hurting by poor choices in this life who is encouraged by the election of a President. 
The only hope for mankind lies within the Good News, which is not news you'll find in the newspaper or book, but the Good News which God reveals in His Word.

That is sufficient for me.

Christ and what He accomplished is a fact of history. Unfortunately, it only takes a few vowels to change history into hysteria, both politically and personally.

The Messiah's the Message of Manifold Messengers

Esther is the only book in the Bible where God's name is never mentioned.

But Esther is a book where God's grace is uniquely pictured.

Good News runs throughout the book.

And how that Good News is spread by messengers varies in methodology. This blog post is an encouragement to all evangelicals to be open-minded, encouraging, and even supportive of various methodologies in taking the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world.

Rap music may not be your cup of tea. Preachers in jeans may not be a vision you like having. Change in your culture, whether it be church or society, may be difficult to accept.

The book of Esther reminds us that the message is always central.

But how that message gets out to the people often varies. Don't get hung up on the delivery. Churches who get adamant that only their methodology for doing Kingdom things is the only way are in danger of losing focus on the centrality of the Messiah and the Good News He sends.

Let me explain.

The Gospel Message 

Esther, the Jewish girl who marries the powerful Persian king, is the heroine of the book of Esther.

She intervenes on behalf of her people when Haman, a Persian royal who hated the Jews, obtained a Law of the Medes and the Persians - an unalterable law - that all the Jews in the Persian Empire, regardless of age and gender, should be put to death.

We, like the Jews in Esther's day, are under a similar unalterable law. "The wages of sin is death' (Romans 6:23). This law is inescapable, regardless of age or gender, fame or fortune, and any attempts to nullify it.

However, seventy days after that first Persian law of death went into effect, Esther intervened on behalf of the Jews to obtain a new law of life (see Esther 8:9), allowing the Jews--on the authority of King Xerxes her husband -- to destroy those who sought to put them to death.

Since any Law of the Medes and the Persians was irreversible, the new law only made the first law ineffectual, allowing a "way of escape" on the authority of the king.

So too, seventy weeks after the Jews were allowed to leave Persia (458 B.C.) to rebuild and restore Jerusalem,  Jesus came "to make an end of sin and death" (Daniel 9:24-27) by establishing a New Law (Hebrews 8:13), crushing the head of the enemy of His people (Genesis 3:15).

The new law in Esther's day went into effect with the seal of the king's signet ring (Esther 8:8). The signet ring was worn by ancients and "pressed" into a wax seal to authenticate a document.

That signet ring in the book of Esther is a beautiful picture of God's grace in Jesus the Messiah. In Haggai 2:22-23  the Messiah is called "God's signet ring."
"I will overthrow the thrones of kingdoms and destroy the power of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will overthrow the chariots and their riders, and the horses and their riders will go down, everyone by the sword of another. 'On that day,' declares the Lord of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, My servant,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will make you like a signet ring, for I have chosen you,’” declares the Lord of hosts.
The above verse is a Messianic prophecy that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is God's Signet Rings that authenticates the New Law of life.

Often the Old Covenant prophets would promise the return of David to the throne of Israel. Remember, David was the first ruler of Israel appointed by God alone before the exile. But when the prophets of the Old Covenant predicted the return of David, they actually meant "the Son of David."
The Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament were always about one of David’s sons as specifically outlined in 2 Samuel 7:8–16.

In the same manner, when the prophet Haggai predicted a future King and Kingdom, it was a prophecy about Zerubbabel who was the first ruler of Israel appointed by God alone after the exile. Like the prophecies of the future ruler through David's genealogical line, Haggai's words are a prophecy about one of Zerubbabel’s sons. So not only is "son of David" a title for the Messiah, so is "son of Zerubbabel."

Both Jewish and Christian scholars see the necessity for the Messiah ("God's signet ring") to be a direct descendent of both David and Zerubbabel.

When you read the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1:13 and Luke 3:27 you find that Jesus Christ comes from the line King David through Zerubbabel.  Jesus is the rightful King of Jews. Jesus fulfills the prophecies of the Messiah as given by the prophets, the King who destroys the power of all other kingdoms.

Jesus is God's Signet Ring.

The only way the old law of sin and death is rendered ineffective is through God issuing a New Law that protects His people by crushing the head of Satan (i.e. "the ruler of the kingdoms of this world"), a  New Law of life that is sealed with the King's Signet Ring, Jesus Christ.

Just as the king of Persia gave his signet ring to Mordecai (see Esther 8), so God so loved us that He gave us His Son (John 3:16 and Hebrews 8), giving Him for our protection (Matthew 1:21

Through the King's Signet Ring (Jesus Christ), the old law of sin and death is made ineffectual. Even though we deserve death each time we sin,

God's signet ring renders the irreversible old law ineffectual because Jesus establishes the new law of life. That's rich grace.

When we realize what we’ve been given in the King’s signet ring, the riches of the King's grace cause us to lose our desires for the lesser pleasures of this life and to be captivated by the eternal riches of our King (see Ephesians 2:7).

This is the Good News of the New Law signed with the Signet Ring of the King

But how that Good News is delivered to the people varies according to the messenger.

This is a wonderful lesson from Esther 8:10 for all gospel preachers and teachers.

The Persian king sent couriers throughout the Persian empire to declare the good news for the Esther's family.

We are also commissioned by the King of Kings to "move swiftly" throughout the world, to go and herald the good news to people everywhere (Matthew 28:18-20).

The words of Esther 8:10 (KJV) are specific as to how the couriers from King Xerxes were to be sent out with the good news of the New Law:
 "...by mules, camels, young dromedaries and horseback."
We who proclaim the gospel can be compared to messengers riding mules. Mules are slow and steady.

However, we can also compare to riders of three faster animals, all mentioned in this Esther text. Camels are faster than mules,  young dromedaries  are faster than camels, and horses are faster than them all.

It matters not how we get the message of grace out to the world, it only matters that we are riding with an important message.

I find it fascinating that the New American Standard lumps all four animals together and translates Esther 8:10 in this manner:
"The king sent out couriers riding on steeds sired by the royal stud."
No mules. No camels. No dromedaries. No horses. Just "steeds sired by the royal stud."

Some of our methods may be slow (ever pastor a church that's stuck in the 80's?), some of our methods may be faster than others, (ever been a part of a Christian group that intentionally puts people above programs, and never settles for status quo 'just because we've always done it that way'?) and some of our methods may be swifter than the fastest thoroughbreds (ever been a member of a church that changes their methods for reaching people so fast you can't keep up with the changes?)

If the New American Standard translators are anywhere close to the ballpark in their translation of Esther 8:10, you shouldn't be too quick to judge someone else's methods of carrying the gospel message - whether they're going slow or going fast - for we all are "couriers riding steeds sired by the royal stud."

It seems God puts an emphasis on our message and may be a tad indifferent to our chosen methodologies. 

God Sent Forth His Son in Love for Kevin Taylor

Kevin Taylor
It's Christmas Eve.

As I write, I vacillate between emotions. The joy that comes from reflecting on God sending forth His Son is mixed with sadness over losing a friend.

Kevin Taylor died very early yesterday morning (Central Time). He fought a brief, courageous battle with brain cancer.

With permission from his wife Robin, I'm writing this tribute.

God's love is real, but if the conversation is only about "God's love for the world," Divine love remains in the attic of our thinking - distant, impersonal, and conceptual

But when Divine love is discussed in the living room of a sinner's personal experience, God's love is brought home to the heart - a present, personal, and practical love that transforms lives.
"When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son." (Galatians 4:4)
That verse is the basis of my Christmas Eve message for those who will later gather for our Candlelight Services at Emmanuel Enid, Oklahoma. 

I want to bring God's love home to the heart for the reader, and for Kevin Taylor's family particularly, through telling Kevin's story of faith, courage, and grace this Christmas Eve. 
"God sent forth His Son in love for Kevin Taylor." (Galatians 4:4)

Kevin Taylor's Courage

I first came to know Kevin Taylor when he emailed me this fall, shortly after he'd been told he didn't have long to live. As I was working on my computer in my home office in late September, I received a notification of a new email in my inbox.

I clicked on it and read this: 
Hi Wade,
I have listened to a number of your messages and archived series. I want to say thank you for the blesssings they have been to my wife and me. I have stage 4 brain cancer and have been given less than 6 months. I have no fear of where I will spend eternity either going to sleep or to be in His presence. the peace that I have is because of the truth God has given to you. I am not worried "Did I do enough?" as it is all been taken care of at the Cross by Christ!!
Thank you for speaking out in love and truth it is a the truth and a message to all to those who might be held in bondage of legalism and hopelessness. Till we rejoice together in eternity in Christ.
Your brother in Christ.
Kevin Taylor
Two things in Kevin's email immediately stood out to me. First, Kevin took a matter-of-fact approach to his terminal illness. I’ve been around death and dying people my entire life. The reaction to impending death is usually fear. It’s always refreshing to sense someone facing death like they would an impending vacation to an exotic, far-away city. It may involve some work, discomfort, and even trouble getting there, but in the end, it’s worth it.

Second, people who reach out to express their appreciation to someone else during a difficult time in their own lives – a time when most people would be thinking only of themselves -  is a characteristic to be admired and imitated. 

I immediately wrote Kevin back and gave him my cell phone number and asked him to contact me so I could visit with him further. 

Kevin called me. I learned that on Friday, September 23, 2018, Kevin had struggled to land his Citation jet at the airport at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. He had suddenly lost his depth perception and spatial comprehension at 20,000 feet. The mental confusion came next, seizing him rapidly and without warning.  The flight had been smooth until Kevin completely lost his ability to know up from down, left from right, backward from forward. 

Fighting the urge to panic, and feeling concern for his passengers, Kevin forced his eyes to concentrate on the jet’s instruments as he made his swift descent and approach to Jackson Hole’s airport runway. Looking back, Kevin didn't know how he managed to get the plane safely to the ground. 

“It was a miracle.” As soon as he landed, Kevin called his boss requesting a replacement pilot to finish the charter.

“I’m sick,” Kevin said.  

What he couldn’t have known at the time was that this charter flight to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, was to be his last flight. Kevin was more than just sick.

Kevin was dying.

A glioblastoma malignant tumor had overtaken the left side of Kevin’s brain, putting pressure on his cerebral stem. Thinking that he only needed adjustment from his chiropractor, and not knowing the seriousness of his medical condition, Kevin rented a car at the Jackson Hole airport to drive 90 miles to his home in Afton, Wyoming. “I’ll be home in a couple of hours,” Kevin told his wife, Robin.

The rental car company would later tell the family that Kevin damaged the rental on his way home, sideswiping the guardrails on his way out of the parking lot. Kevin vaguely remembers running red lights on the way home, but not comprehending what he was doing. When he finally made it home, he could barely walk.

Robin immediately took her husband to the hospital. After a CT scan that showed the tumor, the doctor recommended to Robin that Kevin be med-flighted to Salt Lake City, Utah, to see the chief neurologist at the University of Utah Medical Center.

Choosing instead to drive her husband. Robin drove Kevin to the hospital. Their three kids met them at the hospital and the neurology department sent Kevin through a battery of tests.

The diagnosis came back. 
"Kevin, you might not make it to Christmas, maybe not even Thanksgiving." 
Wade Burleson and Kevin Taylor, November 25, 2018
After a few conversations with Kevin and Robin over the phone and Facetime, I flew to Irvine, California on Sunday, November 25, 2018, to meet them. They had moved to Irvine to live with their son Colby, a worship pastor at Mariner's Church, after Colby and his wife Brittany offered Robin their help in caring for Kevin during his final weeks under hospice. 

As I sat outside with Kevin and Robin drinking coffee on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, Kevin told me his story. He would say it's a typical story of an average American middle-aged male.

But I believe Kevin's story tells us that one is not ready to live until one is ready to die.

Kevin Taylor's Career

Kevin was born to blue-collar parents Roman Catholic parents from West Alton, Missouri. He was the seventh of what would be ten Taylor kids, with four other foster kids that Kevin's mom and dad later adopted. Kevin's dad was a carpenter by trade, and his mom stayed at home, caring for all the children.

Kevin attended St. Patrick's School, participating in mass before the first bell, and later serving as an altar boy. He played football and baseball at St. Patrick's but spent most his time either at church or at work. To help out with family finances, Kevin went to work as soon as he could, finding as much manual labor work as possible.

On November 28, 1975, Kevin Taylor married his high school sweetheart (Robin) at the same Catholic parish where he'd been made an altar boy exactly twelve years earlier. 

The young married couple did all they could to make financial ends meet.  Robin worked as a teller, and Kevin worked at Pepsi, loading delivery trucks. 

But then Kevin had an idea.

In Alton, Illinois, right across the Mississipi River from West Alton, Missouri, the Alton Civic Memorial Airport ran an FBO (Fixed Base Operator) Pilot School.  Kevin saved his money, took pilot lessons, and after obtaining his pilot license, became an instructor at the school.

Soon, some businessmen opened a Charter Company at Alton and asked Kevin to fly for them. 

That was the beginning of a charter flight career that took Kevin all over the country. The Taylor family grew in size as they welcomed three children into their home: Ryan, Colby, and Miranda. 

Kevin, Robin, and their oldest son Ryan (Colby and Miranda were not yet born) lived in Alton, Illinois as Kevin commuted to airports all over the east coast (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York), flying for his wealthy clients. In 1985, the Taylors bought a home in Barrington, New Hampshire so Kevin wouldn't have to commute so far for work, and then they later bought a home in Rockland, Maine where the kids would eventually graduate from high school. 

Kevin told me some pretty incredible stories about his flying career. Protecting the privacy of his clients, I won't share most of the stories, but he did give me permission to write that many of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein most likely occurred in the back of planes Kevin piloted for Mr. Weinstein. Harvey was always nice to Kevin ("He tipped my crew and me $1,000 every trip"), but Kevin sadly reminded me that one never knows what goes in a person's private life. 

Kevin shared some stories of flying well-known evangelists who preached "faith and prosperity," but 20,000 feet high, they practiced "fear and panic," doubting the love of God because of storms all around. 

Kevin could have taught those evangelists a lesson about trusting God.


Kevin Taylor's Christ

Robin, Colby, Wade, and Kevin
Most of the time I spent with Kevin on Sunday, November 25, 2018, involved a discussion with Kevin about Christ's love.

Raised as a Catholic altar boy, Kevin's concept of Christianity was all about performance. "If you perform for God, then God will bless you." 

It was not until Kevin and Robin were married adults with kids of their own that they came to an understanding that the performance they should trust was God's performance on their behalf, not their performance on God's behalf. This was a radically new way of thinking, and it was the culmination of many years of God pursuing Kevin and Robin. 
"Through the influence of business associates who talked to us about the love of God, events in our families that led us to questions about God's love, and a pastor who came by our house to pray for us when we were in serious need of prayer, we opened our hearts to the love of Christ and came to rest in His performance on the cross for us." 
Kevin and Robin were baptized on Easter Sunday 1987. For nearly three decades they were faithful to their small evangelical community church, but due to a move that necessitated leaving their home church and subsequent problems with leaders who were spiritually abusive at their new church, Kevin and Robin began listening to Emmanuel Enid's LIVE broadcasts on Sunday.
"Often when I fly, I'm gone over the weekend, so I'd pull up Emmanuel's online service and participate. Over time, we learned so much about the grace of God in our lives and the work and ministry of Emmanuel that we began to consider Emmanuel Enid our home church.  
Kevin told me the Sunday morning study at Emmanuel from the book of Hebrews crystalized his understanding of "the liberty and peace that comes from trusting Christ and not one's performance for God."

It's the message from Hebrews 12:22-24 entitled But You Have Come to Mt. Zion which turned Kevin's life around.

Kevin told me that he came to a firm conviction through listening to this sermon that obedience to the Law of Sinai, or to the law of the church (be it Roman Catholic or Fundamentalist Baptist), or to any other law would never bring him true freedom or give him true peace.
"I can't thank Emmanuel Enid enough for all the church has done to strengthen a couple that's never been to Enid, never set foot in your buildings, but have benefited from the teaching ministry. This former Roman Catholic altar boy and former Fundamentalist Baptist is now only impressed with God's grace; nothing else. I'm prepared to die because I understand that true riches in this life are found in Christ alone. 
With the help of Colby Taylor and Mariner's Church video team, Kevin made a video for our church members, expressing his appreciation (it will be shown at Emmanuel Enid next Sunday).

Our Christmas Eve services begin in just a couple of hours, and I must go prepare to speak on God's love. But Kevin's testimony and example have helped me today move God's love from the attic of my mind to the warmness of my heart. I'll be speaking this Christmas Eve to other Kevins who need to know that God loves sinners, not perfect people.

And when that love is known, even a sinner can face impending death with courage, grace, and peace.

I'd like to close with a pastoral word to Kevin's family.

Your husband, father, and grandfather taught me by experience what it means to rest in God's love. I may preach it, but he practiced it. He faced his death so courageously because he embraced Christ's death so confidently.

My personal message to you this Christmas 2018.
God sent forth His Son in love for Kevin, and for you Robin, and for you Ryan, Jennifer, Wesley, and Camden; and for you Colby, Brittany, and Levi; and for you Miranda, Chris, Ryken, and Brycen.
The sign of God's love for you during this difficult hour comes directly from God: "For the Lord Himself has given you a sign: The virgin conceived and gave birth to a Son, and she called his name Emmanuel - God with us."
God is indeed with you, loving each of you personally, deeply, and eternally. 
Emmanuel proves it.

Read and Understand the Bible with Christ as Key

I had lunch this week with a highly decorated soldier who has been attending Emmanuel for the past year.

He said to me, "Since I started attending, I've developed a desire to read the Bible. My wife gave me a Bible as a gift for Christmas, and my New Year's resolution is to read it through. Is there something that could help me understand it better?"

I explained that nobody would begin building a house without a set of plans. Constructing a house requires a framework. So too, before one can read and understand the Bible, a proper framework is needed.

I told him the Bible is all about Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself said, "The Scriptures speak of me" (John 5:39), Jesus Christ is the key to understanding the Bible.

The problem many have when they start reading the Bible is that they don't set out to see how everything in Scripture revolves around the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

Christmas is that time we celebrate the Creator of the universe coming to earth as a Man. Emmanuel means "God with us." The Creator came "humbling Himself by becoming obedient to death" (Philippians 2:8).

He came to fulfill the Law of "sin and death" for us, setting us free from the condemning power of His Law (Romans 8:2). Our Creator commanded mankind to live life to its fullest, loving others the way He loves us. But we've all broken His Law, and we deserve to die because of our sin, at least according to the Lawgiver, who sets the penalty for violating His Law (Romans 6:23). It's fruitless to argue with God that you don't deserve to die for your sin because He has said in His Law, "The one who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:20).

But God, in His love for sinners, came to take our place, absorbing the penalty of death on Himself, conquering it through His resurrection (I Corinthians 15:3-8), and promising life now and life eternally to those who trust Him (Romans 6:23).




Time for western civilization has historically been measured by the coming of God to this world, an act called "the Incarnation." Chili with "meat" is called "chili con carne." Carne is the Latin word that means "meat" or "flesh." When the invisible, immortal, immutable Creator God took on "flesh," we call it the In-carn-ation.

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son." (Gal. 4:4)

Celebrating the Messiah in a manger at Bethlehem has meaning only when comprehending the Messiah on a cross at Jerusalem. The mission of the Messiah was to die for sinners, bearing our punishment. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.

"For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation" (II Corinthians 5:19).

So Christ is the center of history because nothing in history is more significant than Christ's coming for us.

Before Christ and the Year of our Lord (Anno Domini)


B.C. is an abbreviation for "Before Christ" and A.D. is the Latin abbreviation "Anno Domini" which in English means, "The Year of Our Lord." When the abbreviations are properly used, B.C. is placed after the year, and A.D. comes before the year (ex. 1500 B.C. or A.D. 1500).

Since the 8th century A.D., Western Civilization has dated events with the tags B.C. or A.D. to quickly tell if events occurred before the Incarnation of God or after it.

Before the coming of Christ at Bethlehem, the dates of historical events were measured in relation to the first Olympics (776 B.C.). People would measure the time of an event by saying "in the third year of the XI Olympiad." The ancient Olympics began in 776 B.C. and occurred every four years, so "the third year of the XI Olympiad" is 743 B.C.

During the Roman era, dates would be measured by the reigns of Roman Emperors. For the Jewish people, the time/date of events has been measured using the A.M. (anno mundi) which in Latin means for "Year of the World." The Jews measure time from the year they believe God created the world. So, A.D. 2016 is to the Jew 5777 A.M. from Creation.

The First Olympiad (776 B.C.)
Around 1980, some influential academicians, including scientists at the Smithsonian, began using B.C.E. and C.E. to avoid having to use the name of Christ or the offensive "year of our Lord" in dating abbreviations. C.E. means "Common Era," and B.C.E. means "Before the Common Era." Of course, a person might ask "What makes our era common?" and one might respond, "The common Creator of all things has come into His Creation as a Man" (see Colossians 1:16).

The use of B.C.E. and C.E. may be an attempt to avoid usage of Christ's name, but I am reminded that "those who are ashamed of Him will one day find He is ashamed of them" (see Luke 9:26).

So, using the dates B.C. and A.D., the following 12 dates - when memorized - will give you a remarkable understanding of the Bible and the flow of its history. The dates I give are approximate dates until we get to the year of the first Olympics (776 B.C.) when the dates will be precise.

And the following dates, which help with understanding the Bible you read, are measured by the Advent of Christ that first Christmas.
4000 B.C. 
The Creation of Adam

We will let people fall all over themselves attempting to prove the age of the earth, but we will politely bow out. Whether you believe the earth and universe are "billions and billions" of years old,
Adam (4000 B.C.)
or relatively young (e.g. "thousands of years"), knock yourself out proving it. I only point out the creation of Adam, the first man, on this date.

Scientists recently finished tracing the human genome and "discovered" that all human beings descend from one man and one woman. Science only confirmed what the Bible reveals.

Since nobody was around when the first man and woman appeared, it seems to me it takes greater faith to believe all humans evolved from amoebas and apes than it does Adam and Eve were created by God in His image (see Genesis 1:27).

2345 B.C.
The Flood of Noah

The Flood (2345 B.C.)
This date is easy to remember - 2 3 4 5 - years before Christ, a flood came. Some believe this flood is global and catastrophic, others believe this biblical flood is local and hyperbolic (exaggerated). As for me, since every nation of the world has a flood legend in her history, I lean toward a worldwide cataclysmic flood. God caused the population of the earth to perish because "man was evil."

The re-population of the earth began again with Noah's sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) and their descendants, from whom all the people groups of the world can be traced. The Table of Nations in Genesis 10 is a stunning study on the world's population growth, as well as a key that unlocks the door to different cultures that cover the globe.

The population of the world can only be what it is today if you begin populating the world with people from scratch in 2500 B.C. Otherwise, the world's population by the scientific rate of growth (a doubling of population every 74 years) would have our world population in the trillions (instead of 7 billion).

2000 B.C.
The Birth of Abram


As a young man, Abram lived in "Ur of the Chaldees" (an ancient city in modern Iraq). God told him to leave his country, his people, and his father's family to go "to a land that I will show you" (Genes12:1; Acts 7:2).

Abram is born (2000 B.C.)
This call of God to Abram is key to understanding the Bible. The Creator of the world is calling Genesis 12:2), through whom "all the peoples of the earth will be blessed" (Genesis 12:3).
Abram to Himself to "make of him a great nation" (

Abraham's family is the beginning of a nation of people called Israel. God chooses Israel as the nation through whom the Messiah would come. God chose them from all the nations of the world not because they were mighty or strong, but because they were weak. God chooses the weak things of this world to put the mighty to shame

Abraham had a son named Isaac, and Isaac had a son named Jacob, whose name God changed to "Israel." Israel had twelve sons, from whom the 12 Tribes of Israel find their origin. Thus, in the Old Testament, God identifies Himself as "The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Exodus 3:6).

1500 B.C. 
The Call of Moses


Though this date is approximate, I believe it is very close to accurate. We know that Israel (Jacob) and his family went down to Egypt during a great famine (Genesis 46), and Israel sojourned in Egypt, and God turned them into a "great nation" of people due to the influence of Joseph, one of Israel's sons. Over the next three centuries, the Israelites "multiplied greatly" (Exodus 1:7), growing very numerous in number. The Pharaoh of Egypt who came to power grew afraid of the Israelites, so he enslaved them

God calls Moses at the Burning Bush (1500 B.C.)
 God called an Israelite named Moses to lead His people out of their bondage in Egypt. The United States has been a nation for 240 years, less time than Israel lived in Egypt. and we have grown from 100 early settlers to over 325,000,000 people. Even without population growth by "immigration" like the United States has had, it's not hard to understand how Israel became a "great nation" while in Egypt.
When God called Moses at the burning bush, He said, "I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob." (Exodus 3:6)

 Moses led God's people out of Egypt back to the land that God originally gave to Abraham, the land of Canaan. When the Israelites left Egypt in the 15th century B.C., God made a covenant with them at Mt. Sinai.

This conditional covenant of Law was a promise that IF Israel obeyed God, THEN Israel would be blessed by God. But IF Israel violated their conditions of the covenant, THEN Israel would experience the wrath of God. We call this covenant "the Old Covenant." Israel called it "The Law." The Law included everything about Israeli life in their new land - the calendar, the festivals, the taxes, the sacrifices, Temple worship, Sabbath days, dietary laws, civil laws, etc.,, - literally, everything about Israel revolved around God's Law. Why? The Law pointed to the Messiah who was to come through Israel to "bless all the peoples of the earth." (Genesis 12:3). Jesus came "to fulfill the Law." Jesus is the true and faithful Israel who fulfilled the Law and deserves all the blessings of God.

1051 B.C. 
The Kingdom of Israel

God led Covenant Israel to the land of Canaan and empowered them to defeat the Canaanites and subdue the land (read Joshua and Judges). For the next four hundred years, God's people sought to live by the Covenant, but eventually, they began to forget they were a special people in covenant with God. The Israelites began looking at neighboring nations with kings and wanted "a king" for themselves. They asked their prophet Samuel for God to give them a king over Israel "like other nations" (I Samuel 8).

When God allowed Israel to have a king, it was the beginning of a decline that eventually led to a complete divorce of God from national Israel because Israel "broke the covenant with God" (Jeremiah 3:8) Of course, this was all part of the providential. God's Law was intended to reveal the depths of man's sin (Romans 3:7-25) and the beauty of mankind's Savior. Jesus fulfilled the Law and gives perfect righteousness and corresponding blessings from God to all those who trust Him (Philippians 3:7-11).

A kingdom is "a king's dominion," and Israel had three kings in their history as a kingdom: Saul (1051-1011 B.C.) - David (101 - 971 B.C.) - Solomon (971 - 931 B.C.)



931 B.C.
The Division of the Kingdom of Israel

Israel Divides Into Two Nations (931 B.C.)
When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam wished to continue the heavy taxes his father had imposed to
build the Temple. 10 tribes of Israel rebelled and started their own kingdom under a rival to Solomon, a man named Jeroboam. This split in Israel led to two nations. The 10 tribes formed a northern kingdom called Israel, and they moved their capital to a city they called Samaria. They built for themselves their own temple and began to worship pagan gods.

Two tribes - Judah and Benjamin - remained in the south and formed the southern kingdom called Judah. The southern kingdom kept Jerusalem as their capital, continued to worship at the Temple, and tried to keep their covenant with God. Of the nineteen kings that would eventually rule the northern kingdom of Israel, not one of them was a good king in the sight of God.

Of the twenty kings that would eventually rule the southern kingdom of Judah, about half were good, and the other half were evil. I used to joke with my daughter that I would only allow her to date when the boy requesting a date could quote for me the nineteen kings of the northern kingdom in order, and the twenty kings of the southern kingdom in order. You will never understand the Old Testament until you know that the prophetical books of the Old Testament are words of warning to either the northern kingdom or the southern kingdom to repent of their violations of their covenant with God and return to Him. The books of the Old Testament look like this:
Historical books (17 books) - Genesis to Esther
Poetical books (5 books) - Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon)
Prophetical books (17 books) - Isaiah to Malachi
There are a total of 39 books in the Old Testament. You will only comprehend the last seventeen books of the Old Testament when you understand that the prophets who wrote the prophetical books were either speaking to Israel, Judah or both kingdoms.

722 B.C. 
The Fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel 


The northern kingdom of Israel never followed God in covenant relationship. Their nineteen kings were all evil. Stories like that of King Ahab and Jezebel reveal how lost the people of Israel, and
Assyria, the World's FIRST Empire
their leaders were. Prophets like Elijah, Hosea, and others came to northern Israel and spoke to the people and kings on behalf of God. Their message was "repent" or "perish." The people of Israel closed their ears to the warnings of God through the prophets, God then raised up the Assyrians, the world's first empire, to bring to an end the northern kingdom of Israel. In 722 B.C. Assyria conquered the northern kingdom, took the Israeli men into captivity (Nineveh was Assyria's capital), and brought in pagan men they'd captured in other nations and forced them to intermarry with the Israeli women.

The descendants of these "mixed marriages" were the Samaritans, considered "half-breeds" by the Jews of Jesus day. In fact, the Jews (Jew is an abbreviation for Judah, the people of the southern kingdom) would go to great lengths to avoid the Samaritans and the land in which they lived (Samaria). But not Jesus. "He must go through Samaria" (John 4:4) because Jesus is interested in giving life to the least, the lost and the littlest - those the world rejects. It was in the land of Samaria that Jesus met the woman at the well and gave her the water of life. Though the descendants of the mixed marriages were called "Samaritans," after the fall of the northern kingdom, the 10 northern tribes of Israel were forever lost - thus they are called the "Lost Tribes." The Mormons wrongly teach that these lost tribes became the Native Americans. In reality, the tribal identity of northern Israel was lost because they broke covenant with God, and God divorced Himself from them as a nation.


586 B.C.
The Fall of the Southern Kingdom of Judah


After the fall of the northern kingdom, the southern kingdom (Judah), composed of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, would be the only families of Israel remaining. Of course, the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Jesus) was to come from Judah, and the Messiah would "reign over the house of David forever." King David was from the tribe of Judah. So the promise God originally made to Abraham that through Him "all the nations of the earth would be blessed" was still in effect.

However, the people of Judah began to go the way of their northern brothers. Prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and others began to warn Judah that they too would perish if they didn't repent and return to God. The world's second empire, the Babylonians, conquered the Assyrians, and in a series of three increasingly severe attacks on Jerusalem (609, 597 and 586 B.C.), Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, eventually destroyed the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, and took the Jews (the abbreviation for the people of Judah) into captivity. This captivity into Babylon (modern Iraq and Iran) is called "The Babylonian Exile." I date this 70 years of captivity from 609 B.C. when Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are taken by Nebuchadnezzar from Jerusalem to Babylon, to the fall of Babylon to the Persians in October of 539 B.C. Many amazing things occurred during the Jews captivity in Babylon. Synagogue worship begins. Daniel wrote his prophetical book and names the date for the coming of the Messiah.

The "magi' from the East who came looking for "he who has been born king of the Jews' came because they knew Daniel's scroll. He was the most revered magi of them all, and he was a Jew who never went back to Jerusalem, but stayed in Babylon (and is buried in Iran).

400 B.C.
The Close of the Old Testament


When the Jews returned from Israel after their Babylonian captivity, they were led by men like Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, and they rebuilt the walls and the city of Jerusalem. The Jews rebuilt the Temple itself and re-dedicated it in 516 B.C. They tried to get back to their normal lives in the land of Israel. Esther, a Jew born in Babylonian captivity, would remain in Babylon and eventually marry a Persian king named Xerxes. Her story is the last historical book of the Old Testament.
400 Years from the Close of the Old Testament to Christ
A ton of people read the Old Testament and get confused because they don't realize if you wish to read the Bible chronologically, you must stop at the 17th book (Esther). The middle five books of poetry in the Old Testament and the last seventeen books of the Old Testament (the books of the prophets) fit within the first seventeen books of the Old Testament according to the history of Israel. It's interesting to note that though the Jews picked up their worship of God at the re-dedication of the rebuilt Temple in 516 B.C., the Spirit of God was never again present in the Temple worship of the Jews.

It is during this period (from the close of the Old Testament, to the coming of Christ) that there is the rise of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. When there is the worship of God without the Spirit of God, you will either have the rise of legalism (Pharisees) or the rise of liberalism (Sadducees). From the close of the Old Testament to the birth of Christ, you have a period where the Persians are defeated by the Greeks, the Greeks are then defeated by the Romans, and during the Roman rule of the world, the Messiah appears (see Daniel 11). Daniel prophesied all these events so precisely, skeptics assumed Daniel couldn't have written it (because a man can't tell the future). These skeptics were silenced at the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls which contained the complete book of Daniel and showed it was written before the events occurred. A man may not know the future, but God does.

4 B.C.
The Birth of Christ


The birth of Christ (4 B.C.)
I won't get into the reasons why the scholars in the middle ages made a four year error when they started B.C. and A.D. dating (Clue: It has to do with leap years), but it will help you understand the span and scope of the Old Testament if you remember the numbers 4 and 0. 4000 B.C. - The Creation of Adam. Take away a zero. 400 B.C. - The Close of the Old Testament. Take away two zeroes. 4 B.C. - The Coming of Christ. Remember, Jesus Christ came "to fulfill the Law" and make a New Agreement with the world.

The Old Covenant was a conditional agreement whereby those who perfectly obeyed God were perfectly blessed by God. In the New Agreement (Covenant), all those who trust Christ - who came to fulfill the Law - are perfectly blessed by God. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a life that actively fulfilled the Law through His personal obedience and passively fulfilled the Law through His death in place of sinners. The coming of God in Christ to this world is the center point of history. History is His story. It's odd that followers of Christ speak more of Christ's second coming than we do His first coming. Christ's coming to earth in 4 B.C. changes everything.

A.D. 30 
The Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ

The death of Jesus Christ is God's mercy for sinners. God forsook the Son He loved that He might
Jesus died and rose again (A.D. 30)
never forsake those who love His Son. The demons of hell will leave alone anyone who talks generically about God. But when someone begins telling others that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" the demons go crazy. For those who have a hard time understanding how God can come to earth as a Man, it usually revolves around how the immortal, invisible and immutable Creator could ever be "limited" to a Man. How can God be both Spirit and Man?

The answer is beautiful. We worship and serve only one God. But this God who created us is so transcendent (i.e. "beyond us"), we would never be able to comprehend Him except that in His love for us He condescends to our level and reveals Himself to us. Christ came that we might know God. He is Emmanuel - God with us. When you come to understand that God conquered sin and death for those who will trust Christ, then the same power that raised Christ from the dead goes to work within you. Jesus came that we might have life, and this life is for those who trust Him.

A.D. 70
The Destruction of the Jewish Temple

The destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (A.D. 70)
The time between the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (A.D. 30) to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans (A.D. 70) is what the Bible calls "the last days." It's the last days of the Old Covenant, not the last days of the world.

In fact, during this time of transition (40 years), the good news of what Christ came to do went to "the Jews first, then the Gentile" (Romans 1:16). Daniel prophesied the end of the nation of Israel (Daniel 9:24-27), and just like God gives a period of mercy during transitions in His dealings with His people (40 days of the flood; 40 years in the wilderness; 40 days of temptation, etc...), God gave His people 40 years before He brought the worship of the Jews at the Temple to an end. "The last days" of the Old Covenant are the beginning of a New Agreement between God and the world. 

Trust Christ and live.


"I Love You" Is Imprinted In My Life, Not My Lips

Self-absorption is defined as "a preoccupation with one's own feelings, interests, or situation to the neglect of others." 

By nature, every person is self-absorbed (selfish). We constantly think about how we feel, what we like, and how we can change people around us to more enjoy our lives than we think about what is best for others.

Selfishness is like a slithering snake with a poisonous bite. Nobody sees it as it silently and secretly slithers closer. It is rarely noticed until it strikes. Few flaunt their love for self, and most deny it exists, but selfishness afflicts all of us.

When one thinks about self-absorption biblically (and logically), one may trace the source of every dysfunction and maladjustment in life to the serpent of self-absorption  "For where there is self-absorption and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every evil practice" (James 3:16).

Here are a few symptoms of the poison of self-absorption:

1. Your finger freezes in a permanent position of pointing at others.
2. Your brain fixates on fixing others with nary a thought of fixing yourself
3. Your tongue casts continual condemnations of character in others.
4. Your eyes lock on the worst in people but go blind when looking at yourself.
5. Your heart is searing in pain and you're unable to love the person you blame.

Self-absorption must be crushed to live life to its fullest.

I must die to self.

Jesus alone has the power to crush the head of the serpent that poisons my life. Surrendering to Him as Lord moves me to focus only on the sin in me (Genesis 3:15) and to always see the best in others. To be His disciple, "I must daily die to self and follow Him" (Luke 9:23).

So how do I know Jesus has crushed the head of the serpent of selfishness in my life?

Real Love Is the Antidote

"By your love, all will know that you are my disciples." (John 13:35)

There used to run on television a Wendy's commercial where an elderly lady would order a hamburger from a rival hamburger chain, separate the buns, and ask the question, "Where's the beef?"

I think those of us who name Christ as Lord should ask the question: "Where's the love?" 

I can claim to be Christ's disciple and can say "I love you," but the proof is in the way I live. Christ fills my heart with love for others because He daily crushes the serpent of self-absorption in me. 

The result of this crushing of self-absorption in me is similar to what happens when a thorned-stemmed rose is crushed. The sweet aroma that rises from me is the fragrance of love for others. 

Love In the Mirror

When a self-absorbed person says, "I love you," what he means is "You make me feel good," or "You make me look good," or "You make my life good."

Christ slays this self-absorbed concept of love and fills our hearts with real love.

So what does this real love look like?

It is beautifully described in I Corinthians 13. There are fifteen characteristics of real love.



1. Love is patient.

The Greek word translated "patience" is a compound word meaning longsuffering. I don't really display the love of God until I suffer. More pointedly, real love involves suffering a long time. To love while suffering is like the dark side of the moon. It is rarely seen or discussed. We all suffer deceit, broken promises, slander, disrespect, unjust anger, rejection, and innumerable kinds of other injuries. Most people "want out" of relationship when that happens. When self-absorption is not present, I'll suffer long and love others.

2. Love is kind.

Kindness is more than just "grinning and bearing it." This biblical word kindness means "doing good." "Do not repay evil for evil to anyone; but always do good to all" (Romans 12:17, 21). That is real love.  Love is not saying "I love you" because "You make me feel good." Real love is showing "I love you" by doing kind things for you even when you're evil towards me. 

3. Love does not envy. 

Christ causes His people to feel content "whether our rank is as high as that of angels, or as low as that of beggars." We have learned, by God's grace, to be content in any situation we are in (Philippians 4:11). So we "rejoice with those that are rejoicing" (Romans 12:15). Love means we find happiness in seeing others prosper. 

4. Love does not boast.

Love never exalts myself to a superior position by saying, "I would never do that!" or "That's one thing that can't be said about me!" Boasting is a declaration of comparison. Boasting is the belief that others are not as good as I. Rather than saying, "I am the very least of all the saints" (Ephesians 3:8) and "I am the foremost of sinners" (I Timothy 1:15), I'm conveying "I don't deserve this" through a spirit of superiority.  When I compare and boast I am defending myself, not loving others outside of myself.

5. Love is not arrogant (proud).

The difference between boasting and arrogance is similar to the difference between what is displayed on the outside of the house and what actually goes on in inside. Arrogance is an attitude; boasting is a behavior. I must be careful from assigning pride to others (I do not know others' hearts), but I must be diligent in identifying pride within myself. Love is not proud. Humility is not stooping to be smaller than I am, Humility is standing at my true height with an appreciation for the Highest. When I truly see God, I see myself as no big deal.  

6. Love does not dishonor others.

Facebook, politics, and Hollywood seek to convince me that rude, uncouth, unbecoming individuals are people I should admire or imitate. But Christ tells me something different. "Love does not act unbecomingly"  When I am rude, denigrating, and dishonoring to others, it's a sign that self-absorption rules and Christ's love is absent. Outward disappropriation of you is a sign of Divine reprobation in me.

7. Love is not self-seeking.

Before Christ, life was all about self. It was all about demanding my rights, getting what is due me, and forging my way ahead of others. But Jesus performs a transformational change within. He changes the inner compass. "Love is not self-seeking." As Albert Barnes writes,  "No man is a Christian who lives for himself alone. No man is a Christian who does not deny himself. No one who's not willing to sacrifice his own comfort, time, wealth, and ease, to advance the welfare of mankind has any part in Christ."

8. Love is not easily provoked.

The word translated provoke (paroxynomai) means "to make sharp, sharpen" as in stir up, stimulate,  irritate, arouse to anger, or exasperate. This verse is translated "not easily provoked" (KJV), "not provoked" (NASB, NKJV), "not irritable" (ESV), "not upset with others" (NCV). It's used only 4 times in the New Testament. Whenever we allow another person to control our emotions, we reveal self-absorption. We want to "feel," "experience,' or "live" a certain way, and the person who "provokes us" is getting in our way. What is it everyone wants in life? "What is desired in a man is steadfast love" (Proverbs 19:22). When I develop the habit of turning to the steadfast love of God (Psalm 33:20-22).

9. Love keeps no record of wrongs.

There is a distinction to be made between wrongs suffered by me and wrongs suffered by others. Resentment over the former is called hate; resentment over the latter is called honor. The refusal to keep a record of wrongs perpetrated against me is an act of genuine love. But God calls on me to protect the weak, the persecuted, and the defenseless people in our world, so I must notice wrongs done to others (and keep a record). "Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked" (Psalm 82:4).  God never wastes my experiences or sorrows. He reigns over the affairs of my life with transcendent goodness. I can rest, refusing to keep a record of wrongs done to me because "we know that God causes all things to work together for good" (Romans 8:28). Do you know this to be true in your life? If so, you'll keep no list of the wrongs done toward you. 

List keeping of the wrongs done toward you is not a list kept on a refrigerator door. It is a list locked in your mind and heart and revealed through your language:
List keepers use absolute language. "You always, you never, I would never, etc."
List keepers relate based on performance. Loved ones get tired of trying to measure up.
List keepers can't trust; they protect themselves. The prospect of future hurt paralyzes relationships.
List keepers hurt people because they hurt themselves. Healing only comes from Christ.
10. Love does not delight in unrighteousness.

What does this mean? The word unrighteousness translates the Greek adikia (a = not + dik√™ = right) and means "a condition of not being right."  A loving person will take steps to make right what is not right, help straighten what is bent, correct what is crooked, and adust what is unjust. But the motivation is always for the betterment of others, never oneself. Since God alone has the power to make right the unrighteous, God's people are only tools in God's hand. The tools remain on the shelf if the crooked one is blind to his crookedness. So we pray that God will turn on the light in another person's heart and patiently wait to be used by God when He turns the light on.

11. Love rejoices with the truth.

When Jesus is Lord, we come to grips with reality and rejoice! This is who I am. This is what I've done. This is where I've been. This is me. Truth in Greek is the compound word alethia. The little "a" means—not,  and "lethe" means - hiding; So truth means "not forgetting" or "not hiding" In ancient Greek mythology Lethe was the daughter of Eris, goddess of strife and discord. Lethe was known for her sleeping and hiding in the shadows. She is often contrasted to the goddess of memory and light—Mnemosyne. The Greeks gave to the river that flows through the valley of Hades the name Lethe. Ancient Greeks believed that souls were made to drink from the river Lethe before being reincarnated so that they would not remember their past lives. This forgetting and concealing were "good things" to the ancients.

But for the Christian, the little "a" (not) before "lethe" (hiding) best describes who we are. We are people who don't hide or cover. Real love never allows us to forget our faults and never encourages us to hide our harmful habits. We rejoice in alethia because God loves us "even when we were sinners." Why seek to get steadfast love from anyone else but Him.  The person who rejoices with the truth is always quick to seek forgiveness of others and never hides in shame when faults are pointed out by others because he or she is secure in God's love for them.

12. Love bears all things.

The word "bear" in English translates the Greek word stego. This words means "to cover" or "to hide." It conveys the idea that you will "cover" or "hide" the faults of those you love. You might object and say, "Wait! We just read that love "rejoices in the truth!" You're correct. Alethia means "to not hide" and people who love always rejoice in not hiding. So which is it? Do we hide and cover or do we not hide and not cover? 

Answer: Love means I am open about my faults, but I cover the faults of others. In every marriage counseling session when one spouse is more vocal about their mates' faults, I immediately began asking probing questions of the one pointing his or her finger at the other person. Marriages ultimately break down because someone is refusing to love the other person. "Love covers a multitude of sins" (I Peter 4:8). We are not ashamed to reveal our faults, our failures, our wrongs, our past, our sins. Jesus Christ has removed the guilt we feel and given us the love we need; we are open. But we get no joy or satisfaction pointing out weaknesses and failures in those we love.

This "bearing" does not mean "enabling." Not at all. Love means that I will always talk to the one I love about his problems for his sake, but I will refuse to talk with other people the problems of the one I love. 

13. Love believes all things.

Love looks beyond where a person has been to where a person is headed. That means one who loves looks beyond what others have done to what others are declaring. Love believes. This truth might cause some concern in some because it's different than what many have been taught. "Talk is cheap," we are told. "Doing is proving it." That's true when it comes to a personal evaluation of myself. But placing others on a performance scale is the opposite of loving people. Peter asked, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me and I forgive him? (Matthew 18:21). Jesus responded, "Seventy times seven!" which actually is a Hebraism for infinity.

There is never an occasion where you are not to forgive the one you love.  In a parallel passage, Jesus says. "If your loved one sins against you seven times in a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' forgive him" (Luke 17:4). The disciples respond, "Lord, increase our faith." (Matthew 5:38-48). It's not increased faith that is needed; it's increased love. Love believes the person who says, even if the person does repeatedly opposite of what he says. Believing others doesn't do us any real harm because being hoodwinked and defrauded by others is in God's hands, not ours. It's better to believe in someone and have your heart broken than to have no heart. British poet Alfred Tennyson wrote, "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." If you've ever told somebody, "I don't believe you," you're actually saying, "I don't love you."

14. Love hopes all things.

"Love hopes" is not "wishful thinking" about other people. Hope conveys a settled certainty. Hope is the Greek word elpizo, and if you make elpizo negative by adding the preposition "a" in Greek (apelpizo), you have the Greek word  for "despair."  Hope in all people means you never despair over people. When I love others by never losing hope in people, I will not let myself become dependant on the actions of another for my personal happiness. I will never shut myself off from one who has mistreated me or wronged me. I will recognize that life's events are orchestrated by God for my good and His glory. I will always be conscious and aware that my need for control reveals my distrust in God. I will live life with the joy of each present moment and without any fear over the future. "Therefore having such a hope, we have great boldness" (II Corinthians 3:12).

15. Love endures all things.

When I endure, I abide in a relationship and do not personally abandon. This word "endure" is the Greek word hupomeno and occurs seventeen times in the New Testament. It is a compound word: hupounder and menoabide. It means "to abide under a burden." When I love someone, I don't abandon him or her, but you abide in the relationship. When I endure, I support you and feel no need to shame you. I am not enduring when things are going well; I am enjoying.  Endurance speaks of a burden. "Hupo" refers a willingness to abide under a burden, to lift, and to support. When I endure others and the burdens they bring, I love people the way Christ loves me. "Let's fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God" (Hebrews 12:2). 

Summary: Next time we're moved to declare our love, we might consider reading I Corinthians 13 to ensure the love we profess is our way of living and not just our way of speaking.