Wednesday, February 27, 2013

To Do or To Be

In the Christian walk, how much emphasis do we place on doing the right things?  How often are we told to read your Bible, pray, attend worship services, tithe, evangelize, serve, etc.?  Or told not to lie, steal, slander, be immoral, smoke, gamble, etc.?  I would guess that most of us, myself included, have an informal list of the appropriate dos and don'ts for the Christian life.  But should we?

Does it matter?  Well ... yes ... and no!  I do not believe there is anything wrong with having a moral code that you follow.  Having some idea of what is appropriate behavior is a good guide to evaluate your life.  Without a moral compass, I end up like a rudderless ship, going whichever way the current leads me.

But for too many folks, its seems like their moral code is too important.  Do you feel like you are OK so long as you live up to some set of rules?  Is God happy with you if you do enough stuff on the 'good' list and avoid enough stuff on the 'bad' list?  Is God checking to see who's been naughty or nice and rewarding accordingly?

I think more important than my behavior, is who I am.  Am I a new creation; has the old gone and the new come? I believe very much that that is what God wants from me: to be transformed into a new person; not just putting a new coat of paint on the person I was.  No amount of paint will serve to spruce up a crumbling house.  In the same way, strict adherence to a moral code, no matter how stringent, will not fool God into believing I have been transformed.

Seeking to live a godly life has great value if you are a new creation, if you truly have a relationship with your creator.  It has little real value if it is just a coat of pain put over a crumbling interior.  Be transformed, not just spruced up a bit!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Turning 60

Today is the annual remembrance of a most auspicious event; my birth.  60 years ago today my parents welcomed me into the world, and into their lives.  There have been many noteworthy events in the world in the 60 years since then, but none so significant; at least to me :)

My early years were filled with change.  In the first 30 years I lived 21 places; owned 5 cars; underwent tremendous physical change; worked 7 places; attended 9 different churches; and welcomed two siblings into the world.  In the last 30 years I have lived 2 places; owned 2 cars; experienced only gradual physical change; worked in one location; served in 2 churches; had 1 wife and 2 kids.  I wonder what the next 30 years will hold?

While I have only been 60 for a few hours, the signs of aging are unmistakable:  I have lost both parents; I have survived a bout with cancer; I am currently fighting a minor heart aliment; my hands are wrinklier than I remember; the ground has become harder and further away; I have retired; I get senior discounts in many places; I am spammed by AARP; and my children have a life of their own.

But I enjoy relatively good health and physical fitness; hope to be able to run again soon; plan on hiking 600+ miles this year; love my wife and enjoy the time I have with her; enjoy watching my children make a life of their own; enjoy the time and freedom that retirement brings; and enjoy the increased opportunity to serve in my church and association.

I have no doubt that challenging times lie ahead.  But I also have no doubt that I will not face them alone.  With God before me, my wife beside me, and family and friends around me; I look forward to the days to come and hope to make the most of them.

God is good!  I have been truly blessed in these past 60 years. And I look forward to the coming years; embracing them with open arms.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Royal Priesthood

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:4-5, 9-10 NIV
This in an interesting passage to me, at least in part because of all of the things that God's people are called.  We generally use the term Christians, or the Church, to describe God's kingdom on earth.  But Peter uses a very different set of terms here.
  • Living stones
  • A spiritual house
  • A holy priesthood
  • A chosen people
  • A royal priesthood
  • A holy nation
  • God's special possession
  • The people of God
I suspect more than one preacher has built an exhaustive sermon series around these 8 alternate names for the church and the significance of each.  But I want to consolidate this list a bit and share a few words about each.

Stones and House

Individually we are identified as stones; stones that are assembled together to become a spiritual house, built around Jesus as the cornerstone.  This is really very similar to the analogy of the body that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 12, where each of us are body parts, with Jesus as the head.

This analogy can be challenging for people coming from a culture that emphasizes individuality as much as mine done.  We focus on individuals, especially ourselves, and only secondarily see ourselves as a part of something bigger.  It may be that I am a rock; but I am a mighty fine rock that is shiny and shapely and unique.  

But how often, when looking at an old building constructed of stone, do you focus on individual stones?  Is it not more likely that you will admire the building itself? The building is greater than any of its individual stones, no matter how shiny any one rock is.

So it is with believers within the church.  It's not about me, what I get out of it, or how important I am: it's about the body.  Let the master builder put you into the structure where he wants, and knows that you will offer the greatest value to the building.  Be willing to do, and be, what is best for the building, rather than yourself as an individual stone.

The building, in which we serve as living stones, is a spiritual house, a holy temple.  What a blessing to be a part of God's purpose in creation.

A Royal and Holy Priesthood

This passage also calls us royal, and holy, priests.  In particular priests who offer spiritual sacrifices to God.  In the Old Testament, one of the biggest roles for the priests were to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people. The priest would accept the sacrifice from a member of the community, cut it up into pieces, place it on the alter, and light a fire beneath it where it would be consumed.  The sacrifice would then be accepted by God on behalf of the one who offered it.

But as New Testament priests, we do not offer sacrifices on behalf of other people.  Rather we offer our own sacrifices to God.  And rather than animal sacrifices, we offer sacrifices that are spiritual in nature: sacrifices that are acceptable to God.  And what might those sacrifices be?
This priesthood is described as being holy, set apart, and royal, belonging to the king.  We are not just run of the mill priests.  We have been set apart by the King of the universe for his special use.  Let's offer to God those sacrifices that are good and pleasing to him.

The Chosen People of God

When I was a junior in high school I was 6'1" and 135 pounds; think Somalian  poster child, except much taller.  I lacked any athletic ability or much in the way of coordination.  Now picture the typical P.E. class when it comes time to choose up teams for some sport; it makes little difference which.  Two 'captains' are chosen by the teacher, and then they begin selecting the remainder of us for their team.  Eventually they are left with the dregs, myself chief among them.  I always made it on a team because the game couldn't start until everyone was on one.  But I was never really chosen by a captain; I was forced on them.

That experience makes this passage special for me.  God chose me.  I was not forced on him.  He was not required to pick me.  He didn't pick me because he felt sorry for me, although I must admit I was pitiful.  For some reason, God wanted me on his team.

The mystery of this is that God did not choose me because I was especially talented in some way, or because I was strong or good looking, or because I was a great evangelist, or because I did great things for him.  God chose me because of his mercy and grace; because he wanted me; because to him, I had great value.  How cool is that!

It is not just me that God has chosen.  He has also chosen people around me and throughout the world.  And collectively we are called God's chosen people, his all-stars.  What a blessing to be numbered among God's chosen.

A Holy Nation, Special to God

In much of this passage Peter is looking back at Israel's experience at Mt Sinai and the establishment of the old covenant.  In both the Old Covenant, in Exodus 19:4-6, and in the New Covenant, God's people are identified as a treasured (or special) possession and a holy nation.  Under the Old Covenant the idea of being a holy nation was indistinguishable from being an earthly kingdom.  They were, as a nation, set apart for God.

But that changes under the New Covenant.  There is no earthly kingdom associated with God's people, except maybe for a millenium kingdom.  Instead we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom.  I am a citizen of the greatest kingdom this world has ever known, the kingdom of God.

Of course there are some responsibilities that go along with being a citizen, especially of a nation that is set apart for God.  My citizenship is not a reward for meritorious service, or because I am such a wonderful guy.  Rather God chose me because he wanted me, and had a purpose for me.  It only makes sense then that I should know his purpose for me.  And once knowing it, to be about accomplishing that purpose.

The kingdom of God is not a welfare state.  It is a kingdom of service.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

And God Said

In the beginning - God,
     and nothing else!
And God said,
     "Let there be!"
And a universe began to unfold.

And the universe was hot,
     and without form.
And it unrolled and cooled,
     and began to take shape.

Atoms were formed,
     and gravity began its work.
Stars began to burn,
     and galaxies came into being.

Planets formed around stars,
     and they cooled and became stable.
And God said,
     "Let there be life!"
And life began to unfold in all its wonder.

And on earth - Man,
     and all was good.
And man said,
     "I am god!"
And God was forgotten.

But God did not forget,
     or lose sight of his purpose.
And God said,
     "Whosoever believes!"
And all who did became his.

And the universe cooled,
     and it came to an end.
But all who had believed,
     continued with Him.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

PCT Plans - 2013 Overview

While it is still winter as of this writing, the time is drawing near to get back out on the trail; the Pacific Crest Trail in particular.  I thoroughly admire PCT thru-hikers, and a part of me wishes I was one.  But I'm not.  And so I continue to nibble away at it, a few hundred miles a year.  Over the past three years I have walked about 650 miles of the trail and have just over 2000 miles yet to go; and hoping to finish in another four years.

Like last year; this seasons hike will be in two parts.  I will start in mid July at Seiad Valley in northern California, where last years hike ended, and head south.  The goal will be to hit Sierra City, about 460 miles away by mid August, although that is a soft goal.  The real goal is to finish California in 4 years, meaning I need to average just over 400 mile a year.  The bulk of this segment will be solo, although a friend will fly out and join me for a week.

Come mid August I will head back to Washington, pick up another friend, and tackle the section between Rainy Pass and Stevens Pass, another 125 miles, before the end of August.  That is a pretty firm deadline because my hiking buddies wife is dragging him off on a cruise then.  She would likely not be too happy with me if he missed their cruise.

The trip through California will start in the small town of Seiad Valley, at the trips lowest point of about 1600 ft, and travel through the Marble Mountains, Russian, Trinity Alps, Castle Crags, Lassen Volcanic and Buck Lakes wildernesses; the Klamath, Marble, Scott, and Sierra Nevada mountains; near Mt Shasta; past Burney Falls; along Hat Creek Rim; past Subway Caves; and through Lassen National Park.  The high point for the trail will be just a bit under 8000 ft, with a total elevation gain of about 49,000 feet, or over 9 miles of up.  I am looking to make about 20 miles a day, along with several zero days, so this part of the trail should finish up in about a month.

So far, the only area of concern through this segment is the Hat Creek Rim.  It appears to be waterless for about 30 miles.  This will be during the time when I have my friend along and expect to be moving a bit slower.  That means we will each have to carry a couple days of water from the outset: two gallons of water = 16 pounds.

My wife will once again provide support for this segment of the trail, meeting me every 2-4 days to resupply and allow for an occasional day off.  This is somewhat of a win-win for both of us.  It keeps the trail from becoming to arduous for me, and it gives her the opportunity to sight see in the area and exercise some of her wander lust.  She will also put in quite a few miles day hiking up to meet me every few days, without actually having to spend the night out in the woods.

The Washington segment of this years trip will start on Highway 20 at Rainy Pass, travel through the North Cascade National Park, the Glacier Peak and Henry M Jackson wildernesses, and end at Stevens Pass on Highway 2.  The elevation will vary from just under 2000 ft to a bit over 6000 ft, but will be a constant up and down, totaling nearly 20,000 over 125 miles.  There are no roads through this stretch, meaning no support, meaning I have to carry 6-7 days worth of food.  Fortunately the whole first day to Stehekin will be down hill.

I think my gear is in pretty good shape although I likely will tweak it a bit in an attempt to lighten the load some.  Once I get a better idea about that I will provide a new gear list.  I anticipate that I will go stoveless again this year since it worked so well last year.  I also expect to be able to use the hammock throughout this years trip as well.

If you run into an tallish, oldish, south bounder this summer, with a small Eeyore hitching a ride on his shoulder strap, stop for a moment and exchange a howdy and swap trail reports.  I really enjoy the solitude of the trail.  But I would love to make your acquaintance as well.

Happy Trails!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Jesus as the Cornerstone

In 1 Peter 2:7 you come across an interesting reference: "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone".  This passage, along with Matthew 21:42 refers back to Psalm 118:22.  But none of these three passages help in understanding this obscure reference to a rejected stone that became a cornerstone.  When did this happen?  Who were the builders?  Why did they mistake, and reject, the cornerstone?

Years ago I heard of a legend that was supposed to provide answers to these questions and I have recently run across it again.  The problem is that the only source I can find for this story is that it is an old rabbinic parable.  But no reference to where this parable might be found in any ancient literature.  Many people seem to quote it, but no one seems to know where it came from; so it may or may not have any validity.  None-the less, here is the parable.
When Solomon’s temple was being built, it was forbidden for the sound of hammers to be heard at the job site because it was a holy place of worship.  You can’t have worship with construction going on in the background!  So it had to be quiet.  What this meant for the construction was that each and every 20 ton stone had to have a ‘shop drawing’ and was made several miles away in the quarry.  Several miles away each stone was carefully cut for its exact spot in the temple.  From the very start, there was a plan for each stone.  The very first stone to be delivered was the capstone, but that’s the last stone needed in construction.  So the builders said, “What is this?  This doesn’t look like any of the first stones we need.  Put it over there for now.”  Well, years went by and the grass grew over the capstone and everyone generally forgot about it.  Finally the construction was done and the builders said “send us the capstone” and the word came back from the quarry “we already did”.  They were confused.  Then someone remembered what they had done with the very first stone sent to them.  It was taken from its lowly position among the overgrown weeds where it had been forgotten, and it was honored in the final ceremony to complete the temple.  Thus the scripture says, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.”
While this story might well have been invented as an attempt to explain the Psalm 118:22 passage, or the later passages from the New Testament, it does at least give us some idea of what could be meant by this reference and its New Testament application to Jesus.

The cornerstone is mostly a ceremonial block placed in a structure today, but at one time it was a critical component in the structure.  The cornerstone is laid first, and the rest of the foundation for the building is aligned with the cornerstone.  It is in that sense that we see Jesus identified as the cornerstone.  He is the key to the temple that is built on the apostles and prophets, with us as the materials built onto that foundation.  That temple is aligned with him and is built up around him.

In contrast to the cornerstone is the capstone, the stone from the rabbinic parable.  While the cornerstone is the first set and provides alignment for the rest of the structure, the capstone is among the last stone(s) set.  Sometimes it is ceremonial, sometimes it provides weather protection for the rest of the structure, and other times it is like a key that helps hold the structure together.  I suspect the inclusion of the capstone in this rabbinic parable was more a case of mistaken identity than anything else.

But whether capstone or cornerstone, the important thing in this passage is that this stone, rejected by the builders, has become the key part of the building.  The New Testament references make clear that Jesus is this cornerstone that was rejected.  The structure being built, according to Ephesians, was a holy temple to the Lord; the Church.

Throughout history many religions have been built around various individuals and concepts.  And the structures they have produced have always been flawed.  Only when Jesus is the cornerstone will the building be straight and true.  Only then will it rise to become a holy temple to the Lord.

What is your life built around?  What is the cornerstone of the church you are a part of?  If the answer is not Jesus, then you are heading in the wrong direction.  Align your life, and your relationship with God, around Jesus as the cornerstone.  If he is your cornerstone, you have no reason to be ashamed.  If he is not, then you are stumbling around in the dark.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Acts 2:42 Groups

I have grown most during those times in my life when I have been a part of a close knit group of committed believers.  Most of the more significant steps on my spiritual journey were made in step with a handful of others who walked with me along the way.  I remember and cherish those times and those people.

But all too often my fellowship within the body of Christ has been more superficial and casual.  I seldom develop close relationships with others; even though I crave them.  I willingly and freely share surface chatter; while struggling to share anything that is below the surface.  Far too often I flounder along on a solitary spiritual journey that never seems to go very far.  I freely admit that it is my own fault; but it is a problem none-the-less.

This summer, while hiking through Oregon, I was challenged to leave my comfort zone, to trust God, and work to develop a greater sense of intimacy and commitment within the church where I serve.  The Small Group ministry that Kitsap Lake Baptist is beginning had its genesis somewhere north of Crater Lake with God impressing Acts 2:42 on my mind.  Hours, and miles, were spent on this passage and on how to bring something like it to life within the body of believers I am a part of.

Since returning from the trail I have spent many hours with our pastor and a small group of other like minded believers in taking that dream and developing a ministry to implement it within the life of the church.  Our Acts 2:42 Groups ministry has taken shape over the past five months and is now, at least on paper, compete.  Enlisting and training small group leaders will be on going during the next couple of months, with a launch currently scheduled for April 1st.  This is an exciting time for me, and I am eagerly looking forward to seeing it change my own life as well as others who make up the body of Christ.  And the health of the body will not lag behind the health of its members.

Acts 2:42 Groups are not Bible studies; although they do include Bible study.  They are not prayer meetings; although prayer is an integral part of them.  They are not just an opportunity to fellowship; although intimate fellowship is an intentional activity with the groups.  Following the Acts 2:42 model, our Acts 2:42 groups will be devoted to the Apostles teaching (Bible study), the fellowship (development of unity and intimacy), the breaking of bread (social activities), and prayer (uniting together in prayer).  Acts 2:42 Groups will also work to develop a sense of accountability between group members, and work together on mission projects.

How will we know if our Acts 2:42 Groups are a success?  If we find Acts 2:46-47 happening; the church praising God and worshiping, hanging out together, having a good reputation in our community, and growing from those who want what we have; then we will have done well.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Heart Update

The heart is a pretty wonderful chunk of tissue beating inside our chests; pumping blood throughout our bodies.  I know I have taken it pretty much for granted until recently; but no more.  Right now it is kind of like the proverbial squeaky wheel, demanding a little attention: attention that I am only too willing to provide.

There has been a certain amount of uncertainty since being told a couple of weeks ago that I had Atrial Fibrillation.  I had a visit with a cardiologist yesterday that provided some clarity, although the path forward is still far from clear.  The cardiologist yesterday seemed to think I had Atrial Flutter rather then Atrial Fibrillation, a less serious, although still troublesome, issue.  More test and visits with more specialists are in my future before any real treatment can be prescribed.

Until just a few weeks ago I had no real idea just how the heart worked.  It's a multi-chambered pump that circulates blood through the body.  It beats faster when you are more active, and slower when you are less active.  And I knew that it had some kind of electrical system to keep it beating at the proper rhythm.  But beyond that I was pretty clueless.

The SA node is the hearts internal pacemaker.  When it fires, it causes the hearts atria (upper chambers) to contract and force blood into the ventricles (lower chambers).  The signal from the SA also goes to the AV node when it is delayed briefly and then forwarded on to the ventricles, causing them to contract and forcing blood out into the body.

The EKG shown in the diagram has three peaks.  The first is the P wave, showing the stimulation of the atria.  The 2 dips with a large spike in the middle is the QRS complex, showing the stimulation of the ventricles.  The T wave at the end shows the ventricles relaxing and preparing for the next cycle.  This is a normal cycle that is repeated about 60 times a minute.  And some of mine look like that; but unfortunately many of them do not.

The EKG's of my heart taken over the past few weeks show that I have premature beats periodically, which is not uncommon or of much concern.  I also sometimes have multiple P waves in succession indicating Atrial Flutter, or a feedback loop in the atria that causes them to contract multiple times for each contraction of the ventricles. The EKG's also show a periodic rapid pulse, up to 210 bpm, indication the heart has gone into fibrillation, also likely caused by some form of feedback loop.

The cardiologist eliminated the more common causes for this since I don't drink or smoke, am not obese, not diabetic and have generally good cholesterol levels and generally good health.  I will be getting a blood test looking for thyroid issues along with an Echocardiogram to check for structural issues with my heart.  After that I will have a visit with an Electrophysiologist, a cardiologist who specializes in the hearts electrical system.

The two possible treatments discussed so far are to continue with medication to reduce my heart rate for the rest of my life, or a Catheter Ablation.  The Ablation involves threading a few catheters through veins and into the heart when it will be examined and the portion of the heart with the feedback loop will be destroyed. This option is kind of scary, but is pretty low risk, and will generally fix the problem.  The Electrophysiologist will provide more information about that alternative when the time comes.

Until then; keep taking the medication.  And I can try running again and see if the medication will keep my heart rate within reasonable limits.  Looks like this summer's backpacking season is not yet cancelled, although there likely are no marathons in the near future.
I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. - 2 Timothy 1:12

Friday, February 1, 2013

Living a Life of Love

Love!  Just a simple little word.  And a word that is used so easily in our society; and for so many purposes.  I love Lord of the Rings, both the books and the movies.  I love Snickers bars, especially the peanut butter ones.  I love the Olympic mountains, backpacking and running (kind of).  I love my wife and children.  I love Gandalf and Eeyore.  I love God.

So many things that we love; yet what we mean by love really is dependent on what it is we are loving.  I love Snickers because they taste so good, making me feel good; their consumption satisfies a physical appetite in a pleasing way.  I love the Olympics because they appeal to my sense of beauty; seeing them, and tramping through them, gives me a sense of awe, making me feel better.  I love Eeyore, even knowing that he is a fictional children's character; I think I love him because I can relate to him, when I see him I see myself in a way that makes me smile.  I love my wife because of what we share together; I cannot begin to describe what that does for me, but it does satisfy a real emotional and physical need for companionship.  And I love my children, although I have a harder time identifying why;  I love them simply because they are my children.

That being said, I must confess that love scares me; at least when the object of love is another person outside of my family.  Love is a risky business, often having an emotional cost that can be challenging for an emotionally constipated person like myself.  Love can also require an investment of my time and stuff that may be more costly than what I am willing to invest.

While not written directly about the struggle to love, the song "I am a Rock" by Simon and Garfunkel does express how many of us react to reaching out to others in love.

But being a rock, or an island, is not really an option for me.  God loved me, and has called me to love others in return.  But that love takes work.  It requires me to change from being self centered to being others centered; instead of what's best for me, it needs to be what's best for those around me, in particular my fellow believers.  Peter has something to tell us about love in his first letter that I think is well worth taking a look at.
22 Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,
“All people are like grass,
    and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
    25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
And this is the word that was preached to you.
1 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

1 Peter 1:22-2:3 NIV

Purification Leads to Love

Verse 22 says that obedience to the truth produces personal purification, which in turn leads to sincere, or brotherly, love for other believers.  This sequence starts with the truth.  But what is truth we might ask, along with Pilate?  Conveniently enough Jesus answers this question with "I am the truth".  Jesus is the ultimate reality, and in rejecting him, one ultimately rejects reality and lives instead in a world that is just a shadow of reality.

Am I living in obedience to the truth, recognizing Jesus as Lord, and aligning my life with his?  If so, then those things, attitudes and actions that are out of alignment with him will not have a place in my life.  I will have been purified, cleansed of impurities that keep me from being what he wants.  Being pure is not being 'holier than thou' or 'goody two shoes'.  Being pure is being aligned with the truth; with Jesus: it is what we should be rather than some exceptional state.

It is when I have been purified that I am actually able to have a brotherly love for the other believers around me; we are family. Those things/attitudes/actions that conflict with love have been eliminated.  I am free to love others.  I don't have to worry about the cost; because everything I have is His.  I don't have to fear opening my life to others, because my life is His.

Love Leads to Love

It might seem that once I have brotherly love for my fellow believers, my siblings in Christ, that I would have arrived.  But to Peter that was only a beginning place.  You have a sincere love for each other, so now love each other deeply, from the heart.  We are called to move from a sincere, or brotherly, love, to a deep love.

Brotherly love seems to flow naturally out of obedience and purification.  We love our family in Christ simply because we have been purified by obedience to the truth.  But then we are called to go beyond that love and to love as God loves.  I am called to choose to do what is best for others, to lay down my life for my siblings.  I am called to put the interests of others ahead of my own.  Loving in this way is a choice I have to make.  Will I make it?

Born Again

There is another reason Peter gives for me to love other believers; I have been born again of an imperishable seed.  If the seed I am born of is imperishable, then it would seem that I also am imperishable.  And if I am imperishable, then so are other believers also born of that same imperishable seed.  But what does that have to do with love?

We, as believers, are the body of Christ.  Not just for the time of our lives here; but for eternity.  Love, an others centered love, is critical if we are going to work fully together as one body.  A self centered love would be a cancer within the body, and there is no place for that within the body of Christ.  We are stuck with each other for an eternity.  Just getting along is not enough.  We need to love; to give ourselves to each other; to truly be one body: to build each other up in love.

Clean up Your Act

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.  Notice the effect all of these actions/attitudes have on the people around you?  They are self-serving and divisive.  Few of us would likely admit to malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy or slander.  But how often are your words and attitudes toward other believers less than charitable?  How often do we point out, or focus on, the faults of others?  How often do defensive feelings arise when thinking about, or talking with others?

Put those feelings, those attitudes, those words, those actions away.  Get rid of them.  Love instead.  Rather than defending yourself, and your turf, surrender yourself to the body in love.  Love that one who hurts you.  Love that one who is a thorn in your side.  Love that one who is misled, at least in your mind.  And love, not just with words, but with your actions and attitudes.

Love is hard.  But it is not optional: it is essential.  There is no room for excuses.  Jesus has commanded us to love.  It is the defining mark of his disciples.  If we do not love, we do not know God.

To my brothers and sisters at KLBC; I love you!  To my fellow believers in the OBA; I love you!  To those who are His, throughout the world; I love you!  Lord, help me to love!