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John Calvin puts forward a very simple reason why love is the greatest gift: “Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” In other words, faith and hope benefit the possessor, but love always benefits another. In John 13:34–35 Jesus says, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Love always requires an “other” as an object; love cannot remain within itself, and that is part of what makes love the greatest gift.
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His Loving Presence

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Our hearts sank when we learned that our good friend Cindy had been diagnosed with cancer. Cindy was a vibrant person whose life blessed all who crossed her path. My wife and I rejoiced when she went into remission, but a few months later her cancer returned with a vengeance. In our minds she was weak and hardly able to talk, Cindy whispered to him, "Just be with me." What she wanted more than anything in those dark moment s was his loving presence.


The writer to the Hebrews comforted his readers by quoting Deuteronomy 31:6, where God told His people: "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrew 13:5). In the darkest moments of life, the assurance of His loving presence gives us confidence that we are not alone. He gives us the grace to endure, the wisdom to know He is working , and the assurance that Christ can "empathize with our weaknesses" (4:15).


Together let's embrace the blessing of His loving presence so we can confidently say, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid" (13:6).

-Joe Stowell

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By the grace of God, we have such facilities. Praise Lord for all these. Even if we die, we know we're not died because we're alive in Christ Jesus.

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    • 20 Quotes on How Your Church Should Exhibit Loving Authority

      The following quotes caught my attention as I read Jonathan Leeman’s helpful book The Rule of Love: How the Local Church Should Reflect God’s Love and Authority (Crossway, 2017). Love is not an abstract concept but a personal quality of God. . . . Anything called love that does not have its source in God is not love. (13) Don’t judge a gift by its abuses. (21) In a sense, this book is like a prequel or a prolegomena—a pre-word—to thinking about and living as the church. Many Christians today have a hard time grasping what the church is, because so many of our intuitions about love and authority are compromised. (23) People today worship not just the god of love but the god of options. . . . As a result, the idea of commitment is removed from the ingredients of love. (31) The local church should be the antidote to both individualism and tribalism, a place where each person stands individually before God and as a member of a new people and family. (33) We’re no longer duped into worshiping carved figures, but statistical figures do impress us. (35) God’s love simultaneously attracts and repels all of us. It’s a thing of beauty and a thing of gross offense to the fallen heart. Gaze upon the love of God from one angle, and it will appear as the most resplendent thing in all the universe. But walk a few yards and look up again, and you will find that your lip snarls, your fists clench, and your heart becomes morally offended. (42) The purpose of drawing lines [through church membership] is to say: “Here is a fountain of clean water; drink from it. Here are a people who love me with all their hearts, minds, souls, and strength. Do you see how attractive this blessed life is? Do you not want to repent and join them?” The line of exclusion means to provoke the desire for inclusion. It’s a closed door, but it’s a glass door that people can see through and open with the mere push of repentance and faith. (48) Selfish love always looks like gain, but it always yields loss. (78) Lest there be any confusion, every form of love, both healthy and unhealthy, imposes a set of laws. The love of a healthy body yields the laws of the diet. The love of learning yields the requirements of study. The love of a mistress rewrites the laws of marriage in the adulterer’s mind. What he formally deemed unacceptable he now tells himself is good and necessary. Love and law, or love and authority, are inseparable. The only question is, what do you most love? Right love leads to right obedience. Wrong love, to wrong obedience. And the standard of right is always the supremacy of God. God is best. (83) A church that chooses to emphasize God’s love but not God’s holiness is a church that doesn’t actually understand what God’s love is. (84) One of the greatest ironies of the postmodern West might be this: that pleasure for which our culture most emphatically rejects God—sex—is the very thing God has given humanity so that we might have an analogy, a category, a language for knowing what the unadulterated enjoyment of him will be like in glory. (94) The fire of the Father’s affection for the Son is so great that he wants hundreds of millions of faces to look just like Jesus’s face. (101) The Christian doctrine of justification is like love draped in a judge’s wig. (103) If we have not covenanted together with a local church, how do we know we’re not self-deceived about our commitments? (110) More than the headline makers, it’s the daily life of the average Christian that ultimately forms the world’s perception of Christ and his gospel. (115) Abandoning the practices of membership and discipline overlooks the evangelistic power of exclusion, to say nothing of the biblical pattern (e.g. Matt. 18:15–17; 1 Cor. 5). Paul, however, saw no conflict between characterizing the Corinthians as “ambassadors of reconciliation” and simultaneously calling them to separate themselves as a people (see 2 Cor. 5:20; 6:17). The evangelistic power of exclusion is the power of salt and light. It’s the power of distinctness. People see something different that they don’t have, and they want it. (127) Good authority works not just from the top down but also from the bottom up. Picture me at Disneyland, one daughter on my shoulders, another in hand, and chasing the third and fourth around the park doing all I can to please them. Or picture my wife driving from ballet practice to softball practice to piano practice. Like the authority of God, who is the “rock” on which we stand, so loving authority in creation is often about laying your life down as a platform on which others build their lives. That’s what I mean when I say it’s not just top-down; it’s also bottom-up. “I’ll supply you, fund you, resource you, guide you”—bottom-up. Yet also, “Here are the rules”—top-down. It’s both. Good authority binds in order to loose, corrects in order to teach, trims in order to grow, disciplines in order to train, legislates in order to build, judges in order to redeem, studies in order to innovate. Trust me, and I will give you a garden in which to create a world. Just keep my commandments. I love you. Good authority loves. Good authority gives. Good authority passes out authority. (142) So much of godly pastoring and parenting is about planting seeds and then waiting for God to give the growth. (148–49) Christianity is color-blind with regard to our salvation, but not with regard to the God-intended diversity of the body. A church’s challenge is to demonstrate color-blindness in all the right ways (“You are my brother/sister in Christ”) and color-consciousness in all the right ways (“You are different and wonderful and have new things to teach me”). True unity in Christ provides the security wherein diversity enlightens and delights, rather than threatens and offends. (152) Previously in the “20 Quotes” series: Tim Keller, The Prodigal Prophet (Viking, 2018) Glen Scrivener, Long Story Short (Christian Focus, 2018) Brian Seagraves and Hunter Leavine, Gender (The Good Book Company, 2018) John Onwuchekwa, Prayer (Crossway, 2018) Matthew McCullough, Remember Death (Crossway, 2018) Gustav Wingren, Luther on Vocation (Muhlenberg, 1957) Francis Grimké, Meditations on Preaching (Log College Press, 2018) Sam Allberry, Why Bother with Church? (Good Book, 2016) Jen Wilkin, In His Image (Crossway, 2018) Trevor Laurence, The Story of the Word (Wipf and Stock, 2017) Jonathan Leeman, How the Nations Rage (Thomas Nelson, 2018) Andy Johnson, Missions (Crossway, 2017) Alan Jacobs, How to Think (Currency, 2017) Tony Reinke, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (Crossway, 2017) Erik Raymond, Chasing Contentment (Crossway, 2017) Sinclair Ferguson, Devoted to God (Banner of Truth, 2016) Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas (Viking, 2016) Scott Sauls, Befriend (Tyndale House, 2016) Ray Ortlund, Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel (Crossway, 2016) Jen Wilkin, None Like Him (Crossway, 2016) Tim Keller, Making Sense of God (Viking, 2016) Mark Dever, Understanding the Great Commission (B&H, 2016) Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ (Crossway, 2016) Albert Mohler, We Cannot Be Silent (Thomas Nelson, 2015) Mark Dever and Jamie Dunlop, The Compelling Community (Crossway, 2015) Russell Moore, Onward (B&H, 2015) Rosaria Butterfield, Openness Unhindered (Crown & Covenant, 2015) Tim Keller, Preaching (Viking, 2015) Tim Keller, Prayer (Dutton, 2014) Kevin DeYoung, Taking God at His Word (Crossway, 2014) View the full article

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    • Biblical Scholar Speaks about Pope's Switch to Our Father: A Loving God Can Still Lead Us into Temptation

      Biblical scholar and Swiss linguist Fr. Reto Nay says the possible change of the sixth petition of the “Our Father” prayer isn’t accurate. Nay’s comments to LifeSiteNews came after a 2017 interview with Pope Francis on Italian TV where he said the traditional translation of “and lead us not into temptation” is “not good.” View the full article

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    • Beyond Truth and Fiction: Loving Our Neighbors with Dementia

      A loved one drifting through the shadows of dementia clutches your wrist and implores you to find her husband. She no longer recognizes you, or remembers the laughter and tenderness you’ve shared. She can’t comprehend the steady erosion of her memories, the parts of herself that have crumbled away. And she doesn’t remember that the husband she adores died decades ago. What should you say? The last time she heard the truth, she howled and cried, reliving her grief as if for the first time. Then, after an hour of sobbing, she forgot the entire conversation and asked for her husband again. As she searches your face now, should you tell her the truth and watch the agony wash over her? Or should you spare her the pain and fib that he’s gone out to the store? Dignity or Happiness? Such heartbreaking dilemmas inspired a recent article in The New Yorker by award-winning writer Larissa MacFarquar. In her challenging piece, MacFarquar explores the practice of “therapeutic lying,” a controversial approach in dementia care that favors deception over dragging people discombobulated and frightened into a reality they can’t understand. MacFarquar guides us through memory care centers that feature 1930s décor, fake bus stops, and artificial simulations of the beach, all intended to mirror the realities of people locked within their distant memories. Proponents of such simulated environments argue that familiar details, even if fabricated, comfort dementia sufferers, and soothe the confusion and agitation that arise when their sharpest memories don’t align with their surroundings. Critics question the impact of systematic deception on the hearts and minds of caregivers and dementia sufferers alike. Throughout her sensitive investigation, MacFarquar posits a quandary: Should we be blisteringly honest with dementia sufferers in the name of dignity and truth, even if the facts devastate them? Or should we lie and collude with their delusions, diminishing their personhood, but keeping them blissfully unaware? “What is more important,” she asks, “dignity or happiness?” MacFarquar’s question reflects deep empathy for people with dementia and captures the agitation, fear, and confusion that so often afflict them. But it also presupposes stark dichotomies between dignity and happiness, truth and compassion. The question strands caregivers between two unnerving and opposed choices, neither of which seems to wholly manifest love for our neighbor (Matt. 22:39). The gospel offers an alternative approach. Loving a Person Personhood doesn’t decay with our cognitive abilities, but resides in our immutable worth as image bearers of God (Gen. 1:26), a value no disease or calamity can degrade. And the central tenet in care for anyone, stricken with dementia or not, should be love, as God loves us in Christ (Mark 12:30–31; John 3:16; 13:34–35). In Christ, dignity and compassion unfurl as branches of the same vine, each a vital offshoot. Christian love doesn’t subscribe to blanket policies of harsh fact or rampant falsehood, but rather seeks to build “others up according to their needs” (Eph. 4:29). It views each person as Christ sees him: cherished, unique in the world, worthy of time and sacrifice, with a specific role in God’s story. Artificial environments with fake bus stops hardly embody this love. Such prescribed, imposed realities ignore the unique stories, memories, and experiences that enrich a life and the varied needs each person harbors in a given moment. Systematic deception discounts the fluctuating course of dementia, when moments of lucidity break through the fog, and when tactics that soothe in one moment can agitate in the next. According to the U.K.’s Mental Health Foundation, this neglect for individual experience can actually worsen distress and confusion among dementia sufferers. Fabricated environments, the Foundation argues, thrust people into out-of-context scenarios that don’t always align with their own memories and realities. The resulting disconnect can deepen anxiety among dementia sufferers, and even more concerning, erode crucial relationships. As the foundation reports, “A person living with dementia may start to feel suspicious and lose trust in one or more of their carers if the responses/interactions are inconsistent from one carer to the next, or the body language of the carer suggests something is ‘not quite right.’” Those with dementia themselves echo these concerns. In one study, people with mild dementia described lying, even if well-intended, as “patronizing” or “demeaning,” and predicted that knowing they were lied to would upset them. They described their distress as especially profound if the lying occurred within a close, trusting relationship. Such comments warn us that if we routinely lie to those with dementia, even out of compassion, we risk fracturing the fragile bonds tying them to others. Speaking Truth in Love None of these dangers should surprise us, given the high standard of truth the Bible upholds (Lev. 19:11; Mark 12:14). But when a woman with severe dementia, for whom the last shreds of working memory have vanished, weeps for her lost husband, should we bluntly retort that her beloved has died? When we force her into a painful reality she can no longer decipher, do we really embrace her as a unique child of God? Are we speaking the truth in love in such moments, and building her up according to her needs? (Eph. 4:15). 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In advanced dementia, however, people can no longer comprehend reality, and demanding they do so risks crushing them with anguish. To respond compassionately, and to acknowledge their dignity in Christ, requires us to enter their world, and to see what they see. Their attempts to comprehend and to communicate must be taken seriously, and respected, just as for anyone else. Discerning Needs “Understanding the world they are experiencing does not mean we have to lie about it,” says Dr. John Dunlop, longtime geriatrician and author of the poignant and informative book Finding Grace in the Face of Dementia. “When a patient is asking for and grieving a dead parent, we need to ask ourselves, ‘What is it they are looking for?’ It may well be love and security. We can respond by hugging them and saying, ‘I love you and will take care of you, and I know you love your mom and dad.’” Kathy Lind, a nurse practitioner with 25 years of experience in geriatrics, agrees that the chief concern in dementia care is neither fact nor fiction, but viewing each person individually, beloved by God, with unique needs in the moment. “God is present all the time,” she says. “He is present to the patient with dementia who thinks in the past, and to me who is in the present, both on different timelines. . . . Usually, meeting [people with dementia] where they are and responding to the emotion of their distress, is enough to diffuse the anxiety, and I believe we have really communicated.” Dunlop lived out this principle when his mother, her mind clouded with dementia, repeatedly mistook him for his father. Rather than reply with, “I’m not Dad,” or pretend to be his father, Dunlop learned to respond with, “Lois, I love you.” His answer emphasized neither truth, nor fiction, but rather acknowledged his mother’s deepest need in that moment—to receive warmth and affection from someone she loved. Although the ravages of dementia may chisel away memories, stories of who we are remain. Emotions remain. And these lingering joys can anchor those lost in the past. “Despite their confusion about the present,” geriatric psychologist Benjamin Mast writes,  “people can continue to find themselves and reconnect to their faith by rehearsing their story with people who love and care for them. . . . We should try to interact in a way that draws upon their life story, their well-worn behavioral patterns, and those aspects of life that are flavored with emotion.” Dignity and Compassion We know that when Christ returns, the synapses of the dementia-stricken mind will be repaired. The brain will heal, the present will snap into relief, and the memories will take their proper place. In the interim, those struggling with dementia need us to reflect their personhood as eternal, not dependent on remembering or forgetting, fact or deception. They need our respect and love, through care that presumes no dichotomies between dignity and compassion, but rather views each individual as worthy of both. When we embrace others in such love, we point to the greatest truth of all, to the one whose power and mercy far surpass the jumbled workings of our feeble minds. We point to the one who gave his life for us and who makes all things new: the broken bodies, the sinful hearts, but also the forgotten names and distorted memories, the glimmers of the past tangled with the present. View the full article

      in Christian Current Events

    • 1st Graders Learned Bible Verse about Loving Others, Parents Are Outraged

      A Texas public school teacher is being criticized for teaching her children a Bible passage that urges people to love one another. View the full article

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    • Loving Jesus but not the Church

      In today's sermon our pastor made an illustration about what it can mean when someone says they love Jesus but not the visible church.  Before I go into the illustration he used, what are your thoughts about this?

      in General Faith


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