Jesus is my strength

Love Is More Than a Choice

Love Is More Than a Choice

This is a gentle pushback on a popular slogan.

There is truth in saying, “love is a choice” or “love is a decision.” It is true that if you don’t feel like doing good to your neighbor love will incline you to “choose” to do it anyway. If you feel like getting a divorce, love will incline you to “choose” to stay married and work it out.

If you shrink back from the pain of nails being driven through your hands, love will incline you to say, “Not my will but yours be done.” That’s the truth I hear in the statements: “Love is a choice,” or “Love is a decision.”

But I don’t prefer to use these statements. Too many people hear three tendencies in them that those who use the statements may not intend.

  1. Saying “love is a choice” sounds like the tendency to believe love is in our power to perform, even when we don’t feel like it.

  2. Saying “love is a choice” sounds like the tendency to make the will, with its decisions, the decisive moral agent rather than the heart, with its affections.

  3. Saying “love is a choice” sounds like the tendency to set the bar too low: If you can will to treat someone well, you have done all you should.

I disagree with all three of these tendencies.

In their place I would say:

  1. Both at the level of desiring to do good, and the level of willing the good we don’t desire, we are totally dependent on the decisive grace of God. All that honors Christ — both affections and choices — are gifts to fallen sinners (1 Corinthians 4:7; Galatians 5:22).

  2. Beneath the will, with its decisions, there is the heart, which produces our preferences, and these preferences guide the will. “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

  3. If our love is only a choice, it is not yet what it ought to be.

Here are some of the verses from Scripture that cause me to shrink back from the statement, “Love is a choice,” or “love is a decision.”

God’s love for his people is more than a decision.

“The Lᴏʀᴅ will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

“I [the Lᴏʀᴅ] will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul” (Jeremiah 32:41).

“As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isaiah 62:5).

“How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel?… My compassion grows warm and tender” (Hosea 11:8).

Our love for God is more than a decision.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).

“There is laid up for me the crown of righteousness … for all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). (That is we long for Jesus to be here; we desire him.)

Our love for fellow believers is more than a decision.

“Love one another with brotherly affection” (Romans 12:10).

“Love one another earnestly from a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22).

“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31–32). (These affectional dimensions are what it means to “walk in love” according to Ephesians 5:2.)

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

“Love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant … It is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:4–7).

Our love for our enemies is more than a decision.

“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). (A prayer for our enemy to be blessed without a heartfelt desire that he be blessed is hypocrisy.)

It is important to hear me say, “more than a decision.” I am not denying there are crucial choices and decisions to be made in a life of love. I am not denying that those choices and decisions are part of what love is. So I am not saying the statements “love is a choice” or “love is a decision,” are false.

But I am jealous that the richness and depth (and human impossibility) of what love is in the Bible not be lost. Hence this little pushback.

Is the Sinner’s Prayer Biblical?

By Michael Hidalgo

Sometimes when I hear people speak about sharing the Gospel and inviting others to pray the “sinner’s prayer,” it sounds completely underwhelming. Can I be honest about that? I do not think the Gospel is something to be ignored or that it’s no big deal. But at times, the way we talk about it makes it seem rather small and inconsequential.

For some, the Gospel claims my sin has brought separation from God, and because God is holy, He cannot be around sin. However, through the death of Jesus, God dealt with individual human sin, and made a way for us to go to heaven when we die. The good news (or Gospel) is that God, in His graciousness, did not abandon us in our time of need. He sent his Son, Jesus, to us, and He died the death none of us could die, paying for our sin.

If I believe in this, then I pray to confess my sins, ask Jesus to come into my heart, and accept Jesus as my savior. Some call this the “sinner’s prayer.” I’ve heard this gospel from many, and it is this message that often strikes me as underwhelming. It’s not that this message is wrong; it’s just incomplete. Whenever the Gospel is a simple matter of any one person getting his or her sin taken care of and getting their ticket punched to heaven, it is a reduction of a larger story.

Whenever the Gospel is a simple matter of any one person getting his or her sin taken care of and getting their ticket punched to heaven, it is a reduction of a larger story.

This kind of thinking about the Gospel can move the story from being centered on the person of Jesus, and to being centered on you and me. The story becomes about our sin, our salvation and our ability to live forever in heaven. It’s holy escapism. Heaven becomes the main goal and the reward for us. When we stop there, the Gospel is little more than a story about something God has done for our benefit.

But this is not the Gospel.

This message is an invitation to experience personal salvation. And contrary to the belief of some, this is not the central issue of the Gospel. The Gospel is far bigger than a message about a personal conversion experience.

The Gospel is a story not only about something done for us. The biblical writers claimed the Gospel was not about Jesus only coming to pay a debt. The good news was so much more! The good news was about the redemption, and restoration, of all things in heaven and on earth. The Gospel is the story of how Jesus’s life, death, burial and resurrection forever defeated the powers of sin and death.

Paul, in his letter to the church in Rome, said sin entered the world through one man. Sin ravaged the earth, actively working against God’s good creation, and sin brought death to all humanity. Now through Jesus, the earth will be repaired and God’s creation will again become good, and through Jesus’ resurrection, all people can be made alive.

God is interested in seeing all things redeemed—not just you and me. Paul wanted to be sure we did not miss what he meant when he said “all things.” So he added “whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Colossians 1:15-20). In case you missed his point, he means everything in all of creation: rocks, moons, relationships, squirrels, our work, streams, stellar nebula, trees, our desires—all things will be reconciled.

To reconcile is to bring something back into a harmony that once existed, and God is not the one who is out of tune. All things are being reconciled to Him; He is not the one who has to reconcile Himself to all things. And all things are being reconciled to Him through the death of Jesus. Through this He will bring peace, wholeness and healing.

No doubt, this is a cosmic story. Do you see how, when we think the Gospel is just about our sin and getting to heaven, it can feel underwhelming? We ought never to think we have come to the place where we can package the Gospel so it’s easy to share and be done with it. Rather, we must always find ways to keep talking about it. News this good must be told and retold, because some things are beyond words. Certain times defy explanation.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a story far bigger than we can imagine.

After the birth of my children, I could not fully describe the absolute and total joy I experienced. My heart broke with happiness. How do you tell someone about that? If all I had said was, “my wife gave birth to a child,” well, yes, that would have been true, but that explanation feels incomplete.

If we can talk forever about memorable, beautiful moments, which are locked into our memory, with our friends and family, then how much more the Gospel? Are we content with thinking of it as a presentation we can share? Is it enough to make the good news of Jesus only about our sin and getting our ticket punched for heaven? Should we reduce the response to this message to nothing more than a prayer?

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is a story far bigger than we can imagine. As such, we should never tire of telling and retelling it. As the people of God, we should have deep joy as we continually discover new contours to this cosmic redemption story. The Gospel is the message that shouts to us, “Do you see all the renewal, redemption and restoration I am doing in this world? I want to do it in you too.”

This is the massive, cosmic story of the Gospel—which has the power to redeem all of creation—that is also at work in our bruised, battered and broken hearts. This is why the Gospel is so beautiful. It is universal in its scope yet extremely personal and intimate in its healing of you and me. This is why we will forever be able to speak of the good news, discovering new words and ways of expressing the vast truth of God’s story.

Life Won’t Begin at Your Next Milestone

“This isn’t the real world,” they told us. High school teachers, grumpy old men at the grocery store, cynical professors and others like them assured us throughout childhood and adolescence that our real lives were waiting somewhere in the difficult future.

And while we may have not believed it was going to be harder, we did believe those younger years were prepping us for the day life would really take off. We grew with an expectancy of the next big thing; and as we progressed forward and arrived at each new milestone, we often experienced a subtle sense of disappointment rather than satisfaction.

At some point, many of us have looked around, shrugged our shoulders and thought, “this can’t be it. When I get married, finish school, buy a house, travel, then life will really begin. This is just a holding-zone, shaping me for something more.”

We reach our long awaited achievement and discover it doesn’t quite meet our expectations, so we set our eyes on the next step.

What did we think was going to change? Why do we become so disillusioned with life as it is currently? Ironically, it seems to be the realness of everyday that convinces us we have yet to see the adventure filled world we were made for. The dirty dishes, the laundry, the turkey sandwiches that look nothing like Instagram perfection, the repetitive motions we move through day-in and day-out trick our hearts into believing we aren’t there yet.

We expected to feel settled, not restless. We expected to have answers, not more questions. We expected a movie ending resolution, where the credits roll and it is assumed everything following just works. Instead, we find the messy, ordinary grind of everyday life.

Outside of general disappointment, there are three specific problems buried beneath the theory that our life begins when ___________________ (fill in with whatever event you’re waiting for):

“This can’t be it,” says more about what we value than it does about the life we’re living

We cannot be sincerely grateful for our lives if we are breathing in the anticipation that soon this will wrap up and make way for something more exciting.

If we view today as less than tomorrow, we choose to live in the imagined picture of a story that hasn’t happened, sacrificing joy and adventure that could be ours in the present. We get caught in the idea that this is just the green room, and if we plan well and press on, we’ll eventually walk out on the other side and a great narrative will unfold.

Perhaps without meaning to, we tell ourselves, the world around us and even God that this isn’t enough. It’s as if we took a look around and said, “no thanks, I’ll pass and wait to see what comes up down the road.”

We cannot be sincerely grateful for our lives if we are breathing in the anticipation that soon this will wrap up and make way for something more exciting. That doesn’t sound like thankfulness, and it looks nothing like contentment.

If we believe this is a waiting period, we will act like this is a waiting period

In short, we will waste it. A couple years after we got married, my husband and I packed up our stuff and moved into my parents’ house so we could finish school. Six months later, I gave birth to our first son.

For two and a half years, we lived in the bedroom across the hall from my mom and dad, raising a baby, working side jobs and attending class. I mentally entered that season as if we had paused reality and shuffled over to the sidebar of our own life. It squelched my motivation for growth, until I remembered that this was it. It only comes once, and if I miss it, I won’t get a second chance.

No matter what you would change about your current circumstances, there are advantages, freedoms and joys that will be gone in life’s next scene. Don’t miss today because you are imagining that tomorrow will be “better.”

If life begins when we reach a given milestone, what happens when that landmark is threatened?

If getting married makes your adult life official, what happens if your marriage falls apart or you lose your spouse 10 years in?

If a professional career and financial independence are the markers of a “real life,” what happens if you find yourself unemployed and living with extended family at age 40?

It’s not hard to see that a full and thrilling life must be based on something that cannot change, or else we are doomed to spend our days anxiously avoiding anything that might unravel our well-planned, self-made kingdoms.

Don’t miss today because you are imagining that tomorrow will be “better.”

Where It Begins

It is true that these are years of preparation for the future, but that is no truer of my life today than it will be when I’m 60.

What can we learn now that will shape us for what comes next? Because truthfully, there’s a great deal to life we cannot prepare for. Rather, we must learn to lean into God as the difficult days come and trust, as Brennan Manning said in The Wisdom of Tenderness, “that the grace for the next step in the dance of life {is} already there, given.”

Elisabeth Elliot wrote, “The secret is Christ in me, not me in a different set of circumstances.” The bigger story of our life begins the moment we understand this truth. Life does not begin when you get married, land your dream job or board a plane to travel the world. It is found in the beautiful, powerful love of Christ, which changes us in the midst of all circumstances, especially the ones we find most difficult. We need only be willing.

Make plans. Look forward to the future. Choose to be genuinely grateful for your story as it is today. And be transformed by the incredible love of Jesus—a love that offers fullness of life, soaked in adventure and infused with mystery.

Colin Powells 13 rules of Leadership
  1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning. This rule reflects an attitude and not a prediction. I have always tried to keep my confidence and optimism up, no matter how difficult the situation. Things will get better. You will make them better.
  2. Get mad, then get over it. I’ve worked hard over the years to make sure that when I get mad, I get over it quickly and never lose control of myself.
  3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it. Accept that your position was faulty, not your ego. Loyalty is disagreeing strongly, and loyalty is executing faithfully.
  4. It can be done! Don’t surround yourself with instant skeptics. At the same time, don’t shut out skeptics and colleagues who give you solid counter views.
  5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it. Don’t rush into things.
  6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision. Superior leadership is often a matter of superb instinct. Often, the factual analysis alone will indicate the right choice. More often, your judgment will be needed to select from the best courses of action.
  7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours. Since ultimate responsibility is yours, make sure the choice is yours and you are not responding to the pressure and desire of others.
  8. Check small things. Success ultimately rests on small things, lots of small things. Leaders have to have a feel for small things—a feel for what is going on in the depths of an organization where small things reside. The followers, the troops, live in a world of small things. Leaders must find ways, formal and informal, to get visibility into that world.
  9. Share credit. People need recognition and a sense of worth as much as they need food and water. Share the credit, take the blame, and quietly find out and fix things that went wrong. Whenever you place the cause of one of your actions outside yourself, it’s an excuse and not a reason.
  10. Remain calm. Be kind. In the “heat of the battle”—whether military or corporate—kindness, like calmness, reassures followers and holds their confidence. Kindness connects you with other human beings in a bond of mutual respect. If you care for your followers and show them kindness, they will recognize and care for you.
  11. Have a vision. Be demanding. Purpose is the destination of a vision. It energizes that vision, gives it force and drive. It should be positive and powerful, and serve the better angels of an organization.
  12. Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers. Fear is a normal human emotion. It is not in itself a killer. We can learn to be aware when fear grips us, and can train to operate through and in spite of our fear. If, on the other hand, we don’t understand that fear is normal and has to be controlled and overcome, it will paralyze us and stop us in our tracks. We will no longer think clearly or analyze rationally. We prepare for it and control it; we never let it control us. If it does, we cannot lead.
  13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier. Perpetual optimism, believing in yourself, believing in your purpose, believing you will prevail, and demonstrating passion and confidence is a force multiplier. If you believe and have prepared your followers, the followers will believe.
Global Leadership Summit: Oscar Muriu
  • I asked the Lord desperately, “Where do I find leaders?”

  • Five convictions God put on my heart. Been on my heart for the last 20 years.

  • You need to multiply leaders around you exponentially.

  • God has called us to go ye therefore to the uttermost parts of the world

  • The size of your harvest depends on how many leaders you have.

  • Matthew 9:37-38

  • The problem is not harvest: the harvest is plentiful; the harvest is ripe. The problem is the harvesters.

  • The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.

  • The fewer the harvesters, the smaller the harvest will be.

  • Jesus’ strategy was to find his leaders and call them to walk with him. We often do it the other way. Jesus found his leaders and grew them. Today, you and I are the result of his strategy.

  • If you don’t have leaders around you, then the reach of your leadership will be limited to your own capacity.

  • One of the size of your impacts is how many leaders you have raised up that will continue your work after you have left.

  • The impact of your life will not depend on how hard you worked, but the number of leaders you raised up.

  • Don’t live just for your generation. Live for the next generation.

  • Psalm 71:18

  • David was not living for his own generation. You are born into your generation. You’ll go to school with your generation. You’ll get married as everyone in your generation. You’ll slow down with your generation. Then you all die. When you live for your own generation, your vision will die with your generation. The only way that you can impact is to invest in the generation.

  • The only way your vision can live beyond you is by investing & instilling it in those who’ll be there after you’re gone

  • Every leader has to surround themselves with five people that they are pouring themselves into for at least one year, sometimes two years.

  • Live for the next generation. Pour into the next generation.

  • Always surround yourself with younger leaders you are pouring your life into

  • Identify the budding leaders around you and take them to God in prayer.

  • Numbers 11:10-18

  • Moses was already surrounded by 70 world class leaders when he started griping. They were already there.

  • Some of your best leaders are right under your nose, but they are so close to you that you cannot see them.

  • In my Bible, along Numbers 11 I have written the names of those God has been giving me through the years.

  • I believe in raising up sons and daughters for leadership.

  • “Hit List”

  • Instill the five loves into your budding leaders.

  • Mark 12:30-33

  • Love the Lord with all your heart – It’s a matter of character.

  • Love the Lord with all your soul – It’s a matter of conviction. Those things that you so firmly believe that you are willing to die for them.

  • Love the Lord with all your mind – It’s a matter of comprehension. Understanding God’s heart, His mission.

  • Love the Lord with all your strength – It’s a matter of competence, it’s excellence.

  • Love your neighbors as yourself – It’s a matter of compassion.

  • Never do ministry alone. Always have budding leaders around you.

  • Acts 4:13

  • The time they spent with Jesus and it impacted them.

  • Say the disciples spent 15 hours a day with Jesus, four days a week for three years. How many hours did they spend? 9,360 hours. If you spend 3 hours a week mentoring, it would take 60 years to get that.

  • To be alone is to waste an opportunity to mentor a budding leader.

  • Never lead alone. And never waste an opportunity to have young leaders around you.

  • The more harvesters you have, the larger your harvest will be. And you too can develop leaders around you.

  • We don’t have many resources, but we innovate, innovate, innovate and find a way to do it.

  • Start simple. Innovate. Define a leadership pathway. Create a leadership engine. Increase your impact exponentially.         

Holy Captivated

by Nicole Mullen

When I Behold the Beauty
Of Your Many Wonders
And I’m Captivated by
Your Majesty

Oh my Soul Rings Out
a Sacred Hallelujah
Back to the Source
From Whence it Came

And when
I’m Searching
for the Face
Of the Invisible
When I Reach
to hold the Hand
That Formed
my Being
All of a Sudden
Everything that
is Within me
Blesses your Name
Again and Again

Crying Holy is the
Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb
Who was Slain
To Receive our
Greatest Adoration
Jesus Son of God
Is His Name

When I am Overwhelmed by
All that is Around me
And the Tears
That Flood my Heart
Run Down my Face
I’ll Remember that
Your Heart and
Soul was Broken
And Even in Pain
Your Worthy of Praise

Crying Holy is the
Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the Lamb
Who was Slain
To Receive our
Greatest Adoration
Jesus Son of God
Is His Name

When I Contemplate
the Day of our Reunion
And I Anticipate the One
Who Calls my Name
There’s a Yearning
Rising up from
Deep Within me
to be Swept Away
Forev’r and a Day

Cause I can Wait
to See the Ones
Who’ve Gone Before me
Hear the Music
Taste the Laughter
Walk the Sea
But the Moment
I will Live and
I will Die for
Is to Hear His Voice
Welcoming me.

And I Cry, Holy is the
Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the
Lamb who was Slain
To Receive
our Greatest Adoration
Jesus Son of God
Is His Name

We’ll Cry Holy is the
Lord God Almighty
Worthy is the
Lamb who was Slain
To Receive
our Greatest Adoration
Jesus Son of God
Is His Name
Jesus Son of God
Is His Name
Jesus Son of God
Is His Name
Jesus Son of God
Is Your Name