How activists against racism may be reinforcing it deeper into our culture.

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I watched a video the other day of a passionate young adult working to prove that racism is a very real problem that must be dealt with.  By the time it appeared on my Facebook feed it had been watched hundreds of thousands of times. 

Actually, he did a good job identifying problems that do exist and areas in our culture that need to be improved.  The problem is HOW he was making his viewers aware.  He basically said repeatedly in different ways, “You’re a racist!”  He was bold and passionate. 

Before we proceed let’s assume his information was 100% accurate and his heart was in the right place.

I still think he, along with many others, are making things worse. 

Here is why.

There is an important piece to the maturation process psychologically – identity.  Professional counselors and educators have been aware of this for a long time.

If an alcoholic is trying to improve, it’s one thing for him to admit he has a problem.  It’s something else to have him come home night after night to a spouse that calls him a “worthless drunk.”  Counselors long ago realized that berating and name calling doesn’t help.  In fact, it makes it worse.  Being made aware of a problem is very different than being told your problem is your identity… repeatedly. The wife may hate that he is an alcoholic– and at the same time reinforcing it IS his identity more deeply into his heart and soul! 

In education, it’s the same way.  If you have a young child who struggles with math, it’s one thing to identify there are places he needs extra attention; it’s another to remind him repeatedly he is “stupid.” You can absolutely point out an area in which he needs to improve, but ratifying in him that being “stupid” is a part of his identity will do more damage than good.  He may even actually come to believe it is who he is, accepting it even deeper into his identity. 

Moreover, social uniqueness (identity) is formed by what you are for AND by what you are against, from religion, politics, national identities, even artistic preferences.  Identity IS divisive and being unique is a basic human desire.  What’s important is HOW we approach uniqueness.  Racism (used broadly), by practice, is not only preferring a unique trait, but also believing the PEOPLE who have or prefer other unique traits are somehow less valuable or even worthless.  Our culture has ignorantly tried to throw out both sides of this by pretending to be blind to differences in general.  Trying to say there is no gender, color, intellectual or athletic gifting and the like is silly and limits the beautiful diversity of humanity.  For example:

People need to stop saying things like “kids don’t see color.”  Yes, they do.  They just aren’t bothered by the difference.  In fact, they can openly talk about it because a difference in skin color is a vastly inferior issue to the friendship they have.  What needs to be elevated is the priority of love.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

We don’t want to live blind to the complex beauty that is humanity, or be afraid to see differences in each other. However, the binding agent of this uniqueness is love. 

Lastly, abhorrent name calling, violent marches, and belittling trigger the primal fight or flight instinct.  There are countless articles and research papers showing that people struggle to learn when they are deeply angry or afraid.  Every well-intentioned video or article that provokes the primal fight or flight may be highly effective click-bait (meaning a lot of people see it) but will not help move hearts toward love and respect.  In most cases as your blood pressure goes up, your ability to reason goes way down. 

So, what do we do?

In my home: I will not label my kids as a racist, idiot, bully or the like. Even if I think their values are wrong. That’s not their identity and not who they have to become.  That said they are unique and absolutely can improve themselves in many ways.  Not everything they like or dislike will be right, but that has no bearing on their value as a person.  In Christianity, human value is not subjective but objective. I will teach them there is space to love people deeply and talk about differences, even debate them. As a Christian, I tell them all humans are made in the image of God and have immeasurable value– from the unborn baby to the elderly dementia patient, from those born in the heart of India to those born in the heart of Kansas– and we should treat all as Christ sees them over how we may feel about them.  So, in our home we may challenge each other’s ideas and prefer different music styles, but love remains.

Identity: People are eternally valuable creations of God. 

Objective: Teach my children to approach a complex world the way Jesus did. You can challenge people, wrestle with ideas and ideals, but you cannot take away their transcendent value.  You don’t have that power.

In our culture: The battle is won by education and in relationships. I decided to do a little “research” and spent an evening watching interview after interview on YouTube of people who overcame racism.  I couldn’t find one that overcame racism with more physical or emotional violence.  The victory was always won through relationships and education.  If the objective is to win HEARTS– tangible forgiveness, mercy, and love are far more powerful than taking up arms and stone-throwing. If you want to change hearts, don’t work to prove there is hate without also working to demonstrate how it can be overcome. Don’t divide people further, build a bridge to speak into their life.

There are a lot of people in this world I disagree with and I actually enjoy a well-mannered debate.  Yet, I do not have any power to remove someone’s value. Even if I disagree with them. In my opinion their value is assigned by the Creator. 

He loved people so much that he sent what was dearest to him, his son, to die, so that they may be rescued.  The very people he knew had wrong affections and values.

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I’ll let pastor King be my final thought…

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

picture: https://www.pexels.com/photo/portrait-dark-black-and-white-eyes-12087/

 

I don’t think “radical” means what you think it means!

Radical Christian

My social media news feed is flooded with statements claiming all radical religious people are dangerous.

I can see why!  “Extremists” or “radicals” as they are called are doing some atrocious things.  Pillaging the poor, raping women, blowing up people who don’t think like them.  They even kill each other!

I want to pause for a moment and think about this statement – religious extremism.

What exactly is a radical religious person of any faith?  I am assuming people who use this term are referring to those who wholeheartedly follow their faith system in all its teachings.  If they claim these people are dangerous, the implication, therefore, is that moderate religious people must be good or at least better.

Some through social media are trying to lump all religions together.  This doesn’t work!  Not all religions teach the same thing and their founders are very different.

Let’s clear some things up!

I want to weigh Christianity against this claim, beginning with the premise that a radical Christian is a New Testament follower of Jesus Christ.  So, let’s not get hung up on Old Testament stories here.  Though I love academically working through complex Old Testament stories (read more here) and historical literary styles, for now let’s focus on Jesus and the New Testament. That is indeed what a “Christian” is.  Christ is the center of Christianity.  It’s all about Jesus.

So what does a radical Christian look like?

Michael Bray or Robert Dear (pictured above) destroying abortion clinics? Jim Jones, don’t drink the Kool-Aid! Or what about “Christians” chanting “God hates…” at the funerals of American soldiers who died in war?  Are these really “radical” Christians? No!

Here is what someone who fully follows the ways of Jesus should look like.

Radical Christians make the time and sacrificially give of their resources to serve those who are in need (Col 4:5-6, 1 Thess 4:11-12, 1 Peter 2:12, James 1:27).  They have compassion, are gracious and forgiving.  They bear the difficulties of life together (1 Peter 3:8, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13, James 5:19-20).  Extremist followers of Jesus are NOT those who are murdering people or cursing out homosexuals.  They aren’t those torturing or abusing anyone in the name of Jesus.  A true extreme Christian example would be someone more like Mother Teresa or Dr. Martin Luther King.  Real Christians serve the orphans and the widows.  They help give voice to people who have none.

People who call themselves Christian that don’t act like Christ aren’t radical extremist Christians; they’re backslidden at best, most likely total heretics, variants from Christianity.

A radical religious person should be defined as someone who looks MOST like their founder.  Christians should look like Christ!

The mass media should stop calling crazy heretics who call themselves Christian “extremist” or “radical” – they are neither.

By the way, this is what it means theologically to take the Lord’s name in vain. It has nothing to do with curse words. It’s doing something in the name of Christ that isn’t really of him.

So if you are a follower of Christ, the next time you come across a social media post claiming all radical people are dangerous, drop a photo of Mother Teresa or Dr. King in that newsfeed as an example of true extreme Christianity.

Conditional Grace

Conditional Grace

A decade in youth ministry gave me a front row seat to a lot of messy lives.

Abortion, drug use, broken families, teen pregnancy, and lots of drama.

Youth ministry was messy.

It wasn’t messy lives that really bothered me though.  I expected that.  I knew that was the life of a youth pastor long before I took the job.

One thing that really hurt I didn’t expect.  In fact, I was a part of the pain and didn’t even see it at first.

This one thing that hurt me most is something I call Conditional Grace. 

Conditional Grace, or selective kindness, we could even call it discriminatory love.  It’s when a person offers love, kindness, and grace to certain people and not to others.

Let me give an example.

When I served in youth ministry a long-term core family member in our church could have a child that struggled with something like a drug addiction, we would bend over backwards to help them out.  That’s great.  I have no problem with that.  Yet when students that weren’t part of the “core” families came to the church with tough issues, often less severe, they were dangerous and I was expected to “protect the flock” from them.

Wait… when it’s someone in our inner circle of kids that smokes weed at a youth camp we offer grace and want to help him through this difficult season, but when a student visitor smokes a cigarette outside the church before our youth services start we have to kick him out?  Oh, the incredible conditional grace!

We all want to help SOME people, show them grace, as long as we like them. Can you see it?  We want to help people we WANT to like, not those we don’t want to like.  We give them the benefit of the doubt, we forgive the annoying things they do and put up with their difficult “seasons” in life.  I fully agree with grace!  We just need to make sure it isn’t so conditional.

Remember, while we were enemies of God, Jesus came to us (Romans 5).  He came while we were alienated from God and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds (Col. 1:15-21).

I challenge you to show grace to someone who doesn’t deserve it.  Show grace to someone who you don’t want to show grace to. 

Go love the poor, people from the other political party, immigrants, those who struggle with sexual identity, the uneducated, or even someone from another religion. They also need the truth of Jesus Christ given through loving, gracious hands.  Let them see the good in you and know it’s because of what Jesus did.

Want more?  Check out this sermon!

Most Christians are educated way beyond their level of obedience.

Most Christians are Educated

Most Christians are educated way beyond their level of obedience.  (Dr. Maxwell)

 

And it’s awkward…

 

Like an overweight doctor telling me I have to lose weight, or someone with a degree in business management who clearly can’t manage.

 

I get it; it’s a cultural thing.  I am absolutely a fan of our education system, but many degrees are designed primarily to learn information ABOUT something.  Though this is a good thing, you don’t have to be able to DO any of the stuff you learn, you just have to memorize information about it and then you’re the “expert”.  The church can be the same. We are creating a culture of armchair quarterback Christians who are loud, opinionated “experts” shouting from the living room at their TV.  They don’t actually participate in giving to the poor, social justice, or evangelism, but they are quick to tell everyone how it should be done.

 

And it’s awkward…

 

Like the guy with the Jesus fish on his bumper who gives you the bird as he cuts you off in traffic; like the angry blogger who fully believes in tolerance vehemently ripping apart someone who thinks differently.

 

So, to all those who claim to be Christian…

 

I am not asking if you think taking care of the poor is a good idea, I am asking do you take care of the poor?

 

I am not asking if you agree with Jesus, I am asking do you actually try living like him?

 

I am not asking if you believe prayer is a great idea, I am asking if you actually pray?

 

I am not asking if you think spending time with your family is important, I am asking if you actually spend quality time with your family?

 

I am not asking if you think church is important, I am asking if you actually make it a priority?

 

Just because someone knows the right information about a topic doesn’t at all mean they are living it out.

 

Are you educated way beyond your level of obedience? What bothers me even more are the sideline, armchair, living room (you pick the metaphor) Christians who rip apart those who are trying to make a difference.  Don’t get me wrong, we need accurate, well-studied people, but what we need more are well read, theologically sound Christians who are ACTUALLY living like Christ.

If you are not, well…

 

It’s awkward…

 

Honestly, I think I am guilty too.  I don’t want to just talk about Jesus I also want to mirror his ways in my family, church, and community.

 

I think the juxtaposition in the Bible is right on!  Though our good works don’t save us (Ephesians 2:8-9) if our salvation is not active… it may be dead.  (James 2:17)

Relationslips sermon series

Welcome to the FREE resource page for the Relationslips series at Trinity Church.

In this quick series we tackle 4 relational lies our culture as adopted.

  1. Relationships are just physical.
  2. People fall in love.
  3. You must fight for power in relationships.
  4. If your marriage is healthy everything should just work.

Below you will find videos and notes for each study.

Relationslips

 

Week 1: Relationships are purely physical vs. relationships are something deeply spiritual. 

Notes can be viewed by clicking: HERE

 

Week 2: You fall in love vs. you prepare for love.

Notes can be viewed by clicking: HERE

 

Week 3: Leadership in relationships is about having the power vs. leadership is about serving.

Notes can be viewed by clicking: HERE

 

Week 4: Good marriages just work vs. Good marriages are work.

Notes can be viewed by clicking: HERE

10 Relationships Emotionally Healthy People Have

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10 relationships emotionally healthy people have.   

There are countless articles on the power of perspective and surviving difficult situations.  When strong purpose and healthy relationships are strategically injected into even the hardest of situations people can find meaning.  Everything in life hinges on relationships.  I have compiled a strategic relationship list.  If you can clearly answer all of these it will fulfill more than any job or education you achieve.  From an emotional health perspective, this list is MORE important than money, power, and education.
You probably can’t answer all of these with confidence. That’s all right, save this and work on them.
Remember… everything is about relationships!

  1. The person who demonstrated selfless love to me is _______.
  2. The person whom I have committed to demonstrate selfless love to is _______.
  3. The person who helped me discover my purpose in life is _______.
  4. The person I would gladly give everything I own to is _______.
  5. The person I could call anytime day or night and ask for help is _______.
  6. The person I keep no secrets from is _______.
  7. The person whose life mission I would love to carry on is _______.
  8. The person who I would love to carry on my life’s mission is _______.
  9. I currently feel loved by _______.
  10. The person I can’t wait to see in heaven is _______.

If you can answer all ten of these with confidence you are the relational elite. If you can answer all ten, chances are you are a stable missional person even if you are going through a rough patch in life at the moment.  If you can’t answer these, this is a great list to work on!  You will tackle everything from meaning and personal value to legacy and death by wrestling with each of these questions.  The ultimate relationship is the one you develop with Christ.

It’s important to note these questions are derived from quite a few different sources.

Why the church needs a sexual revolution

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There I was sitting with an incredible young couple.  They both grew up in solid homes with loving parents, they were college graduates, financially stable, and their new marriage was off to a great start with one little problem… sex.

With parents who danced around the topic like it had cooties and a church that gave halfhearted “sex talks,” they basically learned three things about God’s view of sex. All of which are mostly wrong.

1) Sex is taboo, run away as fast as you can.  Often quoting verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:22 “Abstain from all appearance of evil.” Of course the implication is SEX IS EVIL.  (Not to mention the poor exegesis.)

2) Pornography will melt your brain and turn you into a rapist and murderer. (Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t healthy!  We just don’t need to execute you for murder quite yet. 🙂  Read more here.  Freedom from Sexual Sin.)

3) If you wait until marriage sex will instantly be amazing and completely fulfilling.

And we wonder why there is so much disappointment and shame…

When she struggled to flip the switch from the doe-eyed virgin to a sex kitten, he started struggling with porn.  Her fear that he was turning into Ted Bundy completely stalled this young marriage.

What’s really sad is this isn’t just one couple.  As a pastor who has worked with many young adults, this type of situation is much more common than you think.

We did this to ourselves.  A misguided passion for holiness led Christians to run from the parts of humanity that aren’t easily put into neat little boxes.  Churches have made an attempt to address the issue of sex, along with the 90’s “True Love Waits” campaign, but unintentionally communicated some misleading messages.   Appetites we should have been teaching our children to understand and manage we just told them to avoid, or even worse we didn’t speak to them at all.  Somehow we are now surprised when our kids end up with sexual problems and have nowhere to turn.  We are surprised when young Godly kids struggle for YEARS in their marriage and are too ashamed to talk about it.

Now we stand stunned, as sex has been hijacked by secular culture. Come on!  How have we allowed this to happen?

Where are they supposed to learn about healthy sexuality if not the church and home?

It almost feels like the church wrapped sex up in a package with a bow and said, “Here secular culture, we don’t know what to do with this so you educate and define sexual morality for us.”  So they did.

Students seeking information had to learn about sex from gym teachers in sex education and the locker room instead of parents and sound Christian institutions.

Here is the truth.  God made sex.  It isn’t bad.  God gives clear boundaries not to keep us from pleasure, but to help us find our way to the best sex.  It’s a journey and takes work!

Here is my call to Christian parents, Christian schools, churches, and Christian universities:

Stop ignoring this!  Sex was created by God to be enjoyed.  Please make my work easier by teaching about sex from a Biblically accurate perspective.  Take sex out of the dark and bring it into the light.  A healthy view of sex won’t happen in the courtrooms or in the school systems.  It will begin within the boundaries of the one who designed us.  Our kids will seek out answers somewhere and it’s unfortunate that the church and its people have been largely inadequate.  In my opinion, the new sexual revolution needs to be in the church!

Resources:

The Story of Me: Ages 3-5 http://amzn.to/MU3f9E

Before I was Born: Ages 5-8 http://amzn.to/1duqeCP

What’s the Big Deal?: Why God Cares About Sex: Ages 8-11 http://amzn.to/1ezSfnZ

Facing the Facts: Ages 11-14 http://amzn.to/1cG4hfL

The Meaning of Marriage: Adults http://amzn.to/1gmjHuka

Sheet Music: Adults http://amzn.to/1lTAiqT

Continue reading:

Freedom from Sexual Sin: https://mcolaw.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/freedom-from-sexual-sin/

Digital Purity (A purity plan): https://mcolaw.wordpress.com/2012/11/26/digital-purity/

Accountability Questions: https://mcolaw.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/awkward-accountability-and-a-few-real-christians/

Here is the message:

7 relational lies that need to be confronted

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7 relational lies that must be confronted!

The Lie: People in great relationships always get along.    

The Truth: Conflict is required for intimacy.  If you are constantly running from conflict, my guess is you don’t have deep friendships.  Learning to speak truth in love will create an enviornment of transparency that satisfies deeply.  It only comes through healthy conflict and transparency.  Don’t be FAKE! 

The Lie: A healthy relationship will eventually be free of conflict.  

The Truth: We are all flawed. There is a term in the Bible called forbearance, which in context often means the refraining of enforcement.  This means there will be times where you are absolutely right about something and the other person is absolutely wrong.  However, you choose to forgive (not necessarly ignore) for the sake of the relationship.  Sometimes the relationship is more important than the issue. This also applies well to our most familiar flaws.  Much like a physical weakness or flaw, sometimes there isn’t a magic pill or miraculous counseling session that will fix it.  You choose instead to forbear and graciously move forward together!  Hear me clearly, ALL of us have issues.  Healthy relationships know, recognize, and reflect healthy forbearance. 

The Lie: People fall in love. 

The Truth: People fall in lust.  True love is work, a journey of focused commitment. History teaches us instant-conflict-free relationships are most likely to be found in fairytales.

The Lie: Lucky people experience great friendships. 

The Truth: Loving, sacrificially committed people experience great friendships.  It’s like a group of friends embarking on a long ocean voyage. The friends in this ship live it up together when it’s calm and steady each other when the storm rages. 

The Lie: I don’t need people. 

The Truth: There is nothing more powerful and satisfying than to be deeply known and loved. Known, meaning you are relationally close and familiar with that which makes another unique, the good and the bad. Loved, meaning someone affectionately chooses you, no matter what. Nothing satisfies more than to be chosen and loved, in-spite of our flaws. 

The Lie: Marriage is old fashioned and divorce is no big deal. 

The Truth: It’s often harder for people to get over a divorce than it is to recover from the death of a loved one. Betrayal after intimacy hurts deeply.  Marriage is intended to be a covenant, with boundaries, protecting a developing relationship.  The Biblical view of marriage isn’t a list of rules holding you back.  It is a treasure map showing the route to a deeply satisfying relationship.  If you don’t follow the map, don’t expect to find the treasure.

The Lie: Porn is the not-so-bad norm. 

The Truth: All porn, whether soft or hard core, is sacrificing to a false idol.  Porn plays dark games in your mind.  Hear me clearly–this includes romance novels, or what I call porn for women.  Romance novels “Photoshop” false relational images with words and create expectations that are far from reality. It seems as modern Christianity permits romance novels as acceptable, the more marriages seem to crumble.  So, why does this continue?  Let’s change that and change our marriages!  

Of course, there are more relational lies and truths.  Here are just a few, to get you thinking!

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Do Good

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Do Good

When I was young I had allergies and asthma.  It really wasn’t too severe, nothing that kept me from playing sports or camping with the family.  Like most kids I grew out of it.  The doctor I went to as a kid would often prescribe prednisone and antibiotics, “just to keep infection at bay.”  Honestly, it felt like these two drugs were his answer for just about anything; whether it was a sinus infection, rash, or asthma attack, the treatment was the same.

A few years later my brother got a job working at a local pharmacy.  One day while waiting for my brother I ended up in a conversation with the pharmacist. He told me there were all kinds of other options that were better for my body and much more effective.  He even told me what scripts to ask my doctor for! You gotta love small towns!

This experience sort of left me with a negative view of doctors; I started to feel like they just didn’t try hard enough.  It’s a good thing I didn’t judge them all by that one.

Now, years later, I have several great friends that practice medicine.  They are outstanding people who truly do give their all to help their patients. Obviously they can’t share any details with me, but I have had numerous conversations over the last few years where I could tell their hearts were heavy because a patient was suffering.  It is so refreshing to know there are people who became doctors because of a true desire to do good, who take their job to another level, who sometimes almost irrationally will sacrifice to help someone they don’t even know! For example, I know a dentist who takes a couple months off every year to offer his services to people in impoverished countries.  He pays out of his own pocket to treat people!  One thing I know about these individuals: there is a common driver in each of them.  The common driver is their heart to be like Christ.

Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

We can probably all think of a doctor who all other doctors wished didn’t represent them, or maybe a lawyer, nurse, salesman, or even a Christian.  Yet when you meet someone who is truly compelled and understands the life and message of Jesus, you will find someone in a relentless pursuit to bring Galatians 5:22-23 to the world around them.

Love is a Fight

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Love is a fight and the opponent is often our will to continue.

Because of my vocational role my office can be an interesting place.  I have a front and center view of marriages falling apart, addicts searching for hope and relief, and parents pleading for help with a wayward child, all from my worn out old leather office chair.

If you haven’t noticed, life can be really hard sometimes.  This week while doing an inductive study on Romans 12, I noticed something that you may already know.  Love is often not at all like it is portrayed on television or in those cute little princess books I read to my daughter.  Kids rebel, spouses are unfaithful…there is obviously much evil in the world that brings people to the point of giving up hope on their marriage, their parental role, or even their own life.  Love isn’t always easy. In fact, it is often a fight.

When we say “I love you,” we often are referring to an emotional feeling.  What if our statement of “I love you” meant something more?  What if it meant I would fight, do whatever it takes for you! Not a physical fight, but a relentless pursuit of faithfulness.

In Romans 12:10-11 Paul states, “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”  In this abstract on love in action he places this verse carefully.  Devotion, honor, sincerity, joy, patience are all virtues that surround this verse.  Zeal and fervor are to be central to all of these.  It is a fight.  Love is a fight and the opponent is often our will to continue.  We must not quit fighting for love. Often people misunderstand the Bible in one of two ways.  First, as muffins, rainbows, and hugs, painting Jesus as this hippie softhearted individual that blindly misses the actual state of the world.  Or they associate the Bible with genocide, believing that God is a horrible egotistic individual that just wants to be worshiped, missing completely the trajectory of Scripture. (Read more on the trajectory of scripture here) In both cases I’ll often respond, “I don’t believe in that God either!”  What I do see is Jesus who was relentlessly faithful.  He suffered for the ones he loves; he took emotional and physical abuse.  He was betrayed and rejected, all in his zeal for faithful love.

This amazes me!  I want to keep my zeal, fervently hold to my commitments, fight for my family and for those hurting and in need.  I desire to give hope to people who have none, proudly standing by an objective Truth that I believe holds the answers people need.   I want to fight for love.