Agape in Action

Pentecost For Today

I had the opportunity in high school to visit Israel with my church. It was all incredible, but one of my favorite memories was when we went into an upper room much like the one Jesus and His disciples might have used during the Last Supper. It was bigger than I’d expected, and full of other tour groups and visitors. I didn’t pay much attention until one of them started to sing a worship song. I couldn’t understand the words, but it didn’t matter. We all recognized the song. One by one, each group started singing in their own language, until the room was full of the sounds of worship. We all came from different places and spoke different languages, but in that moment we were united and worshipping the same God. It was a beautiful glimpse into what we might experience in heaven.

It also made me think of Pentecost in Acts 2. Jesus told the apostles to wait for the Holy Spirit to give them power, then to go spread the Good News to the ends of the earth. And when the Spirit came upon them, they received His life and His power. Jesus wasn’t living with them any more, but now God was living in them. 

The apostles immediately responded. They didn’t stay in their room and keep this precious gift to themselves. No! They went out to the crowd and shared the Good News of Jesus with them, each in their own language. Around 3,000 people believed that one day alone, and the early Church was born.

But how can that apply to us today? 

This is a difficult season for sure. Every period in history comes with challenges, but 2020 has been exceptionally rough. The news stories are full of fear, anger and despair. We’re divided in so many ways – divides that seem impossible to bridge. How can we alleviate the grief and hopelessness that people feel? What can any one of us do against such impossible odds? 

“My brethren, do you believe in the Holy Ghost?… Do we believe that, at this moment, He can clothe us with power, even as He did the apostles at Pentecost? Do we believe that, under our preaching, by His energy a thousand might be born in a day?”  – Charles Spurgeon

The short answer is we can’t on our own. God is the only one that can do the impossible. But He wants to partner with us to help do His work. He calls us to love each other and serve each other in love. How can we do that in this divisive time when people are so angry? The early Church gives us a few takeaways to remember:  

  • The believers spoke in the language of the crowd. Acts 2 lists fifteen different groups of people, and each of those groups heard the apostles speaking “in his own language.” Your delivery matters. Be gentle and respectful when you talk to people. If you speak in a way they can understand, they’ll be much more likely to listen. We struggle so much with communication. Let’s challenge ourselves to make an effort to really listen and understand each other, instead of just yelling at each other.

  • They took action. They weren’t satisfied to preach, then go back to their normal lives. Being a follower of Jesus changed them completely. They devoted themselves to learning, fellowshipping and praying. They also sold their material possessions to take care of those in need. They realized that words are not enough. Following Jesus should change everything for us, because we know how high the stakes are. We know where to find the hope that this broken world so desperately needs. Nothing else is more important. We should be praying for a revival in our country, and in our world. Praying that the Spirit moves in a big way for the glory of God. Studying the Word, helping those in need. Loving our neighbors in tangible ways, no matter how hard it is.

  • We’re all part of the body of Christ. God created us all differently, with different perspectives and experiences. But we’re all one in Him. The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.” (I Cor. 12:12-13). Each part has a job and a purpose. We can’t function without the others. When one part of the Body suffers, we all suffer. We need to be more mindful of each other.

  • Diversity is part of God’s plan. Acts 2 gives us a beautiful glimpse into the beginning of the Church. In the first day alone, they added believers from over a dozen different regions. They spoke different languages, had different traditions and perspectives. But they all made the decision to follow Jesus. All believers are God’s children and adopted into His family. We were never meant to be exactly the same. It’s not enough to ignore our differences. We should celebrate them – culturally, politically, philosophically. Our diversity adds to the beauty and functionality of God’s creation. “If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?” (1 Cor. 12:17)

  • We all have a unique purpose. But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’ The head can’t say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you.'” (1 Cor. 12:18-21). We can’t continue to accept only people that look or think like we do. God created us all, and adopted us into His family. He has a specific purpose for each of us. Don’t look down on people for being different than you. Don’t discourage others from following God’s call on their lives just because it doesn’t look the same as yours. At the same time, don’t let someone discourage you from the things God has called you to. Other people might not understand, but that doesn’t change your purpose. 
  • Keep things in perspective.  It’s so easy to lose hope when we see how broken our world is. And just as easy to blame and dismiss each other. Disagreements are inevitable. The apostles had disagreements at times, and it’s no different today. But it’s essential to remember that we’re still brothers and sisters. We can’t afford to let disagreements break us or cause us to stop loving each other. That’s what the enemy is trying to do. We’re not fighting against other people. There’s a spiritual war going on, and it bleeds over into the physical world. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12). This world is full of lost and hurting people who need to know that Jesus loves them. We can’t ever afford to lose sight of who our real enemy is. And it’s not those people. We as the Church need to do better, and love better. 

The book of Acts shouts the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives overnight. He still has that power, and He’s still changing lives today. It can feel hopeless and overwhelming, but always remember that God is in control. He can (and does) work in an instant. There’s always hope. We’ll all worship together in eternity, so let’s start now. 

We’ve spent much of this year in a forced Sabbath. I believe it’s been a time of preparation. What has God been speaking to you? Where is He leading you to get involved? How can you share His love with the world? 

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

John 13:35

Agape in Action

Opposition or Opportunity?

Imagine you’re on a mission to change the world. Naturally, you’d want to surround yourself with the best people for the job. Who would you pick? Rich people who can help fund your dreams? Influential people to give you credibility and help pave the way? Like-minded people whose lifestyles reflect the image you want to project? It seems like a logical way to start.

That wasn’t Jesus’s plan. He consistently flipped logic upside down. When He started His earthly ministry, He surrounded Himself with the poor, the weak, the unclean. Look at his closest friends. There were a handful of uneducated tradesmen. A government employee that everyone hated on principle. A political extremist. Some we don’t know much about, but they were all very young. Only Peter was even old enough to pay taxes, and he was loud, arrogant and brash. Jesus’s other two closest friends, James and John, had such bad tempers that they were called the “Sons of Thunder.” Judas was a thief, and stole from their ministry. Hardly the dream team that we would expect. And yet they’re the ones that He entrusted to carry on His teachings to the early Church.

His life and ministry were scandalous. Jesus regularly had dinner and hung out with the outcasts of society. He cared about children and surrounded Himself with women, who were barely recognized in that day. He loved the unlovable and welcomed them without hesitation. He shunned the religious leaders who cared only about appearing righteous, while ignoring the suffering of others.

Jesus didn’t care about peoples’ material wealth or social status. Only their hearts. He never sought out anyone who could help Him advance in this life, and He never turned anyone away for being weak or not worth His time.

Why do we refuse to do the same?

We argue our opinions and unfriend anyone who dares to disagree with us. We tell ourselves that we can’t possibly love that other person because they’re different than us. Maybe they belong to a different church or political party. That means if we love them, we’re weak because we haven’t won the argument. It can be hard to love people we may not even particularly like. It’s all too easy to forget that we’re brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus came to save everyone – of all races, nationalities, politics and walks of life. If God doesn’t care, how can we?

The Gospels are full of stories of the disciples bickering about which of them was the best. Jesus constantly broke up the arguments and reminded them to keep their eyes on things that really mattered. He told them in Matthew 10:43-45, “But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus is the ultimate example of how we should live. He reigns over all creation, but still humbled Himself to live a human life and die for people who might never even love Him back. He spent His life helping and serving other people – especially the lowly, the poor, the invisible ones that society discarded. During His last night, He washed His disciples’ feet. That was the job of a servant, but none of them were willing to humble themselves to do it. So the Messiah Himself did it for them. He even washed the feet of the man who would betray Him.

The disciples started following Jesus as children (mostly teenagers). They had nothing in common except for their love of Jesus, so their pride and ambition got in the way at first. It wasn’t until after He returned to heaven that they finally understood. And they spent the rest of their lives serving one another and the Church in the name of Jesus.

Keeping that in our minds and hearts, let’s try to show each other a little more compassion. As believers, we’re the only example of church that some people may ever see. The world is watching. What are we going to show them? Arrogance, pride and discord? Or love, grace and mercy? If our lives as believers don’t look any different than the world’s, why should they even listen to anything we have to say?

That doesn’t mean to let injustice go unchecked. Jesus was very clear about that, and quick to defend the vulnerable. But someone doesn’t have to look just like us for us to love them. We’re all created differently, with different gifts and purposes. And every one of us has a job in the body of Christ that only we can fill. We can learn so much from each other. Every perspective is important. Only God can see how the entire puzzle fits together. Our only responsibility is to love God and love each other. Not just the ones that look like us or act like us.

How will you respond when you see someone in need? Will you react with the love of Jesus? Even if they can’t do anything for you in return, or if they disagreed with your last social media post? Or will you stop to decide first if they’re worthy of your love? If you’re ever in doubt, take a minute to ask yourself how Jesus would respond. I have a feeling you already know the answer. He would wash their feet.

Agape in Action

Mission Accomplished

All words have meaning. Some just have more significance than others.

Today is Good Friday. This is the day that Christians remember Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross. (Watch this video if you’re curious for a few more details about the historical proof). He made several statements from the cross, but the final one was “Tetelestai!” You might imagine it as a defeated whisper from a dying man. In reality, it was a victorious war cry.

“Tetelestai” is a Greek word meaning “It is finished.” Grammatically, it is a perfect tense word, showing that a completed action has ongoing effects. In other words, “It is finished, it stands finished, and it always will be finished!”

“Never before and never after was ever spoken ONE WORD which contains and means so much. It is the shout of the mighty Victor. And who can measure the depths of this ONE WORD!”

A.C. Gaebelein

Tetelestai was a common word in those days, with a variety of applications:

  • Business dealings were complete when “tetelestai” was written on invoices or receipts to prove that a transaction was “paid in full.” Jesus paid our bill completely.
  • Servants reported “tetelestai” to their masters to say “I have completed the task assigned to me” or “mission accomplished.” In John 17:4-5, Jesus prayed, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” Jesus lived a human life to serve, and this was His ultimate mission.
  • Priests used “tetelestai” to declare a sacrifice “faultless, perfect and acceptable.” Jesus was all of those things. He was both the Lamb and the High Priest. He willingly gave Himself as a blameless sacrifice to save us. It was no coincidence that He chose to die when He did – during Passover, when Jewish priests would sacrifice a lamb to atone for the Israelites’ sins. Theirs was a temporary solution. Jesus came as the perfect sacrifice, which lasts forever. “Once for all time.” Hebrews 10 (NLT)
  • Artists declared that their “masterpiece was complete” with “tetelestai.” Jesus is the artist that revealed God’s design and love to the world. He is the clearest view we have of the Father.
  • Historically, the Greeks used “tetelestai” to depict a turning point in history – when one period of human history ended and another one began. Jesus’ death and resurrection certainly fits that also. It’s the end of the Old Testament Law and the beginning of the New Testament and the freedom in our New Covenant with Him. It’s the difference between BC and AD. Jesus came to change everything. One life has never had such an impact on the world.

These all show different uses of the same word, but they all mean the same thing. “PAID IN FULL.” Jesus came to satisfy everything that was required. Nothing could have forced Him, but He gave Himself willingly to save us. And His sacrifice is enough. HE is enough. And He accomplished His mission by dying for us and bringing Himself back to life. Death itself has no power over Him.

It’s Friday now, but Sunday’s coming. And a lot can happen in three days.

(Listen to more here.)

Agape in Action

Agape Well

Jesus was once asked which of the commandments was the greatest. It was a trick question of course; but as always, Jesus sidestepped the test and got right to the heart of the matter.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matt 22.37-39)

It all boils down to two things – love God and love each other.

It sounds so simple. After all, it’s easy to sing songs at church and smile at each other. Or meet a friend to laugh over a cup of coffee. But that doesn’t begin to touch the kind of love Jesus meant.

The Greek language has several words to explain different kinds of love. Phileo is brotherly love, an emotional bond between friends. Eros is romantic love, and Storge is more of a familial love. Each of those come naturally to most people. But the fourth, Agape love, is more challenging.


Agape love is not based on a feeling. It’s a sacrificial love, a call to action. This is the love that God has for us – the love that made Jesus leave Heaven to live as a human and sacrifice Himself to save us. THAT’S the kind of love that He commands from us.

So how do we show this Agape love to others? Here’s a few things to remember:

Agape love can be hard and messy

Think back to the last time that you asked someone, “How are you?” Did you wait around for an honest answer, or just keep walking past at the “I’m fine” response that we’ve all come to expect?

The real answer might be more than you’re ready for, but give people a chance to be honest. Life isn’t easy, and it can be downright ugly. We all struggle. We all need people that we trust enough to open up to. Be that person for others, even if it means taking extra time out of your day to take on someone else’s burdens.

Be sincere when you ask. Give them your full attention. And don’t just tell them you’ll pray for them. Take a moment and pray for them right then and there. Follow up with them. That lets them know you care enough to pay attention and remember.


It doesn’t always take a lot

When someone is struggling, they don’t expect you to fix their problems. It’s usually enough just to know that someone cares.

You can show this love in a tangible way. Offer to give them a ride to church or pick up their kids from school. Take them a hot dinner or cup of coffee. Go on a grocery run for them. These are all little things that can make a huge difference in someone’s life.


It isn’t about you

Friendships and relationships make us feel good. It’s easy to show love for people that we care about. But what about the unlovable? What about the people you don’t agree with, or even like? What about people who lied about you, took advantage of you or hurt someone you love? Jesus told us to love our enemies and pray for them.  

What about the homeless, orphans or people in jail? These people need to know God’s love as badly as you and I. And yet, most of their lives are spent in the shadows because most people act like they don’t exist.

But Jesus didn’t just notice the “outcasts,” He sought them out. He spent time with them, eating and drinking and laughing with them. Loving them. Loving like Jesus is hard work, and definitely not glamorous. But He will bless it, because it makes us more like Him.

Share some Agape love today

Take a few minutes today to share God’s love with someone else. Ask someone how they’re doing, and really listen for the answer. Maybe help your elderly neighbor take out their trash or pick up some leaves. Show someone who feels taken for granted that you really appreciate them. Text a friend to tell them you’re thinking about them. The possibilities are endless. But be sincere. People can always tell the difference. 

What can you do today to love someone else?