Wednesday, 19 July 2017


A month ago I had my 64th birthday. Given that the months are now flying past at an astonishing speed it will be no time at all before I reach the magic age someone defined as the start of the "senior" years. I'm pretty sure I was 18 just last week. How did this happen?

Approaching the magic age is not all bad I suppose. Being a senior comes with restaurant discounts, great tax breaks, and an "old age" pension. Those are definitely some things to look forward to while struggling to get out of the rocking chair. 

I really don't mind so much that within another year I'll get the senior designation, but I do have a problem with the "old age" label. Just a few days ago I was watching a newscast and they referred to a man not much older than me as "elderly". I'm sure it was written by some wet-behind-the-ears 30 year old who thinks anyone past 40 should be set adrift on an ice floe. He obviously hasn't realized yet that he will turn around twice and suddenly be as elderly as, well, me.

One thing younger people like to deride us older folks for (I know this, because I have three sons) is the tendency to tell stories from the past. Yes, we almost seniors are guilty and getting worse as we age, but what choice do we have? Since the number of years behind is certainly more than the ones ahead, the look in the rear view mirror is pretty attractive. Besides, when I am with my grandchildren how can I not look back wistfully to the time when I could run and climb and play all day without having to bathe in Voltarin all of the next week?

Anyway, us baby boomers (I think I squeezed in to the low end of that designation) have a lot to look back on. In our lifetime we may possibly have witnessed more change than any previous generation. Throughout most of history a person would die in a world that looked pretty much like the one they were born into. Of course there were wars and changes of leadership and so on, but until the last century or two the way of life for most people just didn't change that much. For anyone like me born in the middle of the 20th century, our experience has been the total opposite. 

In the early 1970's I started my career operating a computer that filled a whole environmentally controlled room. I figured out one time that the phone I carry in my pocket has 100,000 times the memory of that monster computer that was as high and wide as a desk and about 25 feet long. Changes in computing have been dramatic, but hardly more so than the transformation in communications, transportation, medicine, and a raft of other scientific fields. Politics and government are hardly recognizable. Religion and faith? Well to borrow an overused movie reference, we aren't in Kansas anymore.

Here are a few of the things that typified religion and church in Canada when I first started attending church as a child in the early 60's.

  • almost all of my friends either went to church or could identify some church as where they had a family connection
  • prayers, Gideon Bibles, and Christian observances were an accepted part of our public school experience - the same was true in government, the military, and most other public institutions
  • we weren't really much aware of other faiths in our culture - they were there of course, but in small numbers, and having a Muslim or Buddhist child in class would have been a rarity
  • we weren't strangers to sin, but we understood what the Bible taught about right and wrong, and accepted it
  • Canadian politicians weren't afraid to identify with Christian teaching or principles
Of course, all of those things have turned 180 degrees. From a faith perspective, Canada is totally unrecognizable from where it was just 50 years ago.

About now you are thinking, "here's one more internet rant about how we are being abused as Christians, Islam is taking over, and we need to get back to the good ole' days". While there may be a kernel of truth in some of those rants at least, this is not about one more Christian boomer stirring the pot in the hopes governments will pass some laws and return us to the 1960's. 

Don't get me wrong; I'm as nostalgic as the next person. I do look fondly on the days when Canada was more comfortable for those of us who identify as Christ followers. But do I think all the rants and petitions and demonstrations we can muster are going to take us back there? No, we aren't going back. 

Things are unfolding as God knew they would. One day He will reassert His control and restore His perfect world. While for many of us that time could not come too soon, the question facing Christians in the meantime is not how do we return to the way things used to be, but how do we live effectively today as God's children, as representatives of Jesus Christ? How do we live faithful Christian lives and work to accomplish God's purposes in a world that is radically different from the one we were born into? How do we have an impact for Jesus in a culture where the influence of other faiths seems to be surpassing our own, where it seems like right is wrong, and where the Bible is seen as irrelevant or even harmful?

Those are all very hard questions, and even if I had the answers they wouldn't fit in this blog. My point for now is very simple. We can't live in the past and we aren't going back there. The world has changed. We can commit our time and emotions to futile attempts to turn back the clock, or we can seek God for wisdom to know how to be and live in the midst of this new reality. I believe at times that might include a petition or some action to take a stand for what's right. But whatever we do let it be out of our desire to be the most faithful and effective representatives of Jesus we can possibly be in this fallen world, rather than out of some vain attempt to get back to a time that felt "comfy" and where there were less threats to our comfortable Christian existence.  

I'm not suggesting we water down God's principles. I'm not saying we should cozy up to the world's new morals. I'm not throwing out John 14:6 where Jesus said He is the way, the truth, and the life. I'm not advocating any kind of compromise to what Jesus demands of us as His followers. 

I'm saying let's be all that God wants us to be, and let's faithfully be that in a midst of a world that no longer knows Him. Let's love God and our neighbour as Jesus commanded. Let's live a Christ-like life in a world that has turned away from Him. If there was ever a time when the world was dark and needed God's light, it's now. Let's be that light.  

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

The answer is... "God said"

In Matthew 4 we read the very dramatic account of Satan appearing before Jesus at the end of His 40 day fast. Jesus had been spending an intense time with God, fasting and praying in preparation for the launch of His 3 year ministry. Satan obviously arrived on the scene with a very clear objective, to destroy Jesus and His ministry before He could really even get started.

There have been countless insightful sermons taught on what happened in Matthew 4. Today something particular is standing out to me and I thought it would be useful to bring it to your attention. Satan made three attempts to entrap Jesus. In the first two he leads off with these words, "If you are the Son of God...". 

I don't know how or at what time of life Jesus came to the awareness of who He was, but in some way at some time He came to understand that He wasn't like everyone else, that He was actually the Son of God. Did He have a sudden revelation, or did He gradually begin to have memories of His eternal existence, of the glories of heaven, and of His purpose in coming to earth. I don't know. The Bible doesn't tell us us how any of that realization came to Jesus, but it's clear by the time He fasted in the wilderness He knew who He was and what He was here for. 

After 40 days of fasting He was undoubtedly in a very weakened state. His human body required nourishment. Just like us when we are fatigued and weakened in body, I'm quite sure there was an impact on His emotions, His confidence, and His ability to stand fast. No doubt that's why Satan chose that moment to go on the attack. And he did it by trying to get Jesus in that weakened state to question who He was. "If you are the Son of God". In other words, maybe you've been imagining all this. Maybe you aren't really who you think you are. Maybe you're just the ordinary son of a carpenter. Maybe you should be in the carpenter shop right now, instead of fantasizing about this crazy quest to save the world. Who do you think you are anyway?

As Christians we have a status we often don't fully appreciate. The Bible says we have been adopted into God's family. We are children of the Almighty God. Our sins are forgiven. The Holy Spirit of God lives inside us. We are destined for an eternal home in heaven. We have the assurance of all of these things because the Bible tells us so, and because the Spirit confirms it within us. We have no reason to doubt. But we doubt anyway, and that's where Satan will attack us just like he did with Jesus.

The questions for us will be a bit different. It won't be "If you are the Son of God". Instead it will be something like "Do you really think God could love you?", or "Are you really saved?", or "Is this whole thing with God and Jesus and the Gospel really real?"  You can probably write in the particular doubts that attack you.

Satan seems to be very good at knowing just where our greatest doubts and insecurities lie. He is also good at knowing when we are vulnerable, at a point of weakness. He attacks when our emotions are out of whack and our confidence is weak and our ability to remain steadfast is at a low point. 

Jesus responded to each of Satan's attacks with these words "It is written". If I can paraphrase, He said, "God said". That's really important. What that means is that the way I feel while being tempted to doubt in a time of weakness is not what really counts. What counts is what God said! God said I'm forgiven. God said I'm His child. God said I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. God said He will provide if we trust Him. God said. God said. GOD SAID!

When Satan attacks, as he often will, we have a choice to make. The choice is, who are we going to believe? Will we believe the father of lies whose greatest goal in life is to destroy us, or will we believe the faithful God who loves us more than we can even imagine? 

Unfortunately, Christians spend far too much time being discouraged and downtrodden. We allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with feelings of worthlessness and rejection when the truth is we are children of the King. We have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus, and are on our way to an eternal existence beyond anything we can imagine in our wildest dreams. That's who we are!

So next time Satan or his minions attack with doubts and discouragements, try out Jesus' strategy. It goes something like this. "Oh yeah? Well, God said                                 , and He's a lot more trustworthy than you. You're wasting your time here, so go try out your lies on someone else."

There will be times of weakness. There will be times of temptation. There will be times of doubts. We can't control any of that. But we can control how we will respond. We can control who we will believe. 

Friday, 30 June 2017

With My Whole Heart

Have you ever thought you understood a verse in the Bible, then you look at it again and suddenly you are filled with questions? That happened to me recently with a well known verse in Jeremiah, one that I have seen many times. I am feeling particularly challenged by the profound implications of what looks like a rather simple verse.

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13
This is one of a number of verses in the Bible that use the phrase "with all your heart". Seek Him with all your heart. Love Him with all your heart. Serve Him with all your heart. Trust Him with all your heart. In the NLT it usually translates the phrase as "wholeheartedly". In other words, do these things with everything in you. Don't hold anything back. God says, when that's the way you seek me, then you will find me.

It kind of makes me think of a person receiving an Olympic gold medal. That medal represents a level of commitment and sacrifice and discipline most of us have never experienced. The gold medalist has pursued their sport and their goal with their whole heart.

I think there have been times in my life when I have been wholehearted in my desire and devotion to God (beyond what's normal for me, at least). There have been times when I cried out to God, desperate to know Him and totally willing to trust Him. There have been seasons when I wanted nothing more in my life than to serve Him with my very best. Yes, I think there have been times I approached wholehearted devotion.

But to be honest, probably a lot more often my desire to know and love and serve God could more accurately be described as "halfhearted". Those are the times when other things cloud my priorities. They are the times when other things take most of my time and attention, and I am rather content to give God whatever is left over. 

I'm not talking about turning my back on God or falling into sin or anything quite as dramatic as that. I'm talking about the seasons when life just got in the way and I was more focused on "stuff" than on pursuing the Almighty God. The truth is it happens to me a lot and (if I can simply make an observation), I'm thinking it probably happens to other people a lot too. The problem is it's just so easy to get lazy about our devotion to God, and it's so easy to let other things crowd into our lives at the expense of serving God with our whole heart.

I said I have questions about the verse in Jeremiah. Maybe that surprises you. After all, the verse is really just a few words and it looks straightforward enough on the surface, but I'm finding myself pondering two things particularly.

  • What does it really mean to SEEK Him with my whole heart?. After all, we're not talking about a game of hide and seek where wholehearted might mean I am absolutely determined to find someone who is just as determined to stay hidden. I don't think God is hiding, so the hide and seek analogy doesn't work. So what does it really mean to seek God, and to do it with my whole heart?

  • If I really FIND God, what does that look like? This verse is sometimes used in reference to the unsaved person seeking for God, as the Holy Spirit draws Him. I think there is truth in that application, but I'm not convinced that's all the verse really means. Somehow I think it has to do with the quality of our relationship with God. I feel like part of the answer is that if I seek him as if nothing in the world is more important, the result will be a relationship with God that is far more than the superficial kind of "knowing God" we most often experience and are satisfied with. But if I reach that pinnacle, what will my relationship with God look like? What will that mean to my ability to understand God, love God, hear from God? 

I guess I have another question, but it's not about the verse itself so I won't put it in the list with the others. Here it is. If we ever at any time experience the kind of relationship with God that comes from truly seeking Him with our whole hearts, or even something close,how can we be satisfied with anything else? How can we live with the more halfhearted, watered down kind of relationship we normally seem content with? I am asking myself that question. Having at times drawn so very much closer to God, willing to love Him and serve Him and trust Him with my whole heart, why is it so easy to slip into a much more mediocre kind of Christianity and be okay with it?

This is a subject I need to put a lot more prayer and thought into. For now, I'm just introducing the topic. Do you have any insight into the questions I've asked? Any thoughts on the topic? I'd be so happy to hear from you. Please send in your response below in the "post a comment" section. Let's explore this together.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

it begins in the heart

I have been captivated for a while with the teaching of Jesus in what we call The Sermon On The Mount. I wrote a blog entry back in March expressing some thoughts on one aspect of this teaching, but I feel like talking a bit again today about that amazing sermon.

I think what keeps me coming back to these chapters in Matthew (5 - 7) is that the teaching relates to our everyday lives in such simple and practical ways. I don't mean to suggest the things Jesus taught in those chapters are easy for us to live up to. Far from it. But it seems to me to be a pretty clear statement of what a Christ follower looks like. i.e. what our attitudes and actions are supposed to be if we call ourselves Christians. Jesus said, you want to be a follower of mine? Here's what that looks like.

I've been reading and studying and teaching from the Bible for a long time, and I think I am reasonably intelligent, but I am a long way from being a theologian. In fact to be honest I sometimes lose patience with theological hair splitting and endless discussions about things we will never have a definitive answer for. I think sometimes we have to just come to the point of saying "if God thought we needed a definitive answer on that issue, He would have told us more clearly". Sure, we can speculate and express different interpretations, as long as it doesn't lead to arguments or division or dogmatic stands that are based only on opinion.

That can certainly happen with any scripture, including the sermon on the mount. If we are prone to parsing words and dissecting expressions in an attempt to discover some hidden "truth", there is as much fodder in Mathew 5 and 6 as anywhere else, I suppose.

I prefer to take a more simple view of what Jesus taught. When he said don't hold on to anger and grudges, he meant don't hold on to anger and grudges. When he said love your enemies, he meant love your enemies. When he said to invest in heavenly priorities instead of earthly treasures, that's what he meant. When he said trust God and don't worry, well... you get the point.

When Jesus sat on the hillside and began to teach, he knew he had an audience of common people oppressed by the Pharisees, confused about what God really wanted, and feeling hopeless about their ability to measure up. Jesus taught them in a way they hadn't experienced before. He told them it really starts in the heart. If your heart is right then you will do the things that are pleasing to God. And you will treat other people the way God wants you to treat them. It's very similar to his teaching about the greatest commandment, the clear implication being that if you love God will all your heart you will do the things that please him, and there won't really be a need for a rule book.

The sermon on the mount is not a new set of rules. It's Jesus revealing to us what's in his own heart when it comes to priorities, relationships with people, and relationship with God. It's an invitation to look like Jesus in all these things, to truly be a Christ follower.

Many things about the Bible are complex and that doesn't mean we should ignore them. We should do our best to understand what God is trying to teach us in all these things, provided we don't fight with others who honestly come to different conclusions than ours. But I really like that Jesus sat down one day with a bunch of ordinary folk and in effect said "here's where the rubber meets the road. Let me give you a glimpse of what's in my heart. Let me change your heart so it's like mine, and then it will be natural for your life to be pleasing to God."

I'm still going to read the rest of scripture and do my best to come to a right understanding. I'm still going to read and listen to the opinions of people who are more learned or have insights I haven't thought of. I'm still going to do my best to correctly handle the word of truth and be a workman who doesn't need to be ashamed. (2 Timothy 2:15) But when I am looking for guidance on what kind of action or attitude is pleasing to God, I can't find anything better than the words of Jesus in the sermon on the mount. I know of no better source of instruction for my every day life.  

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Spiritual Parenting

On the morning of June 3 I will be teaching three seminars for young parents. The theme is "Spiritual Parenting". I am looking forward to this so much, and feel in my heart it will be one of the most important things I have done or will do in my ministry at The Mission.

There is a spiritual crisis among young people today, and the children in Christian homes are far from immune. Statistics tell us that large numbers of young people who have grown up in Christian homes and attended solid Bible believing churches all their lives are putting faith on the shelf and abandoning what we have known as a Christian lifestyle. Some of these are turning from God altogether. The stats confirm this but we don't really need them. We see it all around us

Far greater minds than mine are striving to understand the causes and the solutions for this serious problem. It's evident that neither the causes nor the solutions are straightforward, so in my seminars I will not in any way be pretending to have all the answers. What I can offer are principles, which I believe if diligently applied in Christian homes can have a significant bearing on how children deal with matters of faith and Christian living as they get older. Doing the right things in our homes does not offer any guarantees, but it does improve our chances of seeing our children grow up to love God and live lives that are pleasing to Him.

I intend to share with young parents lessons I've learned from things I did right as a parent, and maybe more importantly things I didn't do right. I will also be drawing on the writing and research of some really excellent Christian leaders and Christian parents who have authored books on the subject.

One of the reasons I am passionate about this is that when I look back on my own family and my years of parenting young children, there are some important things I didn't get right. Don't get me wrong. Both my wife and I were committed to Jesus and we had a pretty solid Christian family. We didn't succumb to many of the pitfalls that entrap or destroy families. We had a strong commitment to serving God and participating in church, and that was our practice as a family. Still, there were some rather critical things I missed.  So among all the things we'll share in these seminars are some important recommendations I wish someone had made to my wife and I while we still had time to get it right.

For example, one of the things I hope to get across loud and clear to Christian parents is this. The spiritual development of your children is YOUR responsibility. You can't delegate or deputize anyone to take it on for you. That includes the great church you attend or the wonderful children's workers in that church. Whenever possible your home must be the primary place of ministry to your children.  While the church can and should play a supportive role, it can never take the place of quality ministry that takes place in the family. 

As young children neither my wife nor I grew up in Christian homes. Christianity was not modeled for us as children and we did not have the opportunity to experience what a truly healthy Christian home could look like. We wanted that for our children and we tried. But without any guidance or instruction, most of our trying meant making sure our kids were regularly in church and Sunday School and mid week programs where the children's ministry experts would teach them all they needed to know. It was a mistake we made in ignorance and with good intentions, yet I feel without excuse when I see other parents with similar backgrounds to ours who seemed to instinctively understand what we did not.

However, the point is not to beat ourselves up. The point is that large numbers of Christian parents, even many who were raised in solid Christian homes, are right now making similar mistakes. They have failed to understand or accept that they have a God given responsibility to teach their children (both by word and example) to love God and serve Him with all their hearts. For many, even the commitment to make sure the kids are in church regularly has been eroded by other influences and other priorities. I desperately want to warn these parents of the dangers before it's too late!

This is a very challenging time for families. Children are growing up in a world where the pressures pulling them away from God are intense. It has never been more important for Christian parents to teach and support and prepare their children for life in an ungodly world. It is not possible to insulate our kids from the world they live in, but it is essential that we prepare them so they can survive and thrive in spite of being immersed in a world designed to destroy their faith. God's word makes it clear that grace is the only real answer ("I have overcome the world"), but it also clearly tells parents that we have a responsibility in partnership with the work of God.

Though I have taught these seminars before I am seeking God for the right words and presentation for THIS group of parents. I would truly appreciate your prayers in that regard. Please pray not just for me, but for the parents God wants to be part of this time of learning and challenge. I am certain that some of those God wants to be there are already feeling the pressures of other things they need or want to do that day. 

In my heart I feel few things could be more important than the principles we will be discussing on that Saturday morning, so my prayer is that parents will resolve to make this their priority for that day. For the sake of their families and their precious children. 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017


It's quite common in the Gospels for Peter to act on impulse or to put his foot in his mouth. Sometimes we have good cause to shake our head, and say "Peter, maybe you should have thought that through first."

But there is an episode in Matthew where Peter ended up being rebuked rather harshly for what appears on the surface at least to be nothing more than speaking out of love and concern for Jesus. He was probably just saying what the rest of the disciples were thinking, but he was the one who spoke up. And he paid the price.

Here's the passage from the NLT (Matthew 16: 21 - 23)

From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

I can only imagine the shock on Peter's face, being on the receiving end of this really stern response from Jesus, when I'm pretty sure he spoke out with only the best of intentions. I'm absolutely certain he had no idea he was falling into Satan's hands by trying to dissuade Jesus from the difficult path He had to take. What I hear in Jesus' words is "What I have to do is difficult enough for me already. Don't make it harder by trying to talk me out of it. That's what Satan wants, not God."

Two very important things are happening here.
  1. Peter isn't trying to do or say something wrong. He means well and he's just saying what seems right to him. 
  2. What seemed good and right to Peter, and absolutely could have been the right thing in other circumstances, was not consistent with what God wanted in this particular time and place. 

Clearly then it's possible for us to speak or act with right motives, doing what seems right to us, but be in opposition to what God wants in that situation. If it can happen to Peter, surely it can happen to us. 

The Bible addresses this issue in Isaiah 55: 8 - 9.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

This is a dilemma. If we can't trust ourselves to be right, even when we have good motives and a sincere desire to do the right thing, what do we do? The answer is simple, but not always easy. We need to ask the Holy Spirit of God, who lives within us, to bring our thoughts into line with His. We need to ask God to reveal His plans, His desires, His will.

If we can fault Peter for anything in this story, it's that he spoke what seemed good and right to him without first giving time and attention to discerning what was good and right to God. That's where we often fail as well. We can come down on the side of what seems good to us at the time. Our conclusions or decisions may be guided by love and by good moral thinking and by a righteous confidence. But if we haven't spent time waiting on God, to know His will, we can still be out of line with God's higher purpose or plan for a specific situation.  

I suppose my conclusion is that no matter how much we have grown in God, no matter how wise and well intentioned we are, we will never reach a point where we can presume to know God's will without asking. Moving ahead with the best intentions, without honestly and diligently consulting God, may result in us taking actions or speaking words that are out of line with what God wants at that moment or in that circumstance. Human wisdom and pure motives are never good substitutes for an understanding of God's will.

So next time you find yourself moving ahead in a way that is wise and moral and loving, and you have only the best in your heart, make sure you've hit the pause button long enough to consult with God and hear His voice. Better to be in tune with God's plan than to rely on our own wisdom and good intentions. 

Wednesday, 26 April 2017


Grace. It's a concept that seems to be easily (sometimes deliberately?) misunderstood. It gave rise to some seriously false teaching in the early church, and 2000 years later it still presents some challenges.

The Jews in the early years of the church were used to a system of rigid laws and ceremonies. For many centuries they had learned the importance of following the rules. The Pharisees were so dedicated to rules that they even made up extra ones on their own. Given that culture it's not surprising that the idea of being accepted by God through grace, instead of by strictly adhering to the law, was hard for some people to accept. 

The problem is very evident in the discussions among early church leaders as to whether Gentile believers should be required to be circumcised. Some couldn't quite get their heads around the idea that God's grace could extend to people who hadn't followed this essential rule. It's quite understandable really. People who had been indoctrinated with the law throughout their lives were challenged by the idea of grace.

There was also the opposite problem. Some people welcomed the teaching of grace as if it were a day pass to Disney. For them grace was the golden ticket that gave them permission to do whatever they wanted. Anything goes, because God's grace will take care of it. 

We find Paul and other early church leaders repeatedly working to bring a balanced and correct understanding to the concept of grace. We come into relationship with God and receive His forgiveness through His gift of mercy, not by working really hard to be good enough, but as recipients of God's grace our overwhelming desire ought to be to please Him.

Grace is a free gift that costs us everything.

In my teaching and writing over the past year or so I have found myself emphasizing over and over again the amazing love of God. The more I understand scripture the more I am impressed with how much God loves us. I am astounded by the lengths He was willing to go because of that love. But there is another side of the story. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all of our heart and soul and strength.

The debates of the early church are alive and well today. While the Jews of the early church were struggling with what to do about the rules, in our culture we are struggling with the fact that there are none. The common question among Christians is what rules do I have to follow? What can I get away with and still be a Christian? 

Jesus avoided the arguments about rules and regulations. He talked about the heart, and when asked about rules said the most important thing is to love God with our whole heart. Clearly He was suggesting that if we love God wholeheartedly, all these other questions will take care of themselves. The question shifts from "what do I have to do" to "how can I please God even more"?

It's not really a hard concept to understand. It's not deep theology. When you love someone you want to please them. You don't want to do anything that will hurt them or make them sad.The greater the love the greater the desire to make sure you never disappoint that person.

Grace and love. If we really got it we would save ourselves a lot of grief arguing and fretting over what we can do or what we can't. The "legalists" wouldn't have to be bound up in onerous rules. The "grace means anything goes" people wouldn't be doing mental gymnastics to justify the things they're determined to hold on to. Instead we would be caught up in a desire to please the one we love, and the Holy Spirit would guide us into a life and lifestyle that would make that a reality more and more every day.

It's really simple. God loves us so much He gave His best. What He wants is for us to love Him back that much, so we will give our best. No wonder Jesus talked about the heart so much. That's where it all comes from. 

If you have found yourself recently arguing with God or with yourself or with someone else over whether it's okay for you to do something or hang on to something, you might want to check your heart. If you love Him with all your heart, the Holy Spirit will guide you and your desire to please Him will overwhelm all other motives. Colossians 3:15 says "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts". If you love God with all your heart, and the desire of your heart is to please Him, when you are doing that you will be at peace. When you are not, when you are displeasing the one you love, you will be robbed of peace. 

Jesus lived in a culture preoccupied with rules, but when asked about the greatest commandment, He didn't get drawn into a discussion about rules. He said to love God with your whole heart. Our culture is preoccupied with eliminating all the rules, and Jesus still gives the same answer.

Love God with all your heart, and the rest will follow.