MICHAEL ANTHONY BLOG
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Life of Christ
Vision of Life
Book of Acts
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WHY IS OUR EXPERIENCE OF JESUS, AND CHURCH, SO DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WE TYPICALLY SEE IN THE BIBLE? Take, for instance, the second chapter of Acts. Today, it seems like the best we can do is market a biblical brand of Jesus and Christianity – but when it comes to making good on the promise, we struggle with the delivery. I think it boils down to the fact that the first believers understood what it meant to be attached to Jesus. Today, we seem clueless.
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Acts 2:42 says,
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” — ESV
The Greek word translated as “devoted” has lost so much of its meaning today, in our individualistic, segregated, divorce-ridden world. We think we know what it means, but the truth is that we all need a refresher. The Greek word for “devoted,” could easily be translated as any of the following:
- To wait on
- To be faithful to
- To busy oneself with
- To hold fast to
- To persevere in
- To spend much time in
- To give constant attention to
- To attach oneself to
The phrase I love the most is that last one. Don’t you? When inserted, Acts 2:42 is resurrected with magnificent practicality:
“They attached themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
I think a main reason we don’t experience Jesus the way the early believers did is because we’re not attaching ourselves to Him. Instead, we are attached to so many other things. What are you attached to more than Jesus?
We expect God to move in power on Sunday when we haven’t been attached to Him all week long. It’s time to take a second look at Acts 2:42-47 and land the plane. What I mean is that it’s easy to look at that passage as it applies to church life – but we have to remember that church life is a reflection of each of our lives. We need to look at Acts 2:42-47, not from the 50,000 foot view, but from the landing strip of our own lives:
“They attached themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” — NIV
We want God to show up in power in our churches on Sunday – and that can happen, but only if we refuse to live lives that are detached from Him throughout the week. I think we need to be discontent with God’s absence in our personal lives and families the other six days of the week. If you and I became attached to apostolic teaching (putting the Bible into practice), spending quality time with our family and friends, and drawing near to God in prayer, I think we’d see Jesus in our midst much more when we all gather together. It’s not magic. When individuals become attached to Jesus, and those individuals come together, the group is attached to Jesus, too. Jesus shows up.
Acts 2:42-47 isn’t socialism. It’s real, biblical Christianity. Socialism is merely Christianity stripped of the Holy Spirit’s power, without the presence of Jesus or His Kingdom agenda. If we want the impact of our money reduced to pennies on the dollar, we ask (and even welcome) the government to take and redistribute it. But government redistribution of money is no substitute for what God alone can do through people who are truly attached to Jesus. If we want the power of God manifest in ways that lead people to the feet of Jesus, we need to be attached to Jesus – individually and in our families. When that happens, the discrepancy between our experience of Jesus and church, and what we read in the pages of the Bible, will disappear.
I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry for the kind of Christianity that shaped history.
What about you, your family, and your church? Isn’t it time that you became attached to Jesus in the same ways the first believers were? Is there anything you or your family is attached to more than Jesus?
ABOUT ME: Most of the lessons I’ve learned in life I’ve learned through failure. I typically publish my blogs Tuesday through Friday, here and on Facebook. We welcome and read comments from readers just like you because they help us (and others) think and grow. Don’t be shy. Chime in.
My first book, published by Thomas Nelson, is slated for release in March, 2018. For more about me, click on the image or here. If you’d like to request an interview, or to explore the potential of my speaking to your group, click here.
IF THE TITLE OF THIS POST CAUGHT YOUR EYE, YOU MAY BE ABLE TO SEE — BUT IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU MAY NOT HAVE A SERIOUS VISION PROBLEM. I was there, in Portland, Oregon, for the “farewell tour” of the (in)famous rock band, KISS. If you’ve never seen KISS, and you claim to be a Christ-follower, I’m pretty sure you’re not as motivated for Jesus as you would be if you went to a show. Surprised? I bet you are, and that’s part of the problem.
You may be wondering why I, a pastor committed to accurate and practical Bible teaching and complete surrender to Jesus Christ, with a well-read blog, radio program, forthcoming book, and a large church (which I love), would dare attend (let alone brazenly admit) that I attended a KISS concert. Couldn’t such behavior and openness be undermining to my ministry? Not at all. In fact, attending that concert was one of the most devil-stomping things I’ve ever done in my life, for reasons that may surprise you. You see, I went to the show not because I’m a KISS fan, but exactly because I’m not. I wanted to learn a thing or two about success and motivation from four guys who were, arguably, among the most successful and motivated people in history.
WHAT KISS CAN TEACH US CHRISTIANS ABOUT VISION, PASSION AND BEING SOLD OUT FOR JESUS CHRIST:
- MONEY, SEX AND FAME ARE HUGE MOTIVATORS – BUT THERE IS AN EVEN BIGGER ONE YOU SHOULD EMBRACE. When KISS first formed, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons knew they were not stellar musicians, and that they needed something to make them stand out from the crowded pack of rock ‘n roll wannabes.KISS took “whatever it takes” to an entirely new level – and we Christians can learn a thing or two about commitment to Christ by considering the commitment of KISS to sex, money and fame.If money, fame and sex can motivate people to dress up in crazy costumes and make-up, what’s our hang-up with doing whatever it takes to really live for God and reach people for Christ? The God of creation is the greatest of all motivators to live right, righteously, and with the greatest of all passions.
- IF PEOPLE WITHOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT CAN WRITE HISTORY, WHAT’S OUR EXCUSE? We Christians have been washed in Christ’s blood, fully forgiven and given the gift of the same Spirit Who raised Jesus from the dead. Through Christ, we have access to more power than the members of KISS did at the height of their career – but we often behave as if we’re powerless.
- VISION EVENTUALLY DETERMINES REALITY. The members of KISS had a vision to be superheroes, not simply rock stars. Knowing they were not the best of musicians, they set out to create an unforgettable live experience. KISS began with this vision and sustained it, letting it shape every album, every concert, and every single decision they made as a band. Their vision fueled their success.If you’re a parent, do you know where you want your children to arrive when they are done with the eighteen or so years they will have under your authority? If you’re a pastor or church leader, do you know what you want your church to look like 5, 10, 20 years from now?What’s your vision for your life, your career and your ministry – and does it truly glorify God?
- STOP STOOPING FOR LOW-HANGING FRUIT. KISS reached for the moon, and they became stars. Too often, we Christians settle for the bare minimum when it comes to God’s glory and living in line with His agenda. Of all people, we should be more motivated and committed to our God and our mission than anyone else for any other cause. Have you settled for far less than God’s best, or is your life a shining example to others of giving 110% to Jesus Christ?
- IF HANDLED PROPERLY, SETBACKS ARE ACTUALLY OPPORTUNITIES FOR COMEBACKS. KISS had many setbacks through the years, including the eventual loss of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss due to their abuse of drugs and alcohol. But Paul and Gene kept rocking. What setbacks have you allowed to hold you back, when, instead, they should be propelling you forward, enabling your comeback?
NOW IT’S TIME TO HEAR FROM YOU. HAVE YOU SETTLED FOR LESS THAN GOD’S BEST?
ABOUT ME: I hope my blogs give you a solid truth or two that encourage, challenge and inspire you to squeeze the most out of the only life you’ll ever have this side of eternity. I typically publish my blogs from Tuesday through Friday. Your comments are always appreciated because they not only encourage my family and me, but most likely others, too. Don’t be shy. Chime in.
 The tour was the last to feature the original line-up of Paul, Gene, Ace and Peter. Clearly, while the original lineup never toured again, it was not at all the “farewell” to KISS. Yup, Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are master marketers.
THIS WEEKEND WILL ONLY LAST 48 HOURS, AND THEN IT WILL BE PART OF YOUR PAST. Here are 5 things you can do this weekend to spare you from burnout and enrich your life:
I. EASE OFF THE GAS AND SPARE YOURSELF FROM “KAROSHI.” The Japanese have a word for burnout called “karoshi.” A recent study in Japan revealed that rest is vital to every area of life. It even revealed that “sleep is a life and death matter.” When we don’t rest, we don’t work well — and every area of life begins to suffer. When it comes to the weekend, work is over rated. If God rested on one day out of the week, you’d be wise to do the same. If you don’t have time to rest this weekend, it’s most likely because you didn’t plan the past week as well as you could.
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II. SPEND SOME TIME LISTENING, FEELING, REFLECTING. Art, music and literature are great ways to develop all your senses and connect with real life. Our virtual world has become over-rated, and people are more disconnected than ever. Is there a book you’ve wanted to read, an album you want to listen to, or art you could feast your eyes upon? Art, music and literature stir both the heart and mind, and are great ways to develop the inner you so that you become a better person all-around.
III. BE WISE: PUT DOWN YOUR SMART PHONE AND INTERACT WITH PEOPLE FACE-TO-FACE. Smart phones have dumbed many of us down. The virtual world is over-rated. This weekend, you’ll have a chance or two to encourage someone, to laugh, to listen or to share your heart. Life is happening — don’t miss it because you’re glued to a screen. Americans spend more time in front of smartphones, computers, televisions and tablets than they do sleep – and it’s negatively affecting us. The virtual world is no substitute for the real one — unless you’ve believed the lie. Be wise: put down your smartphone and engage with real people, face-to-face.
IV. SET YOUR WEEKEND PRIORITIES IN LIGHT OF ETERNITY. Come Monday morning, this weekend will take its place as a tile in the mosaic of your life. What kind of mosaic do you want to create? Come Monday morning, what do you want to have done over the weekend so that when it’s over you can say, “I did that this weekend, and am so glad I did!”? Take five minutes before you kick off your weekend, and determine what you can prioritize so that when it’s over, you’ll be glad you did what you did.
I’D LOVE TO HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS. ARE YOU AT RISK OF KAROSHI? KNOW SOMEONE WHO IS, WHO NEEDS TO READ AND HEED THIS?
3 Tolerance Tips for Surviving
a Thick-Skinned Holiday Season
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- We’ve all seen the news stories – and the tweets that have prompted them. President-elect Donald Trump, a little more than a month from assuming the mantle of Leader of the Free World, taking a break from assembling a Cabinet and getting up to speed on the state of global affairs by calling out a critic as “terrible” and “dumb” or railing against Saturday Night Live for its parodies of him.
- The book on Trump in the wake of these Twitter rants is that he’s got a thin skin – hard to argue with when you consider SNL has been lampooning presidents since Nixon – and never before has once been goaded into publicly lambasting the series for it.
- But the president-elect’s troubles in holding his tongue – and his keyboard – when criticized can actually be instructive to all of us this holiday season. Alec Baldwin may not be launching into an unflattering impersonation of us at the dinner table, but the friends and relatives we will be sharing turkey and mistletoe with can give us a bad case of what I call “epidermis penetratus” – the ability to get underneath our skin.
(Recipe for Success)
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We Christians in America need a refresher on what it means to speak the truth in love. Equal parts of truth and love must be applied in all areas of life if we expect to enjoy God’s recipe for success. It’s what I’m calling a “successipe.”
Truth and love must always accompany each other. They are sisters, part of the same family. Consider Ephesians 4:14-15 (NIV):
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
APOLOGY NOT NECESSARY
Stop apologizing for Jesus. He calls us to follow Him and His teachings – and to teach others, without apology. This is the “Great Commission” found in Matthew 28:19,20. Why are we behaving as if it weren’t so great after all?
Relativism has ravished the church. We’ve stopped speaking the truth because we’re afraid of being rejected. Our personal comfort and convenience have replaced the taking up of our cross and following the biblical Jesus. We have forgotten that He says,
“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33, NIV)
One of the ways we deny Jesus is by refusing to speak His timeless word. But it all begins by our refusal to first live it. This, our great “omission,” has neutered modern-day Christianity. We are a far cry from the magnificent, divine glory of our faith seen in the Book of Acts – and throughout the Bible.
We have forgotten that the way of Jesus is narrow. Get over it and get on with it. The great need of the day is for the Great Commission to be lived and taught – without apology or compromise. Truth still matters, because Jesus is still “the way, the truth and the life” and no one comes to the Father apart from Him (John 14:6).
We must stop apologizing for the truth. Live it. Speak it. Teach it to others. Doing so is the most loving thing you and I can do, because Jesus still says “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).
The most hateful thing you can do to yourself – and to others – is to withhold or reject the truth. Tolerance to falsehood is not love at all, it is the most diabolical form of hatred because it results in bondage, not freedom.
LOVE LETTERS SPEAK TRUTH
We must rediscover that nearly all of the epistles in the New Testament were written to people facing particular cultural, social, theological, and moral issues, about which, God speaks. In other words, God cares about every part of our lives – and speaks to it, too. We have, however, forgotten this.
A look at the modern pulpit, Sunday school class, the modern Bible college, and the modern seminary, reveals a very different approach. We are preaching, teaching – and living – as if God’s word needs to be sanitized. As if it exists in a vacuum. No, God’s word needs to be applied as the healing balm to the festering wounds that relativism, reverse intolerance and hatred have inflicted. People are bully God – and we Christians are, sadly, okay with it.
“But we don’t understand the modern application: God doesn’t need numbers to change the world. He needs unwavering dedication. In a word: worship.”
Our retooled “gospel” has no power. The apostle Paul said “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Today, we are ashamed – and powerless – when boldness and power are exactly what we all need.
If we’re not willing to bring the Bible to bear on the particular issues of the day by speaking the truth, then salvation itself is not possible. Freedom will escape us all.
FEAR OR FAITH?
We’re afraid to speak the truth because church leaders are afraid of losing their church’s nonprofit status. We’re afraid of losing members, and it all goes to prove that we have confused church growth and popularity with discipleship and loyalty to the Jesus we say we’re following.
This is where millennials may want to jump up and shout with affirmation – but we need much more than mere shouting. We need genuine spiritual awakening. We need a movement of repentance. This is the epicenter of every true revival, and where real hope and change begin.
We love the stories in the Bible of the heroes of our faith. We love the story of Gideon, where God had to pair down the size of his army. But we don’t understand the modern application: God doesn’t need numbers to change the world. He needs unwavering dedication. In a word: worship. But our understanding of “worship,” too, has been hijacked, mistaken nowadays for mere musical arrangements rather than the rearranging of our entire lives for God’s unfiltered, unhindered, unapologetic glory.
THAT LOVE THING
The second thing we need to do love people as we speak God’s truths. This does not mean we are to appear loving. It means we are to genuinely love people.
We should be doing all that we can to teach people God’s unadulterated, absolute truths, so that people everywhere can enjoy God here, now, and forever. Remember, truth sets people free. Falsehood sets them up for failure.
Where are you when it comes to speaking the truth in love? Do you need to repent?
Falling Away Underway
“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”
– John 14:15
“Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a reproach to any people.”
– Proverbs 14:34
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I’m convinced that a great falling away is underway – not among people who don’t claim to be Christians. It’s happening from within, among those who say they are followers of Jesus Christ. It’s happening all around us, with growing momentum – and people within the church are applauding. Is this the great “rebellion” spoken of in 2 Thessalonians, which precedes the return of Jesus Christ?
“Any attempt to ‘worship’ and ‘love’ God apart from truth is misdirected, mistaken, miserable. Attempts to “disciple” others apart from God’s truth, Jesus’ commandments and the idea of objective truth existing apart from humanity, are likewise.”
Glennon Doyle Melton spoke this past weekend at the “Belong” tour, which my wife, Janet, attended. The tour is from the same producers as the popular “Women of Faith.” Others have said that Doyle Melton is “best known for is her unapologetic commitment to telling the truth.” Two days after speaking at the Belong event, she boldly announced that she was “in love” with another woman. Never mind that she is still married to her husband, and that they separated less than three months ago. Yes, her husband cheated on her, repeatedly. But do two wrongs make a right? Whatever happened to being true to your own word, regardless of when others may break theirs? Whatever happened to marriage being a commitment before God, not merely one’s spouse? The sacredness of the marriage covenant has been abandoned by a society bent on a “me first” mentality.
To be clear, my primary concern is not that she embraced lesbianism, that she fell “in love” while still married, just months after separating. My primary concern is that she confused relativism for truth and self-love as the primary purpose in life – and that she is unabashedly encouraging others to do the same.
Here is what Doyle Melton wrote to her followers, days after speaking at the Belong event:
“My loves, here is the good news: You are allowed to think and feel WHATEVER YOU NEED OR WANT TO FEEL! . . . I want you to grow so comfortable in your own being, your own skin, your own knowing — that you become more interested in your own joy and freedom and integrity than in what others think about you. That you remember that you only live once, that this is not a dress rehearsal and so you must BE who you are. I want you to refuse to betray yourself. Not just for you. For ALL OF US.”
Wow. Thinking and feeling “whatever” we “need or want to feel” are the aim in life? She wants us to grow comfortable” so that we become more interested in “our own joy and freedom” – and “integrity”? On whose authority is she speaking? Who is she, God? And what happened to the “integrity” she speaks of that should be modeled in the covenant of marriage, which she is shattering by announcing a lesbian affair while still married? Where is the integrity in that? Is she really modeling an “unapologetic commitment to telling the truth” or has she, like an increasing number of people, confused relativistic, emotional, self-serving ideology with truth? I think she has. Big time. And a great many people are drinking the Kool-Aid. Moreover, they are encouraging others to do the same, all along calling themselves Christ “followers.”
Yes, we only live once – but how we live matters for all eternity. Truth is eternal, and whether or not we align our lives with the Truth-Giver matters. A lot. It matters in this life and in the life to come.
“Sin is so self-deceptive that it is absolutely possible to reject absolute truth – God’s truth – and be convinced you are walking in “joy and freedom” when you are doing nothing of the sort. Yes, it may feel great – but that feeling may be a reflection of a seared conscience, the result of selfishly surrendering to sin, not the Savior from sin.”
Doyle Melton and her followers have confused relativism and self-desire for truth. By her relativistic, self-centered reasoning, one can justify nearly any action as appropriate if one’s personal joy and freedom are the objectives in life. It’s all about being “comfortable” and becoming “more interested in your own joy and freedom” than it is with loving God and honoring Him in obedience. The big lie: it is possible to be free and maximize one’s joy apart from loving surrender to God. That, my friends, is a massive lie many are embracing these days. Reject it with all that is in you. To do so is to love God. To not is to hate him.
Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Real freedom is found when we embrace God’s truth, not the relativistic, self-serving “truth” an increasing number of people are today embracing. In fact, when we reject God’s truth, we don’t at all find freedom. We find the exact opposite – even if we think otherwise. Sin is so self-deceptive that it is absolutely possible to reject absolute truth and be convinced you are walking in “joy and freedom” when you are doing nothing of the sort. Yes, it may feel great – but that feeling may be a reflection of a seared conscience, the result of selfishly surrendering to sin, not the Savior from sin. Consider this:
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:24-28)
TIME TO ARISE, HUMBLY, COURAGEOUSLY
I am a fallen man, speaking to fallen people. I am no better than Balaam’s ass (Numbers 22, KJV language). In fact, I have lived more like an ass than my beautiful LORD for most of my life. But I cannot, as a recovering hypocrite and sinner, remain silent when such silence would result in others embracing hypocrisy and sin as a way of life in the name of love. Neither can you if you are a Christ-follower. Especially when God IS love, truth and holiness. He is all, not some, of these. It is your job, as a Christian – a real Christ follower – to speak the truth in love, and to remain true to God as you help others discover the beauty in His truth and love.
“The idea that a nation can be exalted for righteousness, or brought down for its absence, clarifies that there are standards of righteousness and sin that do not arise from mere mortals, but from God.”
To compromise on divine truth is, in the end, to turn your back on God. It is to not love people at all, but to actually have blatant disregard for their well-being. It is to derail them. It is to strip them of all the potential they would realize if only they were to embrace the God of truth and love. It would be a decision to not love God, but to oppose Him.
TRUE LOVE EMBRACES GOD’S TRUTH
Jesus calls us to love people – but to do it without compromising on the truth. That would be unloving toward God. Wouldn’t that be tragically ironic?
I want to clarify that my disagreement with Doyle Melton, and her followers, is done with respect for their opinion, and with love. This love, however, does not mean I must condone behavior. I can love and respect them with the understanding that I cannot endorse their twist on what God says must not be twisted. If I did, I would be unloving toward God – and you would be, too if you followed in Doyle Melton’s footsteps. I encourage you to learn how to speak the truth in love, and to do it with humble courage, because a great falling away is underway.
WHICH GOD, WHOSE TERMS?
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23,24
Any attempt to “worship” and “love” God apart from truth is misdirected, mistaken, miserable. Attempts to “disciple” others apart from God’s truth, Jesus’ commandments, and the idea of objective truth existing apart from humanity, are likewise.
The very notion of truth is that there are untruths, competing ideologies that cannot simultaneously be true. The idea that a nation can be exalted for righteousness, or brought down for its absence, clarifies that there are standards of righteousness and sin that do not arise from mere mortals, but from God. But we are a society – comprised of many who profess to know Christ – that is forgetting this at an alarming rate.
2 Thessalonians 2:1-7 says:
“Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.”
IS THIS THE “REBELLION”?
Is what we are seeing THE “rebellion” spoken of in 2 Thessalonians 2:1-7? I have no idea, and neither do you. What we’re witnessing may be nothing compared to what is on the horizon. The point, however, is that objective, absolute truth exists – and many are denying it because they are denying its Author, the Living and True God.
Is it possible to love Jesus without obeying Him? Is it possible to love Jesus if we don’t do it on His terms? Is it possible to help others love Him if we withhold the truth from them?
Because we now live in a society that has mistaken relativism for truth, and tolerance for love, it’s important that I take the guess work out of these questions. The answer to all three is “No.” It is not possible to love Jesus if we ignore His commandments. No, it is not possible to help others love Him if we don’t tell them what He seeks, and let Him find such things in our own lives.
 Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy, “Author Glennon Doylle Melton Announces New Love Abby Wambach in Inpsiring Blog Post,” https://www.yahoo.com/style/author-glennon-doyle-melton-announces-new-love-abby-wambach-in-inspiring-blog-post-174907562.html
*Bible verses courtesy of the English Standard Version (ESV).