"Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." Romans 15:7
Acceptance sets the tone in a trusting relationship. It ascribes value by making a friend feel special, especially if someone struggles with wounds from past rejection and hurt. Acceptance is an antidote for guilt and regret. It looks to bring meaning in the moment, not dwelling on former failures. It creates a non-judgmental, safe environment. Like a sympathetic nurse, it listens with empathy. Acceptance feels no discrimination or bias.
Who is hungry for your approval and acceptance? Is it a child, a parent, a friend, a co-worker or fellow Christ follower who needs to feel your warm words of delight in them? To not be an included team member is emotional torture. Passive rejection can be worse that blatant rejection. Indeed, an accepting attitude says, "I believe in you", "I need you", "I am for you". You give others the benefit of the doubt. A person who feels your approval has nothing to prove.
"To the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved." Ephesians 1:6 NKJV
Acceptance from Almighty God is found in Christ. He accepts the rejected. He invites those who wander from the faith to come home. Christ calls His children back from embarrassing situations and embraces them with open arms. His acceptance is unconditionally based on His love and grace. The Lord is looking for those in need of approval. He can't wait to bless and believe in His own. Jesus accepts back those who have turned their backs on Him.
Therefore, accept others as Jesus has accepted you. Even sinners, you may ask? Yes, you can accept the individual without compromising your integrity. You grow in Christ's character when others, who are unlike you, know you like them. You love those who love the world, without your loving the world. When you serve someone with competing standards, they tend to ask "why me". Lovingly say, "why not you"--in order to bring praise to God!
"The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them." Romans 14:3
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for accepting me in Christ, so I can accept others in the same way.
Moving from the financial industry into the film-making world may sound like a big leap, until you hear Jason Atkins talk about it. And suddenly it makes perfect sense. Why? Because when the Holy Spirit directs something, He makes all the difference. And the way He pulled together the story, the script, the actors and the message of Unconditional (arriving in theaters this month) is something that only He could do…
Family Christian: We always like to start out our interviews with some background. Tell us a little about Jason Atkins and what brought you to the idea of creating the film Unconditional…
Jason Atkins: Sure, my background is originally in the finance world. I had worked for about 12 years in the hedge fund community and prior to that was working for a Global 100 accounting firm. But one morning in 2006 while I was praying I felt the Lord start to speak to me about media. Out of that time of prayer He referenced [me] back to Hebrews 11:3, [where] the things of the seen came from that which cannot be seen. He began relating that to me [by] cross referencing back into the Old Testament where the prophets were bringing His messages to the people into a visual context, essentially, things that could not be seen into realms that could be. So back in 2007 our foundation decided there was more love, hope and truth that we could offer the world through our foundation and supporting media than just making money for institutions and wealthy individuals which is who our clientele was. So within our investment firm we started the Doorpost Film Project whose purpose was to identify the next generation of filmmakers and instill love into those individuals so that they could move up in their craft; becoming the leading filmmakers of the next generation... that the nature of their content would reflect the values of the Kingdom of heaven. So we started that project and in the first year it was named [among the] top 25 film projects in the US. We had a few thousand enter into a film contest that we held. We had 3,000 artists and creatives sign up to participate in our social platform, somewhat of a “MySpace for filmmakers” that we developed and those 3,000 filmmakers produced short content out of which we selected the best and most promising to remake content on the topic of hope. My current business partner and a producer on the film Unconditional, felt like the Lord was saying, we shouldn’t necessarily preach to these individuals because we needed to meet them where they were and show God’s love to them, but what we could do was set a platform for them to discover truth. And so we used the biblical principles (like redemption or forgiveness or love) that the submissions for this contest had to be attached to one of these concepts. Then, those that we selected participated in a final round that we provided some funding for and told them they had to make their film on [the subject of] hope. They had to explore hope in order to try and to be true to that concept. It was their own discovery process and it was the Holy Spirit’s responsibility to bring them to a place of what truth might be within that concept that is His. And so through that, it opened our eyes to the nature and impact of media, and we saw several people come to know Christ through that experience, for others it reshaped the way they were thinking about the contest and even a couple that has said they were [previously] thinking about giving up on making movies all together had this contest not come along. If they hadn’t made it into finals they were going to quit what they were doing and go back to their previous day job. One of those filmmakers is Brent McCorkle who ended up directing Unconditional. About half of the finalists in 2008 and 2009 (the two years that J. Wesley Legg and I led that project as a side bar to our hedge fund investment firm) were believers and about half of them were not. They were all exploring “how can I make my own impression on this world” some for good and some not. Hopefully over the 2 years that we led and the 3rd that an independent board led the Doorpost Film Project, the future of film-making was impacted for future generations. We’re excited that since that project, we’ve had multiple filmmakers go on to make feature films, some go on to write large budget Hollywood films and their careers are on a fast track in many ways to become the influencers of this generation. But in 2008 I was continuing to pray and I felt like the Lord was telling us the time to shut the hedge fund down and move into media full-time was something He had a real interest in. The more we pushed into it, the more that became evident. In the middle of 2008 we opened the second office for our investment firm in Nashville, and by the end of the year we came to the conclusion that even though we were growing, the Lord had different plans for us and it was time to shut down. So we let our employees know, it was a 6 month process in that transition phase, but by middle of 2009 we had shut the firm down and had started the process of making our first feature film with the idea that we would continue to sow into future generations, but the need for truth in the world today, and the need for inspiration and hope was a present problem, not just a future issue. So that’s when we began to [ask] what should our first feature film be? Shortly after arriving in Nashville, we had begun to participate in an inner city ministry working with at-risk children and youth called Elijah’s Heart. They provided food, after-school mentoring and their biggest ministry is a youth choir that’s multi-race and works across 7 different projects in Nashville. So through that ministry we got to know an individual named Joe Bradford who was just one of the most humble, gentle, meek, kind individuals we had ever had a chance to get to know. The Heart Behind Unconditional
Through the process of seeking what our first film should be about, I felt like the Lord said I should talk to Joe about his story. Now, at the time my perspective of his story was not film-worthy, I knew he had kidney disease, had a transplant and I knew that he worked with at-risk children, but in and of itself in that did not make for a theatrical experience, at least in my mind’s eye. But I asked Joe to lunch one day and I brought the topic up and he started to weep in the middle of the Five Guys Burger. I was kind of looking at him stunned and he said I knew this day was coming and I didn’t know when or how, but I knew I was supposed to share my story with you, and what I’m about to tell you no one other than my wife knows, and I’ve been scared to share it with others because I didn’t know if you would still be my friend. So I shared with him “Look Joe, I love you, nothing you can share with me would change my opinion of who you are, or the friend that you are.” So he goes on them to share his story, of growing up in a small, rural town being the only African American growing up in an all-white town. He was dirt poor to the point they did not have indoor plumbing nor did they have their own outhouse – He had to use the neighbors’ outhouse in his childhood years. He taught himself how to play the saxophone and then took some karate classes. Through the whole process of him laying out the components I began to see (laughs) well maybe there are some theatrical elements to this. So then he goes into his adult life, becoming one of the world’s first hackers and almost definitively one of the world’s first African American computer hackers. The events that led up to his ultimate “fall” from a place of growing prominence within the University of Tennessee and a job at IBM to a place of incarceration. Then he carried it further and talked about what happened in prison, and how it happened and the nature of how God started to transform his life and where He showed him new value and new hope – what love really was about. And shared more about his views of “the highway of love” how scripture lays that out and ultimately to the point of working with children through “walks of love” that he does with these inner city communities. It all just began to really sink in that Jesus knows more than we do. (laughs) My preconceived notion of what makes a theatrical story was not just wrong, but was dead wrong. And the thing that He was really just pushing into me at the moment was that we don’t always have to make up stories to glorify God, he’s already written truth before the foundation of time and the story that He’s written for each one of us truly is a theatrical experience that we can all marvel at, wherever He’s involved. And so the nature of Joe’s story having true elements that people will see on screen became more and more profound as I learned more and more and the realization that truth has so much more power than fiction. So that led to us beginning to develop the script and write the story, and incorporate as many of the true elements of his life that we could. Our first version was about 3 hours long, and we tried to whittle it down and in the process broaden the character base. We took some artistic liberties with a few characters and changed some names and basic profiles but left everything around Joe’s story as true to form as we possibly could. In some places we dumbed it down because we didn’t believe that audiences would actually walk away believing [it was] true because sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. The elements that people scoff at most when they watch the movie and say that couldn’t have really happened were much more bizarre and unusual than what we even put on camera. So the entire process was God, we want our life to matter and we love what we’re doing as investors and You’ve blessed us in the business that You’ve given us, but our lives feel like they’re isolated and buffeted and we want every component to be of value. So in that process of seeking He began to unveil the Doorpost which led to Harbinger Media Partners. So the thing we delighted in doing and what was a blessing, He chose to shut down for a new path and Lord willing this will be one of many stories to come.
Unconditional Movie Trailer
FC: What an incredible story. So does that mean the Doorpost Film Project is officially shut down or is that still sort of running behind the scenes?
Jason: I wish that it were. We turned it over in 2009 to an independent board and we gave them the funding and operating budget for the following year with the understanding that they’d become self-sufficient and it did not work out.... it unfortunately closed its doors (at least from an outside perspective). The database and all of the underlying work is still there, but on a day-to-day basis it does not have an active presence anymore.
FC:Unconditional is just the sort of film that grapples with your heart. What’s the process of going from script to recruiting actors, and how did these big names react to the message of Joe’s story?
Jason: The process is one of writing the scripts (we wrote 7 major iterations, 13 total drafts of the script) and getting to the 13th draft and having it pass through the muster of scrutiny from multiple demographics and geographic parts of the country to make sure there was some measure of poetic flow to it. We went out to actors and used a casting agency in LA. They were fantastic, they gave us recommendations of who they thought would fit well to play the characters because they read the script as well. We had our own wish list of actors that we thought would be right to play various characters and so we went out and made offers to a handful of people. The process was one of offer and either acceptance or rejection – when you get to that level of talent they can select which projects they want to participate in. The interesting thing about it is not knowing the full background of all of these actors and actresses that we were making offers to. It’s a scary proposition because you never know what you’re going to discover after the fact and in some cases we were just very thankful that God saw fit to provide us cover and work it out the way He did.
Michael Ealy was one of the very first people that we went to. We didn’t know he was a believer but he is. He’s an amazing man with great wisdom – he helped to cover us in a lot of areas of production. Being first-time producers and directors we could have made mistakes that would have been hard to come back from, but he really helped us to avoid them. He helped to lead and guide elements from a talent, acting and production flow perspective. He was just amazing. He spent a lot of time with the real Joe Bradford to make certain that he was embodying as well he could the personality and the love of the Holy Spirit in Joe. Michael has been a delight from the beginning.
Lynn Collins was another really cool situation in that she grew up in a home of faith in Texas and had been in Hollywood for awhile. Upon talking to her about the story, she shared that she was really pleased because this is the type of content her mother was really excited about. She had been talking with several [people] recently who’d recognized that it felt like the world needed more hope and more positive pieces of content. She was thrilled to be a part of something like this that she had not had the luxury of doing for awhile. She had just come off John Carter which was a $250 million movie that she was the lead in. Michael had just come off of finishing Takers which was a blockbuster that he was a lead in. So they really kind of just identified with the story at different levels. Michael because of a heart for children and the challenge of playing a real guy that was a positive role model within the African American community as a male figure who was being the father to the fatherless; embodying the essence of true religion according to James. Lynn grew up in Texas and had horses. She said that she would share secrets with the horses that she wouldn’t share with anyone else and went through periods of her life where she had battled elements of depression, so the character played out in a way that just mimicked her real life as a child and adult. She was able to embrace and realize that others could take the story and find a real place of hope.
FC: So you guys are doing something unique because you’re literally calling people to action after viewing the movie. Can you tell us a little about that?
Jason: Sure. When we went down the path of making the movie, the question that kept coming back to me, when I was praying about the situation [was], God is this the movie we are to make? And what kept coming back to me was “Are you going to remember my forgotten ones?” That question really didn’t haunt me, but it felt really important. (laughs) The heart of God is for the fatherless for the widow for the broken and what are we going to do as the church? As believers? As His children, to remember those that society in many ways has forgotten, that we often turn our back to, or we feel like they might have gotten themselves into bad situations. The one thing about children is that they don’t choose which home they’ll be born into. They didn’t decide where they would be born geographically or to the gene pool they came out of. They’re innocent in the form of their circumstance. In part, their conditions were never ones of their own choosing. And yet God was asking the question – are you going to love them? That in part sprang up the genesis of the title of the movie, Unconditional.
So what we wanted was not just to entertain but hopefully inspire believers that come out of the theater – that their lives can be of greater value. That they can be a hero. It doesn’t take much to be a hero for someone else other than to just share a life of love. And so we’ve begun to partner with organizations all over the country in just about every city that we’re opening in – we will have at least one and in most cases more than one that we’re calling ACT partners. These are organizations that serve the broken, the needy and the hurting. Whether it’s helping children with after-school mentoring programs, feeding programs, adoption situations and in some cases job training… we’re raising [people] up as the hands and feet of Christ, to let them know that they are loved by the Father in heaven, that their life matters and they can become more than what they see around them. Their lives are precious and treasured. Our hope is that people will leave the movie and get activated in such a way that they become the hands and feet of Christ to someone else. And whether they see themselves this way or not, they become a “Papa Joe-like” character where they’re the hero of their own story for someone else just by sharing one life at a time. Right now we’re thrilled because not only do we have great partners, but we’re already hearing the magnitude of the great impact of these partnerships. Even people coming out of the first private screenings, general audiences of pastors and business leaders were saying – I’ve got to do something else, I’ve got to either start a ministry or I’ve got to plug into a new one. I’m not doing enough – my life can be worth more to someone else than to myself. And that’s really encouraging and exciting. At the end of day I think it’s touching the heartbeat of God and ultimately the purpose of why He’s called us into making this content to begin with.
FC: We think it’s just great that you not only display this story to be enjoyed, but then encourage people to go make a difference themselves. Will there be a soundtrack to go along with the film?
Jason: We talked about doing an “inspired by” CD, because there are only five songs in the entire movie – the rest of it is score-based, so we don’t have enough songs to make a full-blown soundtrack. We potentially could if there was demand, we could add to that list another 7 tracks that we kind of drew upon ourselves while writing the movie to cobble on to it. We released a new single on gospel and some contemporary stations called “Hope” and it was written initially by Grammy award-winning songwriter Aaron Lindsey. We just re-recorded the vocals recently with Brian Courtney Wilson. The other songs were sung by a husband and wife duo who go by the name of Johnnyswim. They’re good friends of ours, the female voice is the daughter of Donna Summers, Amanda Ramirez is her current married name and Johnnyswim is absolutely phenomenal. One of their songs is in the main body of the movie, and the other is at the beginning of the credits. The one in the credits is called “You’re Not Going to Leave Me Here” which is a really cool song basically about love getting us where we are and that it won’t leave us in the place of brokenness and the other one is called “Good News.” They are a wonderful group, but also amazing people.
FC: Ok, one last question for you. What would you say to a young filmmaker who is a follower of Jesus and feels like they have talent for film-making that they want to pursue?
Jason: Good question. Pray… and don’t rush it. Not in the sense of don’t push into it quickly – but don’t rush a product. We have a lot to learn and as believers we have a duty and responsibility to excellence and honoring our King with something that is capable of standing on its own as an artistic piece. That is glorifying not just in its content but in its production. And we are nowhere near that ourselves, so that’s not coming from a place of pride – I recognize on the front end at Harbinger that we have a long way to go to meet the threshold that we ultimately want to be at. I think the danger and the trap is for believers who are so eager to bless the name of Jesus that we sometimes diminish the value of the art itself to where it can’t be received by the audience it was originally intended to be received by. It’s more of a challenge than advice because we all have to find our own path and I would not be presumptuous enough to say that I know the best way, but my heart is this: that others who God is calling (and He is calling quite a few), will take the challenge seriously. That [the church will] reemerge as the leaders of art and culture and no longer sit back and say a tithe or a partial tithe is good enough in the form of our art. It needs to truly be an offering, in the sense of giving everything. For hundreds (if not thousands) of years the church led in the nature of content, art and shaping culture through the arts, and because of our willingness to accept lower production value and quality, we’ve really lost our voice in many places. I’m just excited to see that God is raising up those that are extraordinarily gifted and I believe that’s an area of society that He’s going to leverage to lead in again. However, we [at Harbinger] can serve those that He’s calling and we want to do that. He’s bringing them to the marketplace but if they can [they should] be as patient as possible to bring as beautiful an offering to the table as they can. And not rush quality, because I don’t think that quality can be rushed, it is something that has to be developed and nurtured.
FC: Excellent words, Jason.
To learn more about Harbinger Media Partners and their upcoming projects, click here.
“He [Christ] died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1Thessalonians 5:10-11
Courage in Christ is a gift Christians have to give one another. It is a boldness of belief bent on bettering others. Daily life drains courage from a person’s heart, but believers are able to fill with encouragement what unrighteousness removes with discouragement. Saintly support comes when a person is aware that someone knows and cares about them. There is an emotional engagement that flows from an inner desire to be there for a needy friend.
Our encouragement is like being an ambassador from Almighty God. We represent Jesus to His followers and to those who have not come to faith. It’s when people see Jesus in our actions and attitudes that they are drawn to personally know Him. Yes, our encouragement is a conduit for Christ! We give a cup of courage in Jesus’ name, and the thirsty recipient tastes that the Lord is good. Their soul then seeks to drink the living water of Christ.
“Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
Your encouragement builds up the hope, faith and love of another loved one. Over coffee, an acquaintance hears from you that they matter, because they matter to God. Your words of truth grow confidence in a character who struggles to be consistent with Christ’s commands. Encouragement challenges as well as comforts. Most do not complain of too much encouragement, but many quietly crave more.
Most of all be encouraged by Jesus. Invite Him to invigorate your faith and rejuvenate your passion. Christ is your biggest cheerleader. His courage is limitless and breeds bravery. His eternal energy engages your soul to persevere as a praying parent, to be patient in whom to marry, to serve in your church and to give a kind word to a stranger. Be encouraged by Christ, so you can encourage another. Encouragement gives courage!
“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” 2 Corinthians 13:11
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thanks for encouraging me to encourage others.
Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Psalm 32:1
Forgiveness is full of blessings. The blessing of guilt’s removal is a fruit of forgiveness. The peace of being in a right relationship with God and people is facilitated by forgiveness. The freedom to follow God’s will, passionately and unashamedly, is fueled by daily forgiveness. Forgiveness frees the soul and enlightens the mind. It is a state of experiencing God’s grace and mercy. Forgiveness offloads laziness and replaces it with diligence. Forgiveness erases lust and writes in love. Forgiveness takes away the stain of selfishness and dyes it with service. The blessings of forgiveness are bold and they belittle sin. As Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, there is a mountain of blessings that come to the obedient.
Jesus forgives the lawbreaker, not the law keeper. Foolish and naïve is the man or woman who thinks they can continually keep the law without the pardon of God’s grace. Forgiveness is a daily requirement for those who want to keep short accounts with their Savior, family, and friends. It is when we try to justify our bad attitudes and behaviors without repenting that we get into a crazy cycle of self-sufficiency. Knowing and acknowledging the need to do something does not free us from sin. We may kid ourselves, but discerning people know if we’re daily doing business with God or just going through the motions of religious activity. Unless we repent of our sin from a contrite heart, there is no remission. The forerunner of Jesus, John the Baptist, taught this (Luke 3:3). Jesus gave His life so He could give us life. Jesus sweat blood so we could have sweet forgiveness.
The Bible describes a trinity of sin for the unforgiven. In our own strength, our disobedience is labeled as transgression, sin, and iniquity. But the Trinity in heaven annihilates the trinity of sin. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, and draws us into the love of our heavenly Father. His love leads us to Jesus, who gave His life on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. We confess to Christ our need for His gracious forgiveness. In Christ we are free. We are free from guilt and free from guile. God’s Spirit uncovers our sin, cleanses it with our confession, then covers it with grace. If we conceal our sin we will not prosper (Proverbs 28:13). Mercy comes to the man who confesses. Miserable is the man who conceals. Come clean with Christ, and His grace will be your residue.
Furthermore, be a blessing by forgiving the unforgiven. God forgives us so that we can forgive others. Extend forgiveness to those who do not deserve your forgiveness. This is grace. This is what Jesus would do and what you would want if you were in their same situation. Unconditional forgiveness is freeing. Indeed, one reason you forgive others is for your own sake. Otherwise, unforgiving relationships cause a root of bitterness to grow deep into your heart and rob you of joy. Avoid withholding forgiveness to hurt others. Otherwise, you will get hurt. Let go, and give to God your unfair friend, insensitive supervisor, proud parent, uncaring spouse, or selfish child. Pray for them to be healed, and you will be healed. Forgiveness does this. It heals the soul with eternity’s elixir.
“Your brother has come,” he replied, “and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.” Luke 15:27
Our soul seeks out safe environments. We are attracted to people we can trust, who accept us for who we are instead of who we need to be. Safe environments give us security and peace. We can bare our souls because we know we are in a place of confidentiality, and do not fear rejection. A business meeting with a rigid agenda, pretense, and pride is not a safe place in which to be yourself.
Those who foster safe environments seek first to understand, there is no rush to judgment, but there is a rash of love. In safe environments, we’re still loved, especially when we are unlovely. Parents have the privilege of providing a safe environment for their teenagers transitioning into young adulthood. This can be a trying time for everyone, as your children are not babies anymore, so they do not want to be babied and controlled.
By God’s grace, you have trained them for such a time as this. This is your teenager’s time of transition into maturity and he or she may have to make a bad relational decision in the process. This is how he or she grows and learns. Therefore, as parents, it is imperative you keep the home environment safe and non-combative. Continue to speak the truth in love, but do so graciously with great patience and after much prayer. If your teenager doesn’t feel safe at home, they will find safety and acceptance somewhere else; so create attractive environments.
Safe environments are also necessary for Christ-seekers. People in a search for authentic faith need someplace to ask questions without being rebuffed for their elementary inquiries. More mature believers have the opportunity to be there for those on their faith journey, but judgment is a juggernaut against safe environments, as it crushes with condescending attitudes. So, be careful not to impose your high standards on a person or situation, and in the process endanger the safe environment. Share your own failures and struggles, as this builds bridges to the heart. Safe environments are void of pedestals of pride. Consider a Bible discussion in your home and follow it up with a fun activity. Make Christianity attractive, not boring. Safe environments draw people to Christ.
Above all else, seek out a safe environment with your Savior. Your Lord longs to linger with you. He deeply desires to listen to your dreams and fears. In your safe place with Jesus, you are loved completely. Your heavenly Father feels your pain. In your safe place with Him, you are positioned to receive His love and blessings. Your safe environment with God may be early in the morning with a cup of coffee, the Bible, and your journal. It may be late at night before your head hits the pillow and begins its silent reflections. It may be on your lunch break in the shadowy sanctuary of a tree. It may be a walk in the woods, a jog on a treadmill, or a run across a maze of sidewalks. It may be a quiet occasion in the mountains or an engagement with eternity at the beach.
God gives you safe environments for your soul’s refreshment. It is there you can cry, laugh, complain, thank, create, give, listen, and ask. Christ celebrates when you go to Him, and receives you just as you are, needy for love and acceptance. Safe environments are necessary for communication and trust. Therefore, create and enjoy safe places, and go there often for your sake and the sake of those you love. The Bible says, “You will be secure, because there is hope; you will look about you and take your rest in safety” (Job 11:18).
Taken from September 16th reading in the 365-day devotional book, “Seeking Daily the Heart of God”… http://bit.ly/bQHNIE
Post/Tweet this today: We can bare our souls when we are in a place of confidentiality, and do not fear rejection. #safe #secure
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” Romans 13:8
There is a debt of love owed between believers in Jesus Christ. It’s wise to be debt free, but the debt of love is never paid off. Love is a mortgage we take out to our Landlord Jesus to pay back on His behalf. It is an interest rate of integrity based on our consistent interest to love well. Indeed, love is an appreciating asset that never declines in value. We experience true riches when our wealth is measured in how well we love one another.
The job description of Jesus followers is love. The qualifications are: a child of God who regularly receives the love of their Heavenly Father—who then loves freely from the overflow of their heart. Like showering, sleeping and eating—love becomes the habit of your heart. Because gratitude grips your soul, your love for others spontaneously erupts in enthusiastic generosity. You love much, because you have been forgiven much by Jesus.
“Therefore, I [Jesus] tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:47
The love of Christ for us, constrains us to love in Jesus’ name. His love does not harm—it heals. The Lord’s love is long-suffering, not intolerant. The love of Jesus gives joy, not ill will. God’s love goes the extra mile—it doesn’t give up. So, since your Savior has filled you by faith with His great love, you replace: hate with love, hurt with love, judgment with love, anger with love, ego with love, manipulation with love and lust with love.
Who in your life needs your unconditional love? What is their love language? Perhaps they crave affirming words, kind deeds, generous gifts, warm affection or a sense of security. Look to love others like they want to be loved, which may not be like you naturally prefer to be loved. Moreover, be open to a loved one’s love for you. Let your cold shoulder warm, receive the love of your friends and family. Your genuine love invites love from others. Therefore, love and be loved for Christ sake!
“And walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me well, so I can love others well.
"Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited." Romans 12:16
Relational harmony comes from humility. Yes, there are times for confrontation and clarity, but a chronic state of conflict is not healthy. Pride drives disharmony, but humility disarms discord. Fighting is not the forte of Jesus followers. A world caught up in conflict needs a safe, secure and stable environment. Indeed, faith facilitates harmony.
Are you tempted by Satan to slight, even slander another brother or sister in Christ? Words that sow discord reap division. Has gossip caught you in a lie? If so, humble yourself and ask your offended friend for forgiveness. Or, if you have been talked about behind your back, don't pay back. Instead, pray for those who threaten harmony at home or work. Humility avoids destroying friendships.
"Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other." Galatians 5:14b-15
Without harmony at home we walk with trepidation, even fear. We are afraid to speak truthfully lest we are made to feel little. So, during this season of emotional separation someone has to be the adult, someone has to model Christ. You have the opportunity to bring harmony to your home by replacing hurtful words with kind words. Forgive fast and do not fight in the flesh. Hold hands and pray together.
Perhaps a respected third party needs to mediate between you and a work associate. Your severed relationship needs healing before others take sides. Resolve this relational disconnect sooner than later, so that emotional energy can be channeled into eternal efforts. Christ connects hearts with humility. A conceited countenance looks down on others, but an ego-less eye looks to heaven for forgiveness.
Therefore, be a harmonizer, not a demonizer. Be a team player not a stubborn troublemaker Be a character builder not a character assassin. Be a uniter not a divider. Be a life-giver and generous giver full of mercy, grace and forgiveness. You are a connecter for Christ. So, connect first with your Heavenly Father, then you can connect with other Christ followers. Harmony brings heaven to earth.
"My [Jesus] prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me." John 17:20-21
Prayer: Heavenly Father, make me an agent of harmony for heaven's sake.
“Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10b
To honor is to give preference to another. It is the act of extending to another the first opportunity. Giving preference is more than good manners; it gives preference of another person’s needs over your personal needs. For example, deferring to another’s choice for a meeting time and location or allowing a person to go ahead in line shows respect and courtesy. Honor is incubated in a heart of humility. It is the art of serving someone else, even at personal expense.
We can disrespect the process, but still honor the person. We may have been left out of the decision-making loop at work, but we can still honor those who made decisions that disturbed our work. How do we honor them? Honor does not gossip or make disparaging remarks about those who brought us despair. Honor thinks the best and does not assume the worse. Honor values the relationship over being right. It looks for potential in others.
How else can you honor those in your circle of influence? One wise habit of humility is to ask a friend for advice and then act on their advice. A spouse or colleague feels valued when their suggestion makes a positive impact on your life. When you truly listen to another’s opinion you give oxygen to their esteem and you give respect to the relationship. Honor accepts a person where they are and looks to discern their heart.
Therefore, give others the honor of knowing what you really think and feel. Your authenticity is a gift of honor given to those who want to know you in an intimate way. Dishonor is shallow and sentimental, while honor is deep and substantial. Furthermore, make sure to give honor to the people, places and things that those you love honor. A loved one’s objects of honor, become your objects of honor, as you grow to know them.
Put off the fear of embarrassment and put on trust in God. He shows honor to those who extend honor. The Lord Jesus Christ is the most honorable example. His standards for honor are the good housekeeping seal of heaven. Thus, honor the Lord in all you do and say. His ways reap respect and the right results. It is the greatest honor to serve God and people above yourself. Invite others to the seat of honor—Jesus will find you a seat with Him!
“But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” Luke 14:10-11
Prayer: Heavenly Father, show me opportunities to honor others above myself.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” Romans 12:10a (NASB)
Disciples of Jesus are devoted to Christ, but they are also devoted to each other. Devotion to divinity becomes devotion to humanity. There is a worldwide fraternity of faith and a sorority of salvation that enjoys a brotherly and sisterly love for one another. For some Christians their intimacy with other believers is much more real than their relationship with blood relatives. Those washed in the blood of Christ can be soul-mates in the faith.
We see this devotion when we mess up and another spiritual comrade helps us through our sticky situation. We lose our job and they help us network a new beginning. We suffer and they suffer with us. We rejoice and they rejoice with us. The kinship with other Christ followers is a humbling benefit of being a believer, but it does require fidelity both ways. Our devotion back to believers is a signal of loyalty and love—it provides security
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42
Who in your circle of influence needs your unconditional devotion? A friend? A spouse? A supervisor or subordinate? A family member? Do not underestimate the value of your loyalty during lean times. Perhaps an unhealthy person needs your helping hand. A church or ministry leader may need you to volunteer for a season with your seasoned support. Your dependable devotion during difficult times is refreshing to the recipient. So, refresh often!
Your life is like a written devotional of encouragement and conviction for other Christ followers to read. You have your own bumps and bruises and victories that make you attractive for another to confide their concerns in. Your devotion is a spiritual lifeline for the lost. It is an anchor for the drifter and a reminder for the forgetful. As you remain faithful, you raise the faith in all other boats of belief. Your devotion inspires another’s devotion!
Above all else, keep your devotion to Christ fresh and foremost. He is your Master and Motivator. He is the reason for your righteous zeal and your energy to endure. Love Jesus well and you will love well. Be loved by Him, and you will love for Him. Be a dedicated disciple by remaining in Him. Devotion to Jesus Christ becomes devotion to one another.
“Before God you could see for yourselves how devoted to us you are.” 2 Corinthians 7:12b
Prayer: Heavenly Father, keep my heart devoted first to You and then to others.
“So we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” Romans 12:5 NASB
Committed followers of Jesus are called to community not seclusion. Jesus had His disciples, Paul had the church—even monks have brothers in the monastery and nuns have sisters in the nunnery. Men and women of faith are not islands of isolation, but a beautiful Body of Christ intricately woven together by God’s grace. Just like a physical body relies on a variety of organs and appendages, so the spiritual body is interdependent.
Christ calls us to one another. We need one another. Yes, we are complete in Christ, but we are incomplete without a Christ-centered community. When Christ called us, He called us to Himself and to His body of believers. Spiritual growth slows absent engagement with other sincere souls. We are part of a worldwide movement of faith and good works initiated by the Spirit through the Church of Jesus Christ and His disciples. Our vision radically expands when we are part of a mission much bigger than ourselves.
“They devoted 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.” Acts 2:42-44
United by faith we flourish by faith. What the enemy seeks to divide, Christ unifies. We align with each other around the Almighty’s agenda: share the gospel, feed the poor, plant churches, heal the sick, make disciples, educate, preach, teach and care for widows and orphans. Christians who serve together have no time for the sideways energy of irrelevant arguments. We need one another—like an army we cover each other’s back.
We need one another for prayer and perspective. We need one another for protection and encouragement. We need one another because we are in a spiritual war. We need one another because we are weak and vulnerable. We need one another because we are strong and proud. We need one another to protect us from ourselves. We need one another to know one another and to be known. We need one another because God says we do.
Religion is not solitary with your Savior Jesus. When you are with other followers of Christ you are encouraged, prayed for, and held accountable. Yes, you can worship in private, but when you gather for public worship you experience the diversity of God’s children. The energy and education you receive when you engage other brothers and sisters in Christ is necessary for spiritual growth. If you had a bad church experience, prayerfully participate in a new place of worship. Go where you can better know God.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
Prayer: Heavenly Father, I pray for the humility to recognize my need for other brothers and sisters in Christ. Show us ways to be a blessing to one another.
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