Love in the Book of Acts

heart.gifHow many times do you think the word love is mentioned in the Book of Acts?  I often use this as a warm up question when teaching about evangelism.  The answers usually range from somewhere in the teens to over 100.

Before you answer, here are a few Acts facts to consider:

  • Acts has 28 chapters (the average book in the Bible has 18 )
  • Acts chronicles the spread of the early church over nearly 30 years, from Jesus’ final words and his ascension into Heaven all the way through the Apostle Paul’s imprisonment near the end of his life.
  • Acts includes 13 presentations of the Gospel to a variety of people – crowds, individuals, Jews, Gentiles, ordinary citizens, high-ranking government officials, etc.

So how many times it the word love is mentioned in Acts?

Here’s the answer: 0.  Zero.  Z-E-R-O.  Seriously.  Do a word search in your Bible software.  It’s OK, I didn’t believe it the first time I heard it.

So what’s the point?  Does that mean love isn’t important?  Of course not.  God displays perfect love throughout his Word and his love for us is displayed in the sacrifice of Jesus the Son on the cross.  And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t mention God’s love when sharing the Gospel.

But it does tell us some important things about evangelism.  The history of the early church should certainly provide a model for how we should go about sharing the truth of the Gospel.  The primary model used in Acts was to lay out the facts of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and miracles and to highlight our need for him and his forgiveness.  There are calls for repentance.  But God’s love is never directly mentioned and there is no hint at universalism (the notion that everyone goes to Heaven). 

Preaching God’s unconditional love without the need for repentance and faith in Christ is not a Biblical model.  It can give people a false sense of security, as in, “God loves me without conditions?  Great!  No need to change anything.  I’ll get back to mocking/ignoring him now.”  That is the terrible place to be, as even those who consciously rebel are conceding that they are out of line with God.

People need to understand the bad news (they are sinners against a perfect and Holy God and rightly destined for an eternity in Hell) before they realize their need for the Good News (Jesus took the punishment for our sins and we can be completely and eternally forgiven and reconciled to God if we put our faith in Jesus).

Also note that the Gospel presentations in Acts rebut the myth that Christianity involves faith without reason.  Each time the message is given it is based on facts, logic and appeals to reason.  At no point is the message to have blind faith.

Acts 17:29–31 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

Read Acts for yourself and see what I mean, or read about Preaching God’s love in Acts.

Hat tip: Greg Koukl – Stand to Reason

Cancer treatment update: So far, so good. Thanks for the prayers!

Some updates and random thoughts as a follow up to Plot twist: I’ve got cancer.

The treatment process is going smoothly.  I’ve finished two rounds of chemotherapy, with four more to go (one every 28 days).  Mrs. Eternity Matters calls it Chemo Day Camp, because I show up with a cooler of food, a jacket and my laptop bag.  I suppose it is the camp you settle for if you sign up too late for the basketball / volleyball / archery / etc. camps.  They just set up the IV, then I can eat, use my laptop and phone or even take a nap.  The nurses are super-friendly and great at explaining things.

After treatments I feel like I am ready for the All-Drug Olympics, as I have as many as 8-9 things flowing through my body at once: chemotherapy, immunotherapy, a steroid, Benadryl, Tylenol, anti-nausea, shingles prevention, uric acid prevention, Flintstones Chewable Vitamins, etc.

  • Me: This first round of chemotherapy wasn’t bad. I feel pretty energetic!
  • Also me: You forgot that they gave you a steroid in the chemo mix. The exhaustion will hit in a couple days.
  • Me: D’oh!

Our main prayers have been for healing (I assume the tumor is being killed, and will have a mid-treatment scan next month to confirm progress), minimal side effects (answered!) and that we not waste any of the experience (answered!).

The challenge in something like this is to:

Strive to point to and glorify Jesus  . . .

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

. . . without photobombing him

Matthew 6:1 Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

I pray often that we will stay on the right side of that.  I have had countless opportunities to live it out.  In my flesh I know I’d be deeply scared throughout this, but by focusing on Jesus I can honestly say I’ve slept well every night — even in the early days when I knew I had cancer but had no idea about the severity or treatment plans.  I’ve had friends note that the positive approach is “oozing” out of me.  It isn’t like I’m trying to do it, it is just there.  I’ve been able to share with believers and non-believers in all sorts of ways.  I know it is 100% by the grace of God that we’ve lived what we believe, and that has made this process better regardless of the eventual outcome.

Many thanks to everyone who has offered prayers and encouragement to me and my family throughout this.  You have no idea how much every comment meant.

Be blessed!

Plot twist: I’ve got cancer.

Also, Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and my Savior, and I’m more grateful for that than ever.

I didn’t see that coming.  No risk factors and no typical symptoms, other than a low-grade fever that could have been many things.

But the blessings from this have been many.

It could have gone undetected a long time, but through a series of other ailments and unusual circumstances I ended up getting scans that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

The healthcare system here has been amazing, with multiple doctors who have never met collaborating quickly to get tests and results.  I am grateful for first-world medical care.  This could have been a death sentence in most parts of the world and certainly most times in history.  The doctors are so skilled at reading things like CT scans.  They look like blobs of grey to me, but they can quickly see where things are amiss.  But I do laugh when they try to point things out to me, as if I could actually follow along.  They could tell me, “Now here’s the spot where there is a unicorn inside you” and I’d say, “Uh, yeah, sure, provided that you ask me no follow-up questions, I see the horn right there . . .”

It is non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (though we didn’t know that right away), which has a high success rate in treatment.  And it will be probably be addressed via chemotherapy (we should be meeting with the oncologist next week to get a treatment plan).  I was hoping to get through life without chemo, but that is still better than chemo + surgery (the first reviews of the CT scan indicated that it might have been going from my left kidney — my favorite!! — to my stomach, which could have meant losing all of the former and some of the latter).

From a practical standpoint, it has prompted me to document our finances and such even more.  We’ve had wills, power of attorney (medical and legal) forms, etc. along with some general documentation, but I realized it would help to do even more.  After all, even aside from this I could die in an accident any day.  I read about a woman who was so grateful that her husband carefully documented all their financial information so that when he died things were so much easier for her.  It doesn’t fit the worldly definition of love and romance, but it is a great gift to leave your loved ones.  Grieving over losing you will be bad enough, but spending stressful hours sorting out your finances and such will make things harder for them.  So I’ve got a list of things to update to make it more clear about passwords, insurance, retirement accounts, bill paying, etc. I encourage you to do the same.

I am reminded of what a fantastic wife I have and how completely wise and supportive she has been through this.  And my children are amazing, and the rest of the family, friends, co-workers and church family have been tremendous as well.  What an indescribable blessing.

I am much more empathetic to many brothers-in-Christ and others who live with chronic pain.  The last couple months were rough as they included a variety of unusual ailments.  But they pale in comparison to what others deal with on a continuing basis.  Their perseverance and faith are a humbling inspiration to me in light of my far lesser issues.

This was a friendly reminder about our mortality.  Make no mistake: Whether you have 40 more minutes or 40 more years, you will directly face the one true God some day (Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom).  At the risk of being Captain Obvious, you will not sit in judgment of God or dictate the terms and conditions of life to him.   You can’t dictate the terms and conditions to parents, bosses, teachers, police, or even a McDonald’s cashier, so don’t be foolish and think you can do that with God. The rich young ruler walked away sadly when he didn’t like God’s requirements but Jesus didn’t chase after him to negotiate.  Repent and believe now while you can and accept God’s unbelievably gracious forgiveness through Jesus.

I don’t wish these experiences on anyone, but really knowing where your faith is in situations like this is a true blessing.   In the midst of all this – especially when things were less clear — I can honestly say I had contentment through Christ, just as He promised in Philippians 4* and elsewhere.  Yes, there were anxious moments wondering about different scenarios, but whenever I refocused on Jesus I was at ease.  I’ve been sleeping well and am truly trusting in his sovereignty.  Whether I live or die, I trust in what He said in Philippians 1**

Our main prayer is that we won’t waste any of this.  God has already given us many opportunities to encourage others and to share this to his glory.  I did drop the ball once — which I pray won’t happen again — when I failed to pray with a visibly nervous guy in a waiting room.  I prayed for him but should have prayed with him.  We really want to look to the interests of others and not just our own, as in Philippians 2***.  (Yes, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Philippians :-)).

All that said, I have to admit that this involves three things I’m not fond of:

  1. Medical stuff (time, $, decisions, uncertainty, pain)
  2. Things that make my wife anxious
  3. Being the center of attention

Prayers are welcomed, not just for healing and minimal side effects 🙂 but that Christ would be glorified every step of the way**** and that others could be comforted and encouraged throughout this.

It is always a good day to be a Christian, but in times like this I especially enjoy it.

P.S. If you would like a great, easy to read summary of the Bible and Christianity, I highly recommend The Story of Reality by Greg Koukl. Even if you don’t end up believing you will have a much better understanding of what you disagree with.


*Philippians 4:10–14 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.

**Philippians 1:15–26 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

***Philippians 2:3–4 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

****Ephesians 6:18–20 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Wise giving

This article explains the extra tax benefits of donating stocks that have gone up in value rather than selling them first and then donating: Give Like a Smarty.

That is a wise way to give. But you can make it simpler and better by opening a Vanguard Charitable fund, where you donate directly to a fund in which you basically have complete control over the donations that come out. Schwab, etc. have similar programs.  I’m just a big Vanguard fan because of their extremely low management expenses.

You can review whatever stocks or mutual funds you have and make transfers from the investments with the highest % gains to maximize your tax benefits.  Why pay capital gains taxes and then donate?

The online tools make it easy to have checks sent directly from your fund to your designated charities.  If you keep a minimum balance there are no fees.

Leave a comment if you have questions about this.  It may sound complicated at first but once it is set up it is easy to administer.

Remember, it is called the Good News for a reason

It is bad enough that Christians aren’t more intentional about sharing the Gospel. But in a twist that Screwtape would be proud of, countless people who profess to follow Christ are actually proud about not sharing the Good News.  Michael Moore gave a good example of this when he said:

I have always believed that one’s religious leanings are deeply personal and should be kept private.

I’m not sure where he came up with that belief, but it isn’t in the Bible.  Since Moore was claiming to speak for Jesus, perhaps he should tell us how the Bible teaches that we should be private about our religious beliefs.  That would make it hard to fulfill the Great Commission: Matthew 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

A commenter named Joanne noted that:

Progressive denominations have stopped trying to proselytize with their missionaries YEARS ago. Look at Global Ministries (UCC/Disciples of Christ). They make no efforts to convert people.

She’s right, and it is pathetic that those organizations who willfully withhold the Gospel call themselves churches or “disciples of Christ.”

A regular commenter (“Sunday School Teacher”) noted this:

Our church is currently having a sermon series on Wesley’s “Three Simple Rules”.

The 1st rule is “Do No Harm”. Some people are trying to use this rule to argue that we should not try to change the religious view of others, as this could lead to conflict and thus harm.

I’m glad that SST is trying to lead his church in the right direction, but it is amazing that people learning about John Wesley would ever imagine that he’d discourage people from sharing the Gospel.  They couldn’t be more wrong.

As Paul said in Romans 1:16:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

From the Newsboys song, I’m Not Ashamed:

What are we sneaking around for?  Who are we trying to please?

Shrugging off sin, apologizing like we’re spreading some kind of disease.  I’m saying no way.  No way.

I’m not ashamed to let you know I want this light in me to show. I’m not ashamed to speak the name of Jesus Christ.

This one says, “It’s a lost cause.  Save your testimonies for church time. ” Other ones say, “You’d better wait until you do a little market research.”

I’m saying no way.  No way.

The Gospel can and will offend people.  We don’t want to add to the offense with our own style, but that is no excuse not to share it.  The bad news is that we are all sinners in need of a Savior.  The Good News — and it is still good news worth sharing — is that there is a Savior.  He is Jesus, and He is the only way to salvation.

Hear the Good News, believe the Good News and share the Good News!  But please don’t identify as a Christian if you think it is bad news and refuse to share it with others.

The predictable outcomes of living together outside of marriage

train-wreckSo predictable:

  1. Girl agrees to move in with guy to get closer to marriage but keep her options open.  Guy figures he’ll get more sex and save a little $.  The stigma vanished long ago, so why not?
  2. Real-life challenges strain relationship, making him slightly less likely to want to marry.
  3. Delays in him proposing make her increasingly irritated that he won’t commit, so that makes him much less likely to want to marry her.

The last step repeats until they both hate each other and break up – her deriding his ability to commit and regretting the time she wasted — sometimes years — and him thinking it was good that they lived together first so he could realize how awful she was (“Whew, dodged a bullet there!”).

Here’s another example:

The important part is that Jane has secured the status of public investment while keeping her options entirely open.  If Jane decides that she can do better, she will toss him aside as she has done with so many other men, and find a new man to have sex with. Eventually Jane finds that one of these men is the one she wants to marry, so she pressures him to propose. He could be man #3 in her quest, or man #53. If she chooses man #53 and he doesn’t propose, Jane loudly complains that all men are afraid of commitment. And Jane should know, given her wide experience with men.

Jane then says to any conservative who will listen, which is pretty much every conservative:

Look at cruel Bob. He moved in together with me for free sex, but now I’m afraid he isn’t going to commit. He was just using me!

And the conservative is outraged. Here Jane is following the sacred path to marriage, tirelessly sampling penises (poor Jane sampled 53 just to be thorough) until she finds the one whose owner owes her a marriage vow, and now that she found the one she wants to propose he is ruining the whole thing!

Of course, this is all un-biblical yet rarely challenged in the church.  It is terrible for the man, the woman and any children the union produces.  Abuse is more likely, they are more likely to get divorced even if they do marry and more.

There is a better way: No sex outside of marriage and one man/one woman unions in lifetime commitments.


Also see Global Spike In Cohabitation Is Destabilizing Children’s Lives (Hat tip: Glenn)

Also see The Economics of Sex (Hat tip: Stan).  This seems purely secular, but is deadly accurate from an economic standpoint and is supported by the Christian worldview. Don’t blame the “patriarchy,” blame the dissolution of women collectively keeping standards high.  They chose to compete against each other rather support each other, and they ended up losing.

Virtue-signaling “Christian” Leftists are worse than the hypocrites of Matthew 6

Because at least the hypocrites did something good!

Matthew 6:1–4 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

The Bible is clear that motives and behavior count. Doing your good deeds to be seen by others will merit you no rewards. This is what the hypocrites were doing at the time.

But at least they were doing something.  The virtue-signaling “Christian” Leftists mainly just beg “Caesar” to force you to fund counter-productive programs – and they think that fulfills the call in Matthew 25 to care for the “least of these.”  And yet they are simultaneously adamant that Jesus approves of abortion to the child’s 1st breath and that you should have to fund that as well. The are indescribably hostile to the “least of these” in the womb.

Their latest project is to reduce your safety and increase your taxes by removing strict guidelines on “refugees” from terror-sponsoring nations.  They falsely call it a “Muslim ban,” ignoring that 9 of the top 10 most populous Muslim countries aren’t on the lists.  And they either don’t know or don’t care that you could house 12 times the number of refugees closer to their country of origin.  These do-gooders will spare no expense (of yours) to highlight their virtue.

They also oppose the border wall, hysterically claiming it will cause “climate change.” This is another example where their malice shows through. Even if they wanted amnesty for illegals already in the country, they tip their hands by opposing a wall that would help reduce future illegals from entering the country.

As always, ask these “Christian” Leftists what they are doing with their own time and money to productively help the least of these.  Who would have thought that they would make the Matthew 6 hypocrites look good by comparison?

And keep doing truly good things with your time and your money and for God’s glory, not yours.

Matthew 5:14–16 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.