Mailbag

The Mailbag: How can I grow to love Jesus more?

Originally published June 11, 2018

I have been a born again Christian for many of years. But how do I get so in love with him?? Please can you help me.

This could possibly be my favorite Mailbag question ever. How can I love Jesus more? What a sweet and precious thought. I should be asking that question every day. We all should.

The first thing you will have to determine in your own heart, through prayer and study of the Word, is exactly what you mean by your question. Do you mean:

“I’m a Christian, but I consistently have no affection for Christ whatsoever. I just don’t really care about Him one way or the other, but I see other Christians who seem to genuinely love Him. How can I get those feelings for Jesus?”

or:

“I’m a Christian. I love Christ, but I want to develop an even greater love for Him. How do I do that?”.

If your meaning is closer to the first question, I would counsel you to examine yourself to see if you are truly saved as 2 Corinthians 13:5 instructs us. Someone who has genuinely been born again should have some sort of affinity, love, gratitude, and affection for Christ because of who He is and all He has done for her. If you honestly don’t give a flip about Jesus, that’s a big red flag signaling that you might not be saved, even if you think you are. I would strongly recommend working through my Bible study Am I Really Saved? A First John Check Up as well as setting up an appointment with your pastor, a trusted, spiritually mature Christian friend, or a biblical counselor for counseling.

If you’ve compared your heart and life to Scripture and you’re certain you’re a genuinely regenerated Christian who wants to grow in the love she already has for Jesus, it’s simple. Just do what His Word says:

Study Your Bible

I would urge you to put away all of the “canned” studies (books, DVDs, etc. written by others) and simply pick up your Bible, choose a book, start at the beginning, and work your way through to the end. I cannot stress enough how much more rewarding studying the Bible for yourself is than relying on someone else’s materials, and how much closer it will draw you to Christ. If you’ve never studied the Bible on your own before, try taking notes on the text, or use one of my studies (see the “Bible Studies” tab at the top of this page) as “training wheels” to get started. Here are a few other resources that may help:

Bible Study Articles and Resources

10 Simple Steps to Plain Vanilla Bible Study

Rightly Dividing: 12 Do’s and Don’ts for Effective Bible Study

You’re Not as Dumb as You Think You Are: Five Reasons to Put Down that Devotional and Pick Up the Actual Bible

Pray

You can’t grow in your love for Someone you’re not spending time with. Set aside a designated, uninterrupted time of prayer each day in which you can take all the time you need to pour out your heart to God, worship Him, praise Him, and thank Him. But talk to the Lord throughout the day, too. “Lord, I have to discipline my child right now. Help me do it in a godly way.” “Father, thank you that these peaches I needed were on special today!” “I see Julie coming toward my office. Lord, she’s so hard to love. Please help me show her Your kindness.”

Resources on Prayer

Basic Training: 8 Things You Need to Know about Prayer

Sweet Hour of Prayer: Learning to Pray from the People of Scripture (a 12 lesson Bible study on prayer)

After this Manner, Therefore Pray

Can We Talk?

Be a Faithful Church Member

Find a doctrinally sound church that preaches and teaches the Bible well. Become a member. Faithfully attend worship service and Sunday School (aka: small group, Bible study, etc.) each week unless an emergency comes up. Find a place to serve, and get plugged in. Make friends with other members of your church and spend time in fellowship with them outside of church activities. Being fed the Word, serving the Body of Christ, and bonding with brothers and sisters in Christ will build your love for Him.

Basic Training: 7 Reasons Church is Not Optional and Non-Negotiable for Christians

All Word and No Play: The Importance of Fun and Fellowship in the Doctrinally Sound Church

Preach the Gospel to Yourself

Remind yourself of what Jesus did for you – the sin He saved you out of, the forgiveness, cleansing, and peace He freely gave you, the power the indwelling Holy Spirit gives you to resist sin and walk in holiness, the home in Heaven He has promised you.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Romans 5:6-11

That’s what Jesus did for you. You. How could you not love Him more and more every time you think about that?

What Must I Do to Be Saved?

Be Thankful

Make it a habit to thank God for things throughout the day, especially the things you often take for granted. Can you read? Do you have enough food to eat and clean water to drink? Do you own a Bible in your native language? Do you have a car? Clothes to wear? Family and friends? Air conditioning? Chocolate?

Everything good in your life, every blessing you experience, comes to you straight from the hand of God. Think about what you really deserve for your sin and rebellion against God. Then think about the fact that He not only sacrificed His precious Son for you, but that He continues to bless you abundantly. Every thing you thank God for is just another reason to love Him more deeply.

Top 10 Bible Verses on Giving Thanks

25 Things I Forgot to Thank God For

Give it Time and Be Patient

My husband and I have been married for over 25 years. Everything I feel about him – my love, trust, respect, admiration, everything – has grown deeper since the day I married him. But it has taken years of walking through “for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health” together to get to where I am in my love for him today. And if God blesses us with more years together, my love for my husband will continue to grow beyond where it is today.

It’s the same way with your love for Christ. Developing a deep, mature love for Him doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. There are going to be “for better” days and “for worse” days, but if you continue walking with Him – studying His Word, praying, investing your life in the church, remembering all He has done for you, and being thankful – over the years, your love for Christ will continue to grow and grow.


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Holidays (Other)

50 Ways to Have a Happy (and Holy) Valentine’s Day

Originally published February 11, 2021

The world has all kinds of ideas about how you and your “significant other” should spend Valentine’s Day. Some aren’t too bad, but others are downright depraved. Want some ideas of things you and your husband, kids, friends, or church family can do together instead?

How about these? Have fun!

Want some ideas of things you and your husband, kids, friends, or church family can do together on Valentine’s Day? Check these out!

1. Invite your Sunday School class or small group over for desserts and fellowship.

2. Snuggle up under the covers and read the Old Testament book of Song of Solomon with your husband.

3. Have a get together with your single friends.

4. Visit a local tourist attraction you’ve never been to before.

5. Volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center.

6. Go antiquing.

7. Go on a miniature golf date with your husband.

8. Have a snowball fight- parents versus kids.

9. Invite another couple to go to a canvas painting place.

10. Play Twister.

11. Re-read your favorite book.

12. Go for a mother-daughter mani/pedi.

13. Fingerpaint with the kids.

14. Take a nap.

15. Cook dinner with your husband.

16. Plan a family game night.

17. Have a pillow fight.

18. Go shopping with the girls.

19. Schedule a family photo session.

20. Roast marshmallows over the fire.

21. Bake cookies for some of the shut-ins in your church.

22. Trade skills. Teach your husband how to do a small task he doesn’t know how to do (make a pie crust, fold a fitted sheet…) and let him teach you how to do something (change a tire, tie a tie…).

23. Play frisbee at the park as a family.

24. Play with your pet.

25. Hand out tracts and share the gospel at the mall.

26. Babysit for a single mom.

27.Get out the play dough and play with the kids.

28. Plan a family hike.

29. Host a Bible study in your home.

30. Get the whole family cuddled up on the couch and take turns with your husband telling “when I was a kid” stories to the kids.

31. Clean out a closet.

32. Watch a (clean) romantic movie with your husband.

33. Have a family haiku-writing contest.

34. Play video games with the kids.

35. Jump on a trampoline.

36. Invite a couple for dinner that you and your husband would like to get to know better.

37. Binge watch your favorite classic TV series.

38. Pray for and write a letter to a missionary as a family.

39. Check out a class or community event at your local library.

40. Plan a family vacation.

41. Look up and read every Bible verse with the word love in it.

42. Get some friends together to sing a few hymns at a nursing home.

43. Write and exchange love letters with your husband.

44. Have a tickle fight.

45. Go out to dinner at a restaurant you’ve never tried before.

46. Get a facial.

47. Gather some girlfriends and volunteer at a battered women’s shelter.

48. Get a couple’s massage.

49. Flip through old photo albums with the kids.

50. Take a bubble bath.

What are some other fun
Valentine’s activities you can think of?

Wednesday's Word

Wednesday’s Word ~ 1 John 4

For further study on the book of 1 John, try my study, Am I Really Saved?: A First John Checkup, from which this lesson is excerpted.

1 John 4

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider

1. What is the theme or purpose of the book of 1 John? What is the historical backdrop for the book of 1 John?

2. Which Spirit is controlling true Christian teachers? What spirit is controlling false teachers according to verse 3? True or false: If you’re following a false teacher, you’re following a demonic spirit. What does it mean to “test the spirits”? (v1) How did the noble Bereans test the spirits?

3. According to verses 7-8, who defines, originates, and is the embodiment of, love? How does this tell Christians Who and what is to motivate any love that we might feel or show to others? Is the “love” that non-Christians feel or show to others motivated by God or by other factors such as affection, selfishness, lust, etc.? Can you truly love others if you do not know God? In verses 9-10, what is the ultimate definition and demonstration (what action did God take) of the phrase “God is love”?

4. How do we know, according to verse 13, that we belong to Christ? How can we tell if we have the Spirit? In what ways do our actions show that we have the Holy Spirit?

5. What does our love (or lack of love) for others say about whether or not we truly know God? (20) What does verse 20 call people who claim to love God but do not love others? Are such people saved?

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Your Article Was Unloving!

This article crosses a line…it’s bashing…mean-hearted…We shouldn’t be looking to twist a knife or bask in “I warned you” glory…so settled in our sense of rightness that we can’t grieve for those who are struggling.

…reading that [we should pray for Beth Moore’s salvation] after all the condescension comes off as more of a southern “bless her heart”.

…this article comes across as sanctimonious with zero grace. It complete [sic] discounts the power of God to transform the most wayward heart….ostracizing and belittling those leaders who fall…I felt a lot of smugness in the article…lack of grace and love…[coming] from a place of superiority…[being] gleeful when sin comes to light…take on the role of judge and executioner…

Michelle: So it’s OK for you to bash me, but it’s not OK for me to “bash” Beth?

I’m not bashing you.

Whenever I post an article about Beth Moore or another false teacher, I invariably get comments like this on social media, the gist of which is that I’m being unloving for saying that she is a false teacher, for rebuking her sin, for recommending that Christian women not receive teaching from her, for my “tone” of using stark language, and so on. (I always find it ironic that the commenter is usually bashing me even as she’s accusing me of “bashing” the false teacher.)

Such was the case last Friday when I posted my article Bye-Bye Beth: What Beth Moore’s Split with the SBC Means. I’ve posted excerpts above from several comments about the article made by one woman – not to single her out, but because her accusations and phraseology typify so well the pushback I often receive from those of the “You’re being unloving” persuasion. There were a few other women who responded in the same vein on the same Facebook post(s), so this lady – who, I must say, was much more polite and articulate in expressing her thoughts than most usually are – was not alone in her viewpoint.

I have not excerpted this lady’s comments in order to take them out of context or misrepresent her, but because her comments were far too many and too lengthy to post in full. Assuming they have not been deleted, If you would like to read her comments (and those of the other dissenting women) in full to make sure I’m presenting an accurate picture of the thrust of their sentiments, I would encourage you to do so here, here, and here. (Please do not address these women any further. They have spoken their minds in full, and they have been addressed sufficiently. There is no need to pile on.)

So to those who would accuse me of being unloving or hateful, who shame me that “Jesus would never talk to people that way,” who think my wording is too harsh, unkind, not gentle enough, etc., here’s my answer…

Whose definition of “loving” are we using here?

You’re defining “love” as my saying something in a way that you’re comfortable with and doesn’t offend your sensibilities.

That’s not how the Bible defines it. And that’s why Jesus was able to speak to the Pharisees…

…woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces…you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. Woe to you, blind guides!…You blind fools!…You blind men!…full of greed and self-indulgence…you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness…you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness…you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?..on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar.

Matthew 23

…and God was able to speak about His idolatrous people…

And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their whoring lust. And after she was defiled by them, she turned from them in disgust. When she carried on her whoring so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned in disgust from her sister. Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her lovers there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.”

Ezekiel 23:17-21

…so much more harshly and starkly than I’ve spoken about Beth in this article, and yet He is still the perfect embodiment of love, and the perfect example of love to us.

Using your definition of love, if you’re going to be fair and consistent, if you accuse me of speaking in an unloving way in this article, you have to accuse God of speaking in an unloving way in Ezekiel 23 and Jesus of speaking in an unloving way in Matthew 23.

But the Bible defines love like this:

God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 1 John 4:8b-11

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

Because God is love, God alone has the right to define love. And God defines love as the redemption, restoration, and reconciliation of man to Himself. Love isn’t someone making you feel good about yourself or the world or your circumstances. Love isn’t being outwardly “nice”: always being the epitome of sweetness, never confronting anyone, affirming everything, never hurting anyone’s feelings, never saying or doing anything that makes anyone uncomfortable.

Because God is love, God alone has the right to define love. And God defines love as the redemption, restoration, and reconciliation of man to Himself.

While the world looks at a person’s outward, observable behavior and pronounces her loving or unloving depending on how pleasing that behavior is to others, God looks at a person’s heart and pronounces her loving or unloving to the extent that her motives match His.

…the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.

1 Samuel 16:7b

God defines love as cooperating with Him in rescuing the perishing, building up the church, and showcasing His glory. Sometimes that’s going to look like binding up the brokenhearted or healing the untouchable leper, and sometimes that’s going to look clearing the temple or calling false teachers a brood of vipers. While the world would call the former “loving” and the latter “hateful” based on what those behaviors look like, God calls both loving if they spring from a heart motivated to rescue, redeem, restore, and reconcile.

So, when you say I’m being “unloving” to use stringent language about false teachers (like God, Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles did), and I say you’re wrong, it’s because we’re using two different definitions of love. You’re using a worldly definition of love based on how pleasing my outward behavior was. I’m using God’s definition of love that’s based on the motivation of my heart. You cannot tell me I’m not demonstrating biblical love in a situation like this because you don’t know the motivation of my heart. I do. The article in question (like so many others about which I’m accused of being unloving) was motivated by love – God’s definition of love – for

  • Beth – that God would graciously remove the scales from her eyes and save her
  • Beth’s fans – that God would open their eyes to deception they’re believing and lead them to repentance and sound doctrine
  • Discerning Christians – that they might be encouraged not to let their guard down but to keep contending for the faith once for all delivered to saints
  • The church – that it would cleanse out the leaven of false teaching so that Christ might present her to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
  • and the Southern Baptist Convention – that it might forsake the idols of money, power, and celebrity, and return to its first love, Christ.

But it was also motivated by another component of love which the worldly definition of love, being worldly, is completely oblivious to. You see, the world’s definition of love only concerns itself with the “horizontal” love between one human being and another. But God’s definition of love finds its origin in Himself. He is the foundation and the culmination of love. He is both the starting gun and the finish line in the race of love. Where there is no vertical love of God, there is no horizontal love between people. There may be friendship, attraction, affection, attachment, and emotion, but there is no true love.

And so any biblical – rather than worldly – definition of love must start and finish with love for God. Only a heart that loves Him because He first loved me can extend that same redemptive, restorative love to others.

And though I have never, and will never, this side of Glory, love Him as completely and perfectly as I should – as I want to – those articles that offend your sensibilities, that you feel justified in berating me about because they don’t meet your standards, those articles are rooted in and motivated by love for the Christ whom I serve. I would not continue to do what I do and take the abuse I take for it if I did not love Him.

I’ve heard this whole “tone police” perspective a million times. I’ve prayed about it. I’ve considered it. I’ve weighed the motivations of my heart. And in cases in which I know before the Lord that my motives have truly been unloving, I’ve repented. But the astronomically overwhelming majority of accusations I receive are not from people concerned with the biblical definition of love, but from people using a worldly definition of love whose personal sensibilities have been offended. People who wish to correct me from the authority and standard of their feelings, not from the authority and standard of God’s Word.

And as I’ve prayed, and studied, and weighed, and considered all of these things, the conclusion the Lord has graciously led me to is that there’s no way I will ever please every single one of the thousands of people who hear me. Just like Jesus’ words didn’t please all the people who heard Him, or John the Baptist’s words, or Peter’s, or Paul’s, or Noah’s, or Ezekiel’s, or Jeremiah’s, or… (you know, I’m starting to think I’m in good company!)

So rather than trying to please man, I’m going to strive to please God. If my conscience is clear before Him, that’s all that matters.

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe. Proverbs 29:25

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10

Additional Resource:

Discernment: What’s Love Got to Do with It?

Sacrificing Truth on the Altar of Tone


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Holidays (Other)

50 Ways to Have a Happy (and Holy) Valentine’s Day

The world has all kinds of ideas about how you and your “significant other” should spend Valentine’s Day. Some aren’t too bad, but others are downright depraved. Want some ideas of things you and your husband, kids, friends, or church family can do together instead?1
How about these? Have fun!

1. Invite your Sunday School class or small group over for desserts and fellowship.

2. Snuggle up under the covers and read the Old Testament book of Song of Solomon with your husband.

3. Have a get together with your single friends.

4. Visit a local tourist attraction you’ve never been to before.

5. Volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center.

6. Go antiquing.

7. Go on a miniature golf date with your husband.

8. Have a snowball fight- parents versus kids.

9. Invite another couple to go to a canvas painting place.

10. Play Twister.

11. Re-read your favorite book.

12. Go for a mother-daughter mani/pedi.

13. Fingerpaint with the kids.

14. Take a nap.

15. Cook dinner with your husband.

16. Plan a family game night.

17. Have a pillow fight.

18. Go shopping with the girls.

19. Schedule a family photo session.

20. Roast marshmallows over the fire.

21. Bake cookies for some of the shut-ins in your church.

22. Trade skills. Teach your husband how to do a small task he doesn’t know how to do (make a pie crust, fold a fitted sheet…) and let him teach you how to do something (change a tire, tie a tie…).

23. Play frisbee at the park as a family.

24. Play with your pet.

25. Hand out tracts and share the gospel at the mall.

26. Babysit for a single mom.

27.Get out the play dough and play with the kids.

28. Plan a family hike.

29. Host a Bible study in your home.

30. Get the whole family cuddled up on the couch and take turns with your husband telling “when I was a kid” stories to the kids.

31. Clean out a closet.

32. Watch a (clean) romantic movie with your husband.

33. Have a family haiku-writing contest.

34. Play video games with the kids.

35. Jump on a trampoline.

36. Invite a couple for dinner that you and your husband would like to get to know better.

37. Binge watch your favorite classic TV series.

38. Pray for and write a letter to a missionary as a family.

39. Check out a class or community event at your local library.

40. Plan a family vacation.

41. Look up and read every Bible verse with the word love in it.

42. Get some friends together to sing a few hymns at a nursing home.

43. Write and exchange love letters with your husband.

44. Have a tickle fight.

45. Go out to dinner at a restaurant you’ve never tried before.

46. Get a facial.

47. Gather some girlfriends and volunteer at a battered women’s shelter.

48. Get a couple’s massage.

49. Flip through old photo albums with the kids.

50. Take a bubble bath.

What are some other fun
Valentine’s activities you can think of?


1Yes, I realize Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday this year and that many of us will be in church most of the day. Some of us don’t have Sunday afternoon/evening activities at our churches and could do one of these activities later in the day, and those who do have Sunday obligations might choose to celebrate with one of these activities on another day.