"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Several years ago, I had some serious vision problems. A film had slowly developed in the lenses of both eyes. It was as if I were looking through a perpetual fog. It happened so gradually that I was unaware of my vision loss until it was quite significant. I walked through the world, oblivious to my inability to clearly discern what was around me.

In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul has just prayed that their love would abound more and more, rooted in true knowledge and depth of insight. Now he speaks to the results of such deeply rooted love:

“…so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ…”(Philippians 2:10).

Like the rest of us, the spiritual eyes of the Philippians had become clouded. They were in need of lens transplants so that they could clearly discern what was best, and then live accordingly. I have heard it taught—“It all depends on the lens.” In counseling, we try to assist people in the perceptions that affect their perpetual emotional states. Truthfully, the way we look at things usually affects our feelings more than the things themselves do.

Paul is here addressing something far beyond a simple shift in perception. He is reminding them that abundant love is rooted in knowledge of the truth and depth of spiritual insight. These assets result in clarity of perception, an ability to discern, and a glimpse of our world as God sees it. In other words, it gives a biblical world view. In the Word, we have (at least some of) the mind of Christ.

In relativistic philosophy (the true religion of the masses these days), perceptions and opinions abound. By definition, one point of view is no better than another. Taken to its logical conclusion, there should be no laws and no consequences because the criminal has the same right to express himself as he sees fit as does anyone else. His perceptions of the situation are equally valid to those of the masses who say that opening fire on unarmed citizens in a movie theater, for example, is wrong. In fact, words like right and wrong lose their meaning entirely. In the ultimate philosophical irony, some people insist that “there is no absolute truth.” This statement nullifies itself because the statement itself proposes an absolute truth. This emperor has no clothes.

Paul wants something better for his readers. Christ wants superior things for his church. God’s reality is the one true reality. While we cannot fully comprehend it, we have what we need for this life in his Word. Enlightened by the Holy Spirit, the Word of God is written on our hearts, changing our desires and perceptions. We discern (the same Greek word as judge) what is best. We live, to the best of our Spirit-assisted ability, pure and blameless as we wait for the coming of Christ. Taking his truth deep within us, we are transformed and remodeled from the inside out, repent when we fall, and agree with God about our sins, while accepting and extending grace and truth.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Abounding Love

I like words. When studying languages, I enjoy learning about the origins of words. This helps me with learning the words and gives me a deeper understanding of them. In every culture, language changes over time. Words, like everything else, come in and out of style.

Abound is a funny word. When was the last time you heard someone use it in a conversation? You are more likely to see it on the cover of a romance novel than to hear someone talk about how they wish their crops, business or church might abound. However, Paul uses it to bless the Philippian church in Chapter One of his letter to them:

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight…” (vs.9)

Abounding may be easier to grasp if we think of Jesus declaration of his own mission when he said he came that we might have abundant life. Abundant is excessive, more than enough and overflowing. So the idea Paul conveys here is that he prays for the church in Philippi that their love may be extravagant, spilling over on one another and all they encounter. They are not the source of such love, but it comes through Jesus Christ (vs. 11). I am reminded of Jesus metaphor in John 15, where he explains that he is the vine and we are the branches. If we remain in him, he promises, we will bear much fruit. The secret of abundant fruit is an abiding relationship with Jesus.

When I first discovered verse 9 (above) I remember being a little surprised by the phrases that go on to describe this abounding love. Paul does not here emphasize warm fuzzy emotions (though he has expressed his own in verses 7-8). Rather, he describes a love deeply rooted in knowledge and depth of insight. The reason this surprises us today is that we think of emotions and knowledge as separate tracks frequently arriving at very different destinations. Paul here is teaching that the tracks to agape love are nailed into the beams of full knowledge (epignosis) and deep insight.

If our love is emotion based, it is about as permanent as morning dew. When exposed to the light of day (disappointment, conflict and hurts) it vanishes. But when it is rooted in what we know to be true, and we have opened our hearts to the instruction and challenge of the Spirit, love endures. One does not have to read between the lines here to see once more the principles of grace and truth, and speaking truth in love. If it’s all about grace and love, we have missed half of the gospel. If it’s all about truth and knowledge, we become full of ourselves and overlook the importance of love and grace (our only hope). True knowledge coupled with Spirit inspired depth of insight will root our love into something far more permanent than our feelings.

When I think about it, this is how God loves us. Our daily stumbling, our fickle feelings, and our occasional straying from the path do not surprise him. He has already made his commitment to those who receive his Son. He will never leave them or forsake them. So, his love is steadfast, longsuffering, enduring. Jesus parting prayer with the disciples on the night of his betrayal was that we would love one another as he and the Father love. Big shoes to fill. Fortunately, we do not have to muster this love from our self-centered human hearts, but it flows through us from him. The question to consider today might be:

What am I doing to increase my knowledge and insight so that the love of Christ may abound in me?

Paul’s prayer does not call for an apathetic response. God did not design the body of Christ (his church) to be passive. Let’s be diligent to dig into his Word, asking the Holy Spirit to enlighten us, seeking Godly counsel and instruction so that our love may abound, being deeply rooted in full knowledge and deep insight. That is my prayer for all of us.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A Note from Steve

A few years ago, a small flame began to kindle in my heart. Though I had never written, I felt a gentle but relentless tug to begin to write down some of my hard-earned lessons, especially the ones that have a direct impact on people’s relationships with God and other people. My blog “grace and truth” was started in July 2010. To my surprise, the Spirit of God quickly carried it to hearts in almost 80 countries. Some of the posts have also been picked up by e-magazines. Many readers have asked if I have considered compiling these writings into a book. The coming book “MILESTONES, On the Road Home” will carry some of the most loved messages to a whole new population. The lessons are edited, updated and augmented with questions, prayers and “milestones” for progress on the path to intimacy with God and others. Even the most faithful follower of my writings will find them fresh and more personal than ever. I am eager to see what God does next with this, his project. Success is defined as his pleasure. I also pray a few lives are touched for now and eternity.

Steve Warner

PS~ Check out the Author Website link in the column to the right. This is where I will post progress, events and information about the book.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Affectionate Prayer

When we were dating, we could not wait to converse with our partners. Whether in person or over the phone, we hung upon each word. Our love was so strong; we longed to be with one another. Our “first love” kindled brightly. As time goes on, most couples become immune to such powerful affection. We sometimes see conversation as a duty.

Our prayers may fall under a similar spell of disillusionment. We might think of them as an obligation to be fulfilled (before forgotten). How starkly Paul’s words to the Philippians contrast with our deflated feelings toward prayer for others:

“I thank God for you every time I remember you…It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:3, 7-8

The obvious fondness displayed in these words is remarkable by any standards. All the more so, when you remember that Paul started out as Saul, persecutor of the Church of Jesus Christ. He stood by while Christians were stoned, and was proud to do so. Now, transformed from the inside out by the work of the Holy Spirit, he can barely contain his affection for other believers.

Paul was nothing if not “all in.” He saw his life as belonging to Christ. His personal ego long dead, he felt no embarrassment in declaring his love for groups of people, or even for other individual men (2 Timothy 1:3-4).

These strong declarations of loving affection cause me to question why are so different today? We are too cool and aloof to put our hearts out there like that. Men may declare their appreciation, regard and respect for one another, but we are hard pressed to say to one another, “I love you.” Our prayers are motivated by a sense of responsibility (not a bad thing). But what keeps us from our first love for one another? What barriers have we erected that hide the potential of deep emotional (there, I said it) connection with one another?

In speaking with an older saint the other day, as we reflected on the simple words “love is patient and kind,” I asked him why he thought we, the church of Christ, have such a hard time living them out. He answered that he thinks it is our “broken natures.” Since the Fall of Adam and Eve, people have gone their own way, seeking to be gods of their personal universes. In truth, we have a hard time letting our heart focus for long on the needs or admirable qualities of another person. And that outward focus is what is required to feel and express the affection of Christ for one another.

Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will shine a light into the dark recesses of our hearts, not for condemnation, but for healing. Let him show us our self-centeredness, so that we can lay it down and put it to death. As our eyes turn to him, let the scales fall away from our eyes so that we can see the beloved others around us. Seeing them, let us love them. Loving them, let us say so— out loud.

“I thank God whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.” 2 Timothy 1:3-4