Monday, February 28, 2011

Hell's Bells and and the Curse of the Irish: ammended

Redeemer has been going through Revelation and is actually now, finally sniffing the very end of the story of redemption. Our most recent passage and its sermon focus on the victory of Jesus in triumphal judgment, punishing the wicked by subjecting them all to a fiery place of torment. The Beast of the Sea (earthly governments) and The Beast of the Earth (false religions) may seem to triumph now, but the opposite will some day be their fate. Still today, it does seem the Beast of the Earth is plenty active here in America.

It's certainly an apropos sermon in light of a new book out by a controversial, but very popular pastor Rob Bell on Hell called Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the fate of everyone who ever lived, where he allegedly questions whether Hell will have any folks in it. Apparently God's love is too great; this was the same thing my bible teacher tried to make us believe at Jesuit High School. By God's grace it didn't seem consistent with God then, and it still doesn't now.

Not that everything Bell has written is to be tossed, but we ought to be aware of some new stuff that appears to give folks a picture of Hell they've always wanted. Don't worry about it!

I'll check out his book in time, so for now, I'll just point to the spirit of a "judgmentless" Christ which folks really like fine quite unoffensive.

However, John Dominic Crossan's theology seems to me a super clear picture of someone in line with the Beast of the Earth. While Bell questions some important doctrine, the Irishmen Crossan goes a lot farther, denying the resurrection, and even the need for forgiveness. Check out this article to see someone who has one foot in academia but who tries to bring his message to the masses. CNN does a great job in being "fair and balanced" by not elevating Crossan as a hero or martyr, but also including another point of view from conservative New Testament scholar Ben Witherington.

Here a few snippets from that article and my takes:

"If you believe in a God that uses violence to "save" humanity, you'll start believing that violence is permissible in certain circumstances, such as suicide bombing or invading other countries to spread democracy, Crossan says."

The message of the cross and Revelation is just the opposite. God will be the one to finally bring justice. He paid for the sins of believers so we don't need to judge others. And he will make people who don't trust Jesus pay for their sins in Hell. Therefore we don't need to revolt, nor do we need to pass laws which put sinners to death. Unfortunately Crossan is right in that Christianity has been used as the motivation to invade and spread democracy. But that has been a misinterpretation and misapplication of the cross.

"When we started out, people thought we were out on the left wing," he says. "Now, I'm talking in about 30 churches a year. ... A lot of this is becoming mainstream."

Wow. Not good. Looks like Crossan and the Doobie Brothers are truly "taking it to the streets."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Demons and flu season

The other day I found myself watching a special on Hell on the History channel. On most History channel shows, or specials on other channels, they almost always draw from the same pool. Elaine Pagels, known for her expertise on the gnostic gospels, usually swims in such pools. With the exception of the deeply southern, southern Baptist 4th generation preacher, the other "scholars" (some looked a bit too young to be too scholarly) most seemed to adopt Pagel's condescending attitude that the bible is simply an ancient text which tries to explain everything away by demonology. 

Of course, if you can look at the bible intellectually as an ancient irrelevant text, it makes it a ton easier to ignore the personal claims Christ makes on all mankind. 

But there is a problem with Elaine's accusation; it's just don't find it accurate. Demons gave people some "fits," in the N.T., but the gospel writers don't blame everything on demons.

Matthew's worldview included the presence and oppressive activity of demons, but certainly did not connect evil "evil" with demonic influence. Chapter 8 gives us a rather balanced picture of demons and just good old fashioned sickness. The Roman centurion is in need of Jesus to heal his daughter. So Jesus says OK, and simply states "be healed." There were no demons to get rid of. Then in the next verse (8:14), Jesus visits Peter's mother-in-law who had a fever. Not a demon induced fever, but simply a fever. He touches her and she's good to go. No demonic activity recorded in either case.

Then the demons come out.

"Matthew 8:16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick."

Yes, Jesus did toss out many a demon who oppressed folks. But he also healed those who were sick, and it seems like there's a distinction made here.

I think the gospel writers have a clearer picture of demons than we do. They didn't blame their flu season solely on demons and we shouldn't either. But they also didn't ignore the fact that there is still a spiritual battle going on, which we often forget. Perhaps the fierceness of the battle or oppression is depends upon geography and gospel breakthrough, but it is nevertheless real (and at times can get physical as it did with Job). 

Just a good reminder that both extremes seem to miss the properly balanced biblical worldview.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Stuff your sorry's in a sack?

Many moons ago, during Seinfeld's infamous chronologically backwards episode, George blurted out the expression, "You can stick your sorry's in a sack." It wasn't an expression then, at which time he was chided, and it never really caught on. But sometimes, "sticking our sorry's in a sack" is actually more loving than saying "sorry" during those times, albeit rare, when it really isn't our fault.
Much of church leadership, probably due to a lack of deep belief in the gospel, fails to apologize when necessary. But at times, I've found myself, actually apologizing on those rare occasions when its not totally my fault. Why?

Again, let me state that the pastor should be the lead repenter in the church and the guys the lead repenters in their homes. But at other times, when the fault lies very clearly with another, we should stick our sorry's in a sack.

Here's a few reasons why its so important.

1.) Truthful and Loving. If it is not truly your fault, and you had no part to play, then the offender needs to have the opportunity to confess. It's not very loving to him/her if you don't afford him such opportunity. Few issues are black and white, and often what is necessary is for both parties to confess. But if you confess that it is entirely your fault (when it isn't), then you are neither being truthful or loving.

2.) Self-Protection. We have all kinds of ways to protect ourselves from getting hurt. All kinds. One way to protect yourself from a harsh reaction when someone else is in the wrong, (or mostly in the wrong), is to take complete blame. This isn't a problem simply for the co-dependents out there. While this complete apology approach actually disarms the offender, and makes him or her a bit more civil, it is often done simply out of self-protection. You can easily avoid a necessary argument (which often leaves one uncomfortable) or discussion by simply taking all the blame. It seems like a humble posture, but it often is a form of dishonest manipulation to protect oneself from getting hurt in an argument or disagreement.

Don't stop saying sorry, but simply examine why you do so.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mission Shift Essay #3 and Geoff Henderson Response

This is my final post in the MissionShift series: "takes" on the book of the same name, which comprises 3 main essays, and a plethora of responses.

Ralph Winter, a dear brother in Christ (not to me, but I'm sure to plenty of folks), who is now with the Lord, contributed the third main essay in the book titled "The Future of Evangelical Mission." Like the other essays, he wisely chronicled the history of missions in the last several centuries in order to offer a critique of how to move forward in the 21st century.

While I did find the terms First Inheritance Evangelicalism and Second Evangelicalism a bit confusing, Winter at the least, reminds us that many folks after 1700 were committed to the proclamation of the gospel as well as numerous social reforms, eradication of diseases, and concern for higher education. Some critique his break-up into such terms as overly simplistic. But because this was ultimately a didactic tool to remind us that evangelicals once truly concerned themselves which such "kingdom issues, I had no problem with this reductionism.

Ultimately, I find Winter wise to aim evangelicals today to concern themselves with what he calls "defeating the works of the devil." And in the responses from the rest of the responders, what I'm picking up from them is a disagreement on primacy. So is there a primacy to defeating the works of the devil or a primacy to proclamation of the gospel?

Here are a few thoughts:

1.) Location, Location, Location: Most of us write about these issues from nice cushy lifestyles without experiencing the reality of Malaria, AIDS, or other prominent socially debilitating diseases or oppressive structures. As a result, we tend to think, proclamation AND then be concerned about the other stuff, which isn't as eternally "important." But were we placed in such living conditions, and had literal concerns for clean water, would we not see both proclamation and social activity as being necessarily concurrent? I think so. Our location tends to affect more than our reading of Revelation (Americans read it mostly in a future sense b/c we don't see the battle as heated on Earth now as many of our brothers/sisters in other countries), but our missiology as well.

2) Winter's states his desire that missionaries one day will not have to hide their "real purpose," but that their "Real purpose will be to identify and destroy all forms of evil, both human and microbiological, and will thus be explainable without religious jargon." I like this goal, as it includes both proclamation and social transformation taking place at the same time. The extent to which such "works of the devil" will be eradicated before Jesus returns is as debatable as politics, but I think this lofty goal comes from Jesus' own life. Yet the real and more relevant question regards primacy. Few folks question this goal. But shouldn't we convert folks, start churches, and then let those churches decide what to do? Or shouldn't individuals who feel convicted, not simply the church as church (a question that D.A. Carson raises in Christ and Culture: Revisited), decide how they want to attack such issues?

3.) Same time. Again, from the life of Jesus, and the Spirit of Jesus in James 1:27: "looking after widows and orphans in distress" we have plenty of good examples of how to relate to the world in word and deed. James doesn't want us to simply preach the gospel to those in distress but to take care of those in distress. If that means working toward the eradication of disease, doing relief or development, then we shouldn't necessarily do one before the other, but the same time.

4.) I don't totally agree with Winter's necessary result, or even completely, his purpose of "defeating the works of Satan." The gospel will be given greater credibility for sure if we can through the works of missionaries, teamed with scientists, end Malaria. But we need to be careful about the assumption of such ends. Jesus says folks will see our "good works" and glorify God. And Jesus fed the 5000 because he wanted to show love. And his miracles, as did those of the apostles done in his name, validated the message. But they did not prove his message and immediately cause conversion.

When Lazarus was raised from the grave, some Jews believed in Him, but others didn't and instead told the Pharisees, who in turn wanted to kill Jesus. (John 11). It validated the message and messenger; some believed Him while others sought there was enough substance to him and his message that they needed to eliminate him. Again, when Paul told the crippled man to walk, while he "continued to preach the gospel"-I might add-in Lystra, people thought he was Hermes and Barnabas was Zeus (Acts 14). Defeating the works of Satan did not necessarily lead to conversion.
Whether it is what we call a miraculous cure or scientific cure, this Kingdom work will never by itself produce conversions. It never has and never will. But such Kingdom work does validate the messenger and message by revealing a real love for neighbor as well as presenting a God who cares about us even now, not just our eternal state. And it does open the door for conversation, particularly amidst rational, racial, socio-economic barriers (or just plain years of animosity against Christianity) which often preclude serious dialog.

In the end, I do hope that evangelical missions has an eye to concurrent proclamation and deed. Not because it will necessarily produce the most "salvations," but because it is most biblically faithful to our Savior and Master and Commander, Jesus.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Should Vick have talked with POprah?

Micheal Vick was scheduled to be interviewed by Oprah later this month. But this week he decided to cancel that appearance, reportedly being encouraged to do so by his team the Philadelphia Eagles.

Was this cancellation really a good idea for Vick? Perhaps the other guests, which would have been pro-dog and anti-forgiveness for sure, could have made things quite uncomfortable for Mr. Vick. But it all would depend upon which side Oprah took. If she were to say that Vick needed to continue to atone for his sins, or could never atone for his sins, then that would not be good for Michael. However, if she were to say that he served his time and people need to stop "hating on" him, and pronounce him "forgiven," he would be in the clear.

Oprah has been called the "high priestess of American spirituality." I would also call her a sort of pope; she has that kind of power. If she declares you absolved from your sins, you're good to go. If that was not her decision, then Vick did the right thing and should stay away. 

Unfortunately Oprah (although sometimes she uses her power for communal good) has a sort of a functional papal power. So much so that you could even call her "POprah." I would at least know who you were talking about.

Fortunately there is one who can declare us absolved from sin, regardless of popular or personal opinion. He has the right to do this not by an assent to power, but by his descent from power to the lowly place of the cross (Phil 2:6-8). Then God the Father raised Him up, so that at His name, everyone should bow and confess He is Lord (2:9-11). No need for any sort of pope, functional or actual. Jesus gets the final vote.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Why did the disciples follow Jesus?

Most people have no problem with Jesus choosing His disciples. That doesn't seem to conflict with the desire to remain somewhat autonomous, having God not trample all over their free will. After all, the disciples could have decided not to follow Him, right? 

Well the Calvinist is going to say, no because God truly "called" them (all but one) before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). Yet he would not deny that the disciples also chose to follow Him, as they, and we, aren't robots. What I would argue for is the primacy and enabling of God's choosing. God chooses first, regenerates our hearts, and then we gladly and freely choose. This is called "effectual calling" and is explained clearly with the lyrics in the hymn "Love Constraining to Obedience:" now freely chosen in the Son, I now freely choose His ways.

The Arminian is going to say, Jesus chose His disciples (that can't be argued), but that they still had the freedom to choose; there was no necessary effectual work of the Spirit required. God won't make anyone love or follow Him.

However, as I'm reading through Matthew, you have to wonder how in the world the disciples actually followed Jesus, especially given how much they really did know about whom they would leave their livelihoods. It is clear, even after the cross, the disciples didn't really "get it." That was of course the case until the Spirit had been given to dwell in them to teach them the things they didn't understand (John 14:26).

But in reading the gospels, you see all kinds of glimpses into the hearts of the disciples which deal with this question: who in the world are we following? Check this one out, which takes place after Jesus calms the ominous storm.

And the men marveled, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?"-Matthew 8:27

They believed Jesus was somebody, but who they believed Jesus to be at the very beginning of His ministry is anyone's guess. Even after he performed miracles, they still didn't really know who this guy was. They knew he was special, and Peter seems to have a decent grasp in Matthew 16 and John 6, but at this point in their spiritual journey, they obviously didn't realize he could control even the weather.

Why in the world did they follow him, for whom they knew so little about? Because they weren't just called in the 20's AD, but before the foundation of the world. That's my guess.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


This weekend Amy and I saw a Dateline special that actually kept both of us awake for its duration called "Inconceivable." It had no relation to the misuse of the term in The Princess Bride, however. No this was truly an amazing AND heartbreaking story.

A family decided to go the in-vitro route and stored a number of embryos. On their first try, they were blessed with a healthy baby girl. On their next try, they were "blessed" with a baby boy, only it wasn't their baby boy. The doctor put the "wrong" embryo inside her and so they were carrying another couple's baby. 

Here are some of my thoughts on this unique turn of events.

1.) Regardless of the ethical questions of in-vitro fertilization, I was impressed by the families automatic response: we had NO thoughts of termination. She could have simply refused hormone therapy each week, along with the weekly ultra-sounds, and the child could have easily been lost. But life was to be protected at all costs, even at the physical and emotional (the worse of the two for sure) cost.

2.) Love. What a great example of love, an application of "not looking only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil 2). To suffer so that another person would get joy. I can't imagine suffering through a pregnancy, particularly an uncomfortable one. But in the end, you get a baby out of it. In this end, someone else got a baby out of your suffering. That's love.

3.) Pain. How painful must it have been to see a child, a child which the couple expressed a desire to keep and raise, and then give him away just moments after giving birth. Our heart broke as we watched this drama unfold. The pain of pregnancy and labor seemed to pale in comparison to the pain of giving away "your" child. 

4.) Adoption. It did sadden me though how adoption never seemed like an option. The couple tried several times through a surrogate to have one last child (which would have made #4), but each pregnancy failed. Why would they be so content to keep the child from her own womb (which was really someone else's DNA) and yet not adopt? I guess its beyond the rational realm when it comes to pregnancy, delivery, and actually seeing the baby for the first time. The movie The Waitress does a good job of capturing this immediate love.

But just spending time with my brother's son Ben Jr. this past week, Connar's beloved cousin, just reminds me how thankful I am for the couples who have chosen this route. That is not a slight to those who have never adopted, or who now choose not to adopt (we're still uncertain), but simply a thanksgiving for those who have adopted. When it comes to God's adopting love for His children, I think, and this is just conjecture, adopting parents have a deeper existential knowledge of such love than biological parents.

A truly crazy story. I do hope that both the birth mother, who ironically is not the biological mother, feels God's pleasure on her (obviously I think they were believers) and that He continues the healing process. I hope that as she sees Logan grow up, she'll feel God smile over her and that both mothers will be blessed.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Thoughts on recent Valentines Visitation

This Sunday our CD (Community/Discipleship) group hit up the Putnam Rehabilitation center to distribute Valentines Day cards our kids had made at our last meeting. Most of the residents were in the 80's, and were recovering from a variety of different ailments: from broken legs to Pneumonia. 
It was a spiritually formative and great experience so I felt it helpful to put some thoughts down on "paper." Here are some takes from that experience.

1.) Regardless what you study with your CD group, bible study, small group (or whatever you want to call it), it is a necessity that you apply the gospel when you leave. Not just personal application in your own heart and head (where most bible study groups stop), but with your hands. A bible study which simply meets, and its members do nothing but study the bible, without any application to the needy around them, truly miss the heart of God. If we seek to know a God describes Himself as a God to the fatherless and widow (Psalm 68:5), orphan, and broken, and don't ever find ourselves around such folks, then who we are seeking and studying is not the God of bible. Religious activity like fasting (Isa 58), or in our day bible study/going to church, is not real religion if we don't also move toward those in need around us. James actually calls such activity, not "real religion" (1:27) and Jesus, following the spirit of Isaiah-since He in essence wrote it-goes even further and says, "I never knew workers of lawlessness." So out of God's gracious mercy toward His family, He enables, empowers, motivates, and calls us to lay down our lives for others inside and outside the Church. Not in a way that attempts to earn His favor, but simply in a way that displays His favor toward us.

2.) Most of us had a good time and were blessed taking our kids with us into the nursing home (though technically this was a rehab center). There is something so special about the opportunity to use the blessing of a family, and blessing of a small group, to bless others. Hearing your little ones say, "Happy Valentines Day" is priceless, as is the opportunity to pray and visit people who have need of visitors.

3.) Time commitment in such an environment is really quite minimal. We spent 40 minutes or less, walking from room to room, handing out cards, chatting, and praying with some. What small commitment for us was a HUGE benefit to them. 

4.) Koinonia, the word translated "fellowship" as well as "participation" in the N.T., means more than just chatting over cookies and coffee. That is part of it for sure, but not all of it. I felt a deeper sense of fellowship and connection to Christ and to His body as we served alongside of one another. We got to chat in the parking lot before and after, but we were fellowshipping the whole time.

5.) Nursing homes are not my favorite place to serve. They might not crack the top 3. At times I enjoyed it, and at times I didn't. Amy wants to go back weekly with the boys. I'm content to make it more monthly. Some would probably rather make it yearly. Nevertheless, our theology, as well as the very gospel itself, is our true motivation to be uncomfortable so that others can find some comfort. In addition, we comfort others with the comfort which we've been comforted (II Cor 1:4).

6.) Those of us who served and didn't enjoy it as much as their children, need not feel guilty. There are many ways to serve others around us. It is good to be stretched out of our comfort zones, and let Jesus become our comfort. But it is also fair to realize that different people have different gifts, and different folks will enjoy different opportunities on varying levels. If you can find an opportunity where you can serve AND enjoy, that's a confirmation you're in the right place. If you can't find one that matches up, then serve alongside others, your family (my joy increased with Connar's joy), or small group and you'll find a deeper fellowship than you've known before. It will be worth it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Saturday Night Prayers and Egyptian requests

I used to have a very structured prayer schedule time in the morning, though it's been harder to keep as my pastoral responsibilities have changed and included more and different people for whom I pray, and for whom I need to pray. So I'm still in the process of discerning a new schedule, which at this point, seems absolutely necessary. 

"The Wifely Prayers" acronym for Amy has helped guide me in the morning, though I have to admit I'm trying to be more intentional with those now as I do forget it more than I like. But the evening time with Amy has run according to that prayer schedule for some time now. So on Saturday nights, we pray for the worship at Redeemer (for us, for members/regular attenders, and non-believers), but also the persecuted church and foreign Christians. 

This can be hard for me sometimes, because I like to have something tangible or specific to pray for. Current events on the news can be helpful, but there is no better source than Christians in these respective countries. 

So this Saturday, I'll have some more helpful info on how to pray specifically our Egyptian brothers and sisters, and the country in general. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Twitter, the Media, and Third Use of the Law

A friend and former colleague/pastor of mine, Randy Greenwald of Covenant Presbyterian in Orlando sent me a fascinating article from the Orlando Sentinel about athletes and twittering. This article, which is well worth reading, came out just after Jay Cutler seriously injured, or slightly injured (depending upon whether you believe athlete or media) his knee in the NFC Championship game against the Packers. 

I never really cared for the writer Mike Bianci on sports talk because he always blasted the Bucs, who were quite easy to blast after winning the Super Bowl my first year in seminary but went down the drain my final two years. 

But his take on twittering and media is spot on. Here it is. For a number of years, athletes thought they needed protection from the media. It was the media, they figured, who would turn people against them, who would make them look evil or dumb. But in reality it was the media protecting them from themselves. Now their every typo, their every cuss word, their every stupid and immediate thought goes public. Sometimes these athletes don't even have the facts straight about themselves.

Jones-Drew later tweeted later: "All I'm saying is that he (Cutler) can finish the game on a hurt knee … I played the whole season on one." Talk about not getting your facts straight. Actually, Jones-Drew missed the final two games of the season — two very important games when the Jags were fighting for a playoff berth — with a knee injury.

They've now actually lost the protection of media who really did make them look smarter and more decent than many actually were. Bianci writes

Now athletes on iPhones are sending out tweets without the common sense to edit themselves. Fuelled by their massive egos, they have become addicted to instantaneously dispersing their every thought — no matter how inane or profane — on Twitter. The real and responsible media would never even consider snapping a cell phone picture of a naked player in the locker room and transmitting it into cyberspace.

One way of looking at God's commands is to look at them in the way that athletes view the media: as something which suppresses, not which guides and directs and helps protect us from ourselves. We often forget that God knows us better than ourselves (even beyond just knowing facts about us like the media) and His law can do more than just reveal our sin and drive us to Christ. It is also there to protect us from ourselves, our own stupidity, rash impulsiveness, and desire to immediately self promote. Provided that God's law has driven you to Jesus, and you rest in the gospel, God's commands do serve as a helpful guide for moral living. Through the power of the Spirit, the law can be something which protects you from saying or doing things which you will soon regret. 

Of course you will still fail. So it's necessary to remember that the Christian is justified not by his/her performance of the law but by Jesus' performance of the law. So the law, provided you don't trust in your performance, can and should be something helpful for the Christian.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What a Meche!

One unique aspect of the NFL is that there are no guaranteed contracts as in baseball and basketball. In football, if a big name player signs for big time money and just flops or gets hurt, no problem. The team, or owners rather, simply let them go, and simply have an injury settlement (half the contract for that year) and whatever is left of the signing bonus. But in basketball and baseball, it is completely different. Contracts are guaranteed and that's why the Tampa Bay Rays had to stick it out with Pat Burrell and the Orlando Magic had to pay Grant Hill a huge amount of money despite the fact he was hurt all the time.

That is unless the player decides to retire before "stealing' money from the team. Check out this article about the now former Kansas City Royals "star" pitcher Gil Meche. He is claiming that he basically stole money from the team last year by not being performing well or even often, due to injury and probably injury caused ineffectiveness. Most players, and I think you could argue that they do have a right to such things (if they are hurt on the job, doesn't seem much different than workers comp), would show up to spring training and collect a paycheck for a maligned season. 

But Meche believed that to be an unethical decision for him to make. He didn't take advantage of his "right" as many others before him, because he was paid well to perform well. He reasoned that since he didn't do the latter, so he shouldn't get the former.

This is almost unheard of. So what motivated Meche? Other then a clear sense in his mind of right and wrong, and the fact he didn't believe his shoulder could hold up, he wanted to spend time with his daughters. Sadly he's divorced (no surprise as players are gone so much over a 162 game season), and so plans on flying to see his kids.

There's no mention of Jesus in the article, though that doesn't mean necessarily tell us anything (you can edit that stuff out if you want). But in this ME-centered world where true morality is as hard to locate and land on as an electron, it is refreshing to see something like this.

Calvinists believe in something called Total Depravity, where people are so hardened and enamored with sin it takes the Spirit's work of regeneration for them to trust in and follow Jesus (John 6:32-69). But there is a difference between Total Depravity and Utter Depravity. Utter Depravity means that we are as bad as we could possibly be. Scripture explains we're still made in the image of God (Gen 9:6), and our own experience confirms that truth when we meet unbelieving and yet unbelievably nice folks. We know that dudes can do very moral and counter-cultural things like this. But this one really blows my mind and goes against class 5 cultural rapids.

While people need a saving work of the Spirit to be able to trust and follow Jesus, we should still be reminded that unbelievers can, and should, challenge our own love for our Savior: love which daily chooses right over wrong, and discerns between good and best (Phil 1:9-11).