“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10
By now many of us are very familiar with Shiloh’s mission statement: “Shiloh exists to make disciples who love God, love His church, and show His love to the world.”
Though this mission statement holds great promise for an effective life of love, its quite possible that it remains merely as a statement to be admired and affirmed as we nod our heads in agreement that this indeed is a good church motto. But how do we, as the people of God, practically take this off the letterhead and implement love intentionally? Is there a way that we can, by God’s grace, grow in this discipline of loving God and others?
This past week, I and a few other pastors and elders had the privilege of joining a network of wonderful people committed to seeing our city of Phoenix reached with the love of God. We discussed a plan for people to be intentionally discipled toward accomplishing this kingdom mission. I would love to share one of the insights I gleaned from that time, as it helps to answer this question: how can we love God and others in a simple yet profoundly practical way that moves it from a “magnet on your refrigerator” mission statement to a magnetic life of love’s demonstration?
They call it Bless Rhythms.
Using the acronym B.L.E.S.S, each letter contains a simple action that causes us to think about how we can practically love our neighbors on a regular basis.
Before diving into the acronym, it is imperative that this doesn’t merely become a formula where we can check off boxes of religious deeds for the week, but rather it springs from the truth that we are blessed to be a blessing. Identity always precedes action.
By first receiving the love of God, we can then be a conduit of love. As someone once said, “You can’t give what you don’t have.” As Christians who have received a new identity in Christ and as those who have been filled with His Spirit, we have within us the very love of God that has been poured out into our hearts (see Romans 5:5). From that place of being called children of God, we then can begin looking outward to see the daily opportunities to express His love in a way that becomes natural – even second nature – to us.
Here is the Bless Rhythm:
Put simply, this is thinking and praying about how we can bless someone else in either a small or great way on a regular basis. Ask the Lord how you can tangibly bless one of the following:
- A Christ follower
- An Unbeliever
- A stranger (someone not like you)
As you begin to develop and implement this mindset, you truly will experience that “It is more blessed to give than to receive!”
The next rhythm to develop is the important skill of listening, which is a tremendous blessing to those who need a listening ear. What are you hearing in the lives of people around you? What events are unfolding in your everyday life that need your attentive ear? Here are two areas in which to develop a listening ear.
- God: Our vertical relationship. What is He speaking through His Word, by His Spirit, through Creation or through circumstance?
- World/Culture/Others: Our horizontal relationships. What is happening in our culture that we need to be giving attention to for the sake of expressing love? Karl Barth suggests that we “take the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.” God is calling us to action, but we need to first listen and give attention to the issues.
This third rhythm is a fun one and it does include calories. Have you ever noticed that Jesus “ate His way” through the Gospels? He often shared a meal with his disciples or was found dining in the home of sinners. Eating with someone could range from having a cup of coffee (which you could then practice your Bless and your Listen) or by having a meal together in your home. On a regular basis, eat with the following:
- Stranger (someone not like you!) This could be someone from a different ethnic background, age group, or even personality type!
Ray Bakke has said that “we are not in the advice business… we are in the news business.” As Christ followers, we are compelled to share good news with others on a regular basis. God has spoken to us through His Son, and now, in turn, we are called to speak of His love and truth to others to give hope. On a regular basis look to communicate with:
- God: in prayer
- Christ followers: through words of encouragement
- Non believers: by sharing what Christ has done in your life
Developing the rhythm of speaking to others may feel uncomfortable at first, but the world is waiting for the answer to the hope that we have in Jesus.
Lastly, the Sabbath is the commandment of God to rest purposefully. When we do so, we display our trust in Him and not in ourselves. Our culture is filled with idolatry, which seeks to draw us away from our true source of life and love, and to pursue fulfillment in other things. God invites us into the heavenly rhythm of rest where we cease from our labors and find joy in worshiping together and experiencing the much needed rest and recreation that our lives need. “Whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.” The “all” includes rest and recreation which can all be an act of worship to God! So take time in your week to Sabbath in the two following areas:
- Resting: Seriously! You can get all of work accomplished in the other six days.
- Recreating: Find Kingdom joy in recreation! And if possible, do so with others!!
So begin this week by taking a little time to think through how you can intentionally “Love God, love His church, and show His love to the world!”