Category Archives: Uncategorized

Fruit That Will Last

Love

When Jesus was sharing his last meal with his disciples before his death, he gave them a new command: love one another.

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit―fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:16-17 (NIV))

Unlike the Greek language of Jesus’s day, the English language makes it hard to capture that command in a single word. We use “love” for many different kinds of affection, sometimes showing the deepest engagement of our hearts and sometimes just meaning we like something a lot.

The four words for “love” in the Koine Greek of Jesus’s day are phileo, storge, eros, and agape.
Phileo is the affection between good friends. It’s a give-and-take kind of love that grows out of companionship.
Storge is the natural affection for members of one’s own family. While it doesn’t have to be earned to start (it’s normal to love a newborn baby), it can be either strengthened or destroyed by the actions of the one we love.
Eros is the emotional involvement based on physical attraction. It’s a self-centered kind of love where one’s own pleasure is most important.

The love that Jesus commands is agape love, love that is unearned and unconditional. It’s not a natural emotion for one person to love another even when there is a good reason to dislike or even hate that person. Agape love is an act of will, not an emotion.

The quality of our love for our fellow believers, for people not especially our friends, for those who wish us harm―that speaks more loudly about our faith than anything we say.
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Gifted for Service

Holy Spirit dove

In an individualistic culture like the United States, it’s easy to slip into the habit of thinking about God only in terms of our personal relationship with Him.

There’s no doubt that’s important. When Jesus was talking with his disciples during their “private retreat” to Caesarea Philippi, he asked them two questions. The first was who did people say he was. After giving them a chance to answer, he zeroed in with the question of vital importance.

“Who do YOU say that I am?”

While our relationship with God depends on how we answer that very personal question, it doesn’t stop there.

We are a fellowship of sisters and brothers with the whole being much greater than the sum of the parts. The importance of the whole versus just the parts extends to the gifts of the Spirit.

While each gift of the Spirit is a personal blessing, that’s not their main purpose.
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Back to Basics

Bible study

Every so often, it’s good to go back and review the basics. We need to re-examine those underpinnings that we once learned but now unconsciously assume rather than thoughtfully consider. The end of one year and the beginning of the next can inspire us to do that. Perhaps that’s the best kind of New Year’s resolution we can make.

For a Christian, that can mean rereading the Gospels to see once more what Jesus said, how and to whom he said it, and what he did.

It’s funny how each time I read one of the Gospels, I discover something I never saw there before.
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Plans and a Future

Starting line

The end of 2016 is almost here. Time to think about the year just past. Time to plan for the year ahead.

When I look back over 2016, some decisions bring a wry smile. Some were surprises that I never expected. If someone had told me at the end of 2015 that I would have a business license by the end of 2016, I would have choked with laughter. The last thing I ever wanted to be was a small business owner.

But sometimes God calls us to do something, and to get that done means we have to learn new skills and step out into unknown territory. I feel His call to write novels about human conflict and difficult friendships that grow into love as characters discover their own faith in Christ. He’s also called me to use them to support orphans overseas. To keep the rights to the novels so we can do that in creative ways, I’ve had to become an independent publisher. That’s both exciting and more than a little scary.

But if God is calling us to the work, shouldn’t we be eager to do it?
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A Mother’s Son

manger

The first time I heard the Christmas song, Mary, Did You Know, my son was six months old. As the song played in the background, I sat in my bentwood rocker, feeding and cuddling my baby boy. As I gazed on his face, I wondered who this tiny human would be when he grew up. Would his life be happy or difficult? What talents had God given him? How would he use them?

I wanted to shield my son from whatever was hard to bear until he was strong enough and wise enough to carry the load. Mary must have felt the same about her baby boy two thousand years ago.
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Forgiving the Unforgivable

Forgiveness

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Matthew 18:21-22 (NIV)

Today I stand in awe of my brothers and sisters in Christ in Charleston, South Carolina. They have shown in the worst of circumstances what it is to live as Jesus taught.

The whole nation has been following the trial of Dylann Roof, who gunned down nine members of a Bible study group at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in July, 2015. One of the victims was Myra Thompson, who led the Bible study that evening.

Her husband, Rev. Anthony B. Thompson, is the vicar at Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church. Less than 48 hours after the shooting, the bond hearing for Roof was held. At that hearing, Rev. Thompson and four others whose family members had been killed said they forgave their murderer.

How many of us would be able to do that?
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Integrity and Honesty: Not Entirely the Same

Honesty

I worked for many years for a company that had annual employee training or, as the more cynical among us called it, annual attitude adjustment. Part of that training was a public statement and discussion of the core values of the company.

Among those values were honesty and integrity. The words describing the core values weren’t arranged into a catch-word, so it wasn’t just to find words with the right initial letters that these two were selected. They’re often listed as synonyms, but they don’t really mean the same thing.

So what is the difference between honesty and integrity and how do those relate to truth?
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Keeping Myself in Perspective

scrabble pride

If we take some time to think about it, each of us could identify something that we do well. Not just well, but better than most of the people we know. It might be something the world watches and cheers, like winning an Olympic gold medal. It might be something only one or two see, like taking a sickly plant and nursing it back to health for an anything-but-green-thumbed friend.

No matter how big or small, it feels good when someone notices how well we do something. It feels even better when they praise our efforts to people whose opinions we value.

Words of praise can make us work harder to develop our gifts, which can lead to even more praise. That’s good. People who achieve great things usually do so because they’ve poured their energy and emotions into developing a special talent.

Whatever our gift is, it’s good to work to make it better. It’s also important to remember it’s a gift, not something we created by our work alone.
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When Too Much of a Good Thing Becomes Bad

shopping crowd

This Thursday is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. It’s a national holiday that once was a time for gathering with family and friends to give God thanks for the good things in our lives and for His presence with us when things are not so good.

I’ve watched a sad thing happened over the last fifty years. The original focus on faith and family has been replaced by fixation on corporate profit. The “Black Friday” sales that used to start at 5:00 a.m. on Friday now start at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday. They drag employees, who often have no choice, away from family dinners even before the main course has settled enough to make room for dessert.

Business owners claim they open because the customer wants to shop on Thanksgiving Day. Perhaps many do. But waiting until Friday would let the retail workers have a day with family and friends, and the shoppers would still shop on Friday if none of the stores opened on Thanksgiving Day.

The whole process is a symptom of our times. Making money has become the only god for corporate America. Having more things has become the god for many people.

Trying to build up our own sense of worth has become the goal, and acquiring things is held up as the best way to do that. The advertisements in every media try to convince us that many things are “needs” instead of “wants” and that having them is the way to have greater worth.

We envy the “rich” because they have more than we do, but what do they really have more of?

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Post-Truth: the 2016 Word of the Year

open book

It’s a sad commentary on contemporary society that the Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year is an adjective defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” The term leaped from obscurity to common usage since late 2015 due to the news coverage of Brexit in the UK and the US elections.

The problem isn’t new, even if the word is. King Solomon wrote about it almost 3000 years ago.

A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions. (Proverbs 18:2, NIV)

When I was in my early thirties, a friend told me I was opinionated. She meant it as an insult. I quipped, “If you’ve ever actually thought about something, you’ll have an opinion.” Not the most gracious reply, but true.

But thinking about something isn’t enough if we don’t base that thinking on the facts of the matter and not just the emotion of the moment.
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