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STEPHANIE FORMENTI | GUEST There is something special and even powerful about old things made new again. Perhaps this is why millions of viewers regularly follow various home makeover shows on HGTV. It is mesmerizing to watch an old, broken, and dilapidated building transform into a shiny and beautiful new home. It is thrilling to celebrate the character of old wood, stone, and brick alongside new plumbing and electricity. The gospel of John is full of similar beauty. John consistently points his reader to consider how the coming of Jesus transforms old into new. From the opening words, “In the beginning,” John invites us to consider Jesus’ work and ministry as one of new creation. We see the same beauty and emphasis of old things being made new in the Upper Room Discourse when Jesus turns the conversation to love. In John 13:34-35 Jesus says: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Any reader of Scripture would pause for a second. How is the command to love one another new? In fact, isn’t it as old as the law itself? After all, we find these words in Leviticus 19:18 “you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Love for others has always been at the heart of God. It is woven throughout the law and the prophets and Jesus himself regularly summarized the law as love for God and others (Matthew 22:36-40). Loving others does not seem like a new thing. In fact, it seems rather old.
MARISSA BONDURANT | GUEST She stood next to me one Sunday with tears streaming down her cheeks. Without looking at her, I gave her arm a squeeze. Both our faces were up; both of us were singing loudly. But I was singing of God’s faithfulness with a new baby strapped to my body, and she was singing of God’s faithfulness with the stinging news of another failed IVF treatment. In my heart I wondered, “How is my friend doing it? If I were in her shoes, there is no way I’d be able to sing to the Lord this morning.” Suffering Well Have you ever had a similar thought? Have you ever watched a fellow believer suffer well and wondered how she did it? It might help to define “suffering well.” To suffer well is to suffer like Jesus. To acknowledge the real pain and sorrow of the experience, while simultaneously holding on to the hope that the pain will not last forever. Before he went to the cross, Jesus was honest with his Father about his pain – asking God to “let this cup pass from me” (Matt 26:39). Then his prayer moved directly into hope and trust, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matt 26:39). My friend who sang praises to the Lord in the middle of heartache was not ignoring her pain. She was pleading with God to make her a mom, but she also held onto God’s promise to make beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). Perhaps hardest of all, she trusted that God’s version of beauty would be better than any version she could imagine.
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TARA GIBBS|GUEST “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn.13:34-35). Good news: If you have read your Bible much before today, you can skip today’s devotional. You probably already know the foundational role of love in our Christian lives. Perhaps you have it on a t-shirt or a mug. It’s woven throughout the story of Scripture. It’s found in Leviticus, “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD,” (Lev. 19:18). It’s found in the teaching of Jesus when he asserts that all the law and the prophets hang on loving God and loving our neighbor (Mt. 22:40). It’s in 1 John 4:8, “He who does not love, does not know God.” As a matter of fact, this is such a basic truth, Jesus says the whole world will be able to identify us by the extraordinary love we show to one another. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples…” Anyone in the world who has access to Christ’s people can testify to “love” being the first adjective that comes to mind when describing them, right? “Wait just a second,” you say. You and I both know this is not always the case.
KATIE POLSKI | CONTRIBUTOR One of my favorite childhood books is, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” The brilliant little story depicts the daily frustrations that create a terrible, horrible day for a child: gum in the hair, dropping a sweater in the sink, tripping over a skateboard, and all the no good, very bad things in between. My freshman year in college I had a knee injury that required me to travel home for surgery. The day I returned to campus, I hobbled around on crutches sporting a massive brace on my leg. I also returned to campus the day after an ice storm, so hobbling outside became more like sliding. On crutches. With a knee brace. Super fun. I also returned to campus to find that the elevator in my dorm building was broken. I then discovered that not only would I be required to limp down four flights of stairs to get out of my dorm, but I’d need to stumble down two additional flights to get to my music classes. Because those elevators were not working either. That day I returned to campus was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.