John 13: A New Commandment to Love One Another

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.

John 13: A New Commandment to Love One Another2022-05-04T00:43:06+00:00

John 13: As I Have Done to You

KATHERINE ASHBAUGH | GUEST The Feast of the Passover has arrived, and Jesus knows his hour has finally come. Having loved his own in the world, he will love them to the end. We enter the scene of John 13, where Jesus and his disciples are enjoying a last meal together. Celebration abounds, friendship and feasting too. Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, is present, as are the rest of Jesus’ faithful disciples— the men he has allowed to walk and watch his ways. Men, who have been fed by the Bread of Life, with fish and loaves and with words powerful to save, strengthen, and encourage. Men, who have witnessed and performed miracles in his name, bodies healed, and sins forgiven. Men, who have confessed, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-9). And Jesus is present at the meal. The Lamb of God. As the action begins, we learn that Jesus knows his Father had given him all things, and so with purpose he rises and moves towards each disciple, tenderly washing their feet. One after another, first the washing and then the drying, with a towel wrapped around his waist. The process is physical, messy and wet, refreshing and warm, and utterly confusing, as Peter makes clear when his turn arrives. “Lord, do you wash my feet?” (John 13:6). “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me,” Jesus replies (John 13:8), so in characteristic form, Peter enthusiastically requests a full washing, his hands and head as well.

John 13: As I Have Done to You2022-05-04T00:45:25+00:00

The Resurrection: A Return on Investment

CHRISTINE GORDON|GUEST If you happen to be an investor, 2020 was a scary year. March sent millions into a panic as the stock market took a huge dive in reaction to the first wave of COVID-19 on US soil. Unlike risky monetary investments, Jesus directs us in the gospel of Luke to an investment that has no risk and a guaranteed payoff at the resurrection.  We’re not told the particularities of what our reward might be. But imagine how the maker of the sunset, sea animals, and sesame seeds might reward you. I would guess it will be more satisfying and delightful than any list we might make or parameters we could define. God wants to offer us rewards for making certain choices and putting our energy toward specific people while living here on earth. What actions bring such pleasure to the heart of Jesus that he would promise a reward for doing them? Honor Those Who Cannot Repay Jesus’s words to a Pharisee who invited him for a meal are helpful to us: Then Jesus said to the man who had invited Him, “When you host a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or brothers or relatives or rich neighbors. Otherwise, they may invite you in return, and you will be repaid. But when you host a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind, and you will be blessed. Since they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” (Luke 14:12b-14) Jesus told the man who invited him what really makes God happy: giving honor to those who can’t possibly repay it. Give it away, in big spoonfuls— in buckets, even. Give to those who have absolutely no way of returning in kind. Because that’s what God has done for you. Dignify them not only with a meal, but with your presence. Table fellowship was all about status in Jesus’s day. Sharing a meal signified acceptance, and even equal social capital. Jesus is directing this likely rich and powerful Pharisee to open his home to those who would never usually make it onto the guest list, because they weren’t in his same social circle. He is not shaming them for inviting friends; he is simply encouraging them to also invite the outcasts, the poor, and anyone who has no status.  But why?  Because those are the kinds of people God loves to love lavishly— the needy. He knows they cannot pay...

The Resurrection: A Return on Investment2022-05-04T23:14:12+00:00

We Are His: The Great Love of Christ

SHARON ROCKWELL|GUEST The phrase “be my Valentine” conjures up so many different images associated with the celebration of Valentine’s Day: cards with hearts and sugary poems on them, candy and flowers from someone you love, and images of cupids flying around shooting their arrows of affection for their sweethearts. February 14th is represented as the holiday of love, at least by the card and candy companies! A Legend of Love According to tradition, Valentine was a priest in Rome in the third century. At that time Rome was having difficulty getting soldiers to join the military because their spouses objected to them leaving their families. Marriages were therefore outlawed. Valentine defied the government by conducting weddings, but when discovered, was put in jail. One legend has it that Valentine ministered during his jail time. He witnessed to the guards, one of whom had an adopted daughter who was blind. As the story goes, Valentine prayed for the girl and she subsequently regained her sight. The emperor ordered Valentine beheaded, but in his last days, Valentine left a note for the young girl which he signed “from your Valentine.” Valentine was made a saint by the Roman church after his death. By the 18th century, it became popular for those in love to exchange tokens of affection “from their Valentine.” You would think the hearts and flowers of the holiday would turn our heads toward thoughts of love and marriage, but it often has the opposite effect. Those who do not receive some tangible, even expensive, gift may feel disappointed. Those who are single may feel left out. The beauty of love is reduced to a need to receive physical evidence that someone truly cares for us. A Love that Calls Us His Own Christians need to keep a close eye on our feelings during this holiday. Without proper perspective, this holiday can become idolatrous. We are the church, the bride of Christ. Married or single, in love or hopeful, Christ calls believers His bride. We are His...

We Are His: The Great Love of Christ2022-05-04T23:09:46+00:00

Offering the Lastfruits

LEAH FARISH|GUEST Some New Year’s Eves, I have felt a frisson of nervousness as I readied for a party or fellowship event—did I forget to pay a bill that needed postmarking this year? Take all my tax deductions? Meet an annual work deadline? Prepare the kids and babysitter, whom I wouldn’t see till “next year”? This Eve will be a quieter one. But are there any missed opportunities or duties? Oh, yes, this year there was the vacation cancelled, rescheduled, cancelled again, the celebration delayed or job lost, the relationships starved of physical touch. Many things were not accomplished, but I improvised, regrouped, made do. Is there anything more I can do before 2020 is, thankfully, behind me? I often think of Richard Wilbur’s poem called “Year’s End,” where he broods on unfinished business, examining how an ancient disaster in Pompeii “found the people incomplete, the loose unready eyes/ Of men expecting yet another sun/ To do the shapely thing they had not done./ These sudden ends of time must give us pause./ We fray into the future, rarely wrought/ Save in the tapestries of afterthought./ More time, more time….” The prophet Abraham was given an opportunity late in his time on earth: he was challenged to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham didn’t just love his son, and didn’t just see him as a miraculously-provided boy, but probably also saw him as a last chance—at engendering and raising a son for establishing the covenanted legacy that Jehovah had promised. Last chances are always so poignant. So Abraham’s was a special offering—of lastfruits, as my husband calls it. We are familiar with offering firstfruits, described in verses such as Exodus 23:19, Leviticus 23:9, and Deut. 26:1 (not a bad devotional for January 1st). In Exodus 22:29, God even says “The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me.” Abraham had had Ishmael, but that son, conceived with a concubine, was not the sacrifice God requested. He wanted the lastfruits—“the shapely thing that Abraham had not done,” as Richard Wilbur might say. What should be the lastfruits of this year?...

Offering the Lastfruits2022-05-04T23:44:30+00:00

Love One Another Through Hospitality

It may surprise those who know me to learn that showing hospitality by welcoming others into my home has not always been a joy. When I was a young bride, my heart did not always join in with the ‘welcoming’ aspect of hospitality as I raced through preparations in a panic. Fellowship may have been at the top of my motives for having company for dinner, but running close behind that goal were insecurity, perfectionism, and the desire to impress. I gave so much effort to planning, cooking, and presenting the perfect menu—with babies and toddlers in tow—that by the time our company arrived I was too wrung-out to enjoy our guests. There are whole evenings and conversations that I cannot remember, other than the stress leading up to them. So why have company at all? Why jump through the hoops if I’m only going to end with a messy kitchen, a mild headache, and no appreciable memory of the evening? Because the Bible tells me to. A Fellowship of Love Well, not exactly. What the Bible tells me has nothing to do with anxiety and the charade driven by insecurity, perfectionism, and the desire to impress others. What the Bible tells me is to welcome others joyfully. Why? Because I have been welcomed into the blessed fellowship of God himself through his Son Jesus Christ...

Love One Another Through Hospitality2022-05-07T22:30:31+00:00

What is Real Love Anyway?

As a little girl, I always dreamed of the perfect man that I would someday marry. I mean, what girl doesn’t do that? It started out as me thinking it would be so fun to play house with someone who was like my daddy. Loving, fun, and always looking for ways to help his children.  During my teenage years and even into college, my innocent yearnings for a husband quickly went from cute to obsessed. Thinking about this mystery man for so many years while simultaneously listening to the world and its views of marriage deafened my ears to what God’s word says about love. You see, I was fooling myself into thinking that the “perfect” man would completely satisfy me in every way. Ultimately, I believed my husband would be not only my all satisfying joy in this life, but he would be my savior.  I would never admit that back then though. In my naivety, I truly didn’t believe the deep sin in my heart was even there.  On my wedding day, I couldn’t believe the man I had prayed for so long was finally waiting for me at the end of what seemed like the longest aisle on earth. I just wanted to run down it and jump into his arms. The Lord has been so sweet to me in providing me with a husband who loves Him deeply and leads our marriage in ways that continuously remind me of our end goal on this earth.  Not even a month into our marriage, I experienced many feelings and frustrations that my poor husband so graciously loved me through. So many changes were happening so fast. So many expectations had gone unmet. One morning I was spending time with the Lord and it hit me: I had been expecting my husband to be my savior. I expected him to love me perfectly, keep me full of joy at all times, and satisfy every deep need and desire that was nestled down in my sinful human heart.  Psalm 16:11 tells us “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” The living, breathing Word of God makes it so clear that He is the only one who can provide fullness of joy. I am forever grateful that the Lord chose to draw me to him. Is love and joy being married? Being falsely satisfied by material things? Achieving a certain social status? Not even a little bit...

What is Real Love Anyway?2022-05-07T22:36:22+00:00

Life-Faking Ministry and Its Consequences

In their new book, Life-Giving Leadership, Karen Hodge and Susan Hunt explain that life-giving women’s ministry comes from confidence in Christ, not in ourselves. Without it, they warn, women’s ministry can become a life-taking, destructive activity. There is a third kind of women’s ministry. It may run smoothly and involve lots of the Bible study and service of which Karen Hodge and Susan Hunt speak in their new book, but unlike what they describe, there is no life in it. That’s because it is life-faking. The authors hint at life-faking when they say in their book Transformed, “We feel guilty and hypocritical when we try to play the part of the perfect wife, mother or daughter, but we don’t have to pretend. Paul holds before us the exhilarating idea of transformation.” Life-Faking Ministry A male example of fakery is found in the character of the older brother in Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son. The prodigal son, after rebelling, found reconciliation after he confessed candidly to his father, saying, “I am not worthy to be called your son.” The older son, who had stayed home, revealed his divided heart when he jealously complained to his father about all the attention the younger brother received. He said, “Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends” (Luke 15:29). Apparently, the older son’s expectation of the relationship with his dad was not covenantal, but contractual. He demanded his due. The father’s response is poignant: “Son [note that he reminds him of that important relationship], you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (v. 30). The father points out the important part of the relationship, implying sadly, “You and I shared togetherness all this time, whereas the younger son missed out on the relationship. Isn’t closeness with me enough for you?” It wasn’t. The older son wanted to celebrate with “his friends,” apparently not with his dad. And so Jesus asks us, “Are you following me to be with me, or to get something from me? Are you in a genuine relationship with your Father, or have you been faking?”

Life-Faking Ministry and Its Consequences2022-05-07T23:51:20+00:00

Palaces of Cedar: The Sweet Fragrance of Love and Sacrifice

Last spring a group of large dudes who have come to be known as The Big Guns built some raised garden beds in our backyard. I love to garden, and this project felt like a big ‘ole sloppy kiss from the Lord right on my cheek. The vegetables, the teachable moments, the vegetables that teach me in moments…our backyard is becoming a full heart kind of place for me. And an unanticipated bonus of this whole yard project: the smells. Now, granted, I have a very sensitive smeller, so maybe this won’t apply to everyone…but the smells, the smells…they are getting me. I *adore* the smell of a freshly pinched tomato sucker. And bitty E tells me blooming bee balm “smells like cleaner.” (Still not quite sure what that means.) The dirt, even some of the fertilizer (that’s weird, right?), my herbs…I love it all. But there is one smell that is getting me good. We used 4x4 cedar posts to construct the raised beds. While The Big Guns were here, they went ahead and cut the remaining posts to construct an archway over our fence gate at a later point in time. (Sometimes Big Guns tire of carting around Heavy Electric Saws.) Those cedar posts have taken up residence in our garage, just to the side of my car. And they have lit up our garage. Previously the garage smells were not of such a nice variety. Yes, on occasion, based on perfect weather conditions and zero humidity, the garage would smell pleasant. Like a garage should. However, we live in the deep south. Like, put on your diving gear deep. And we have a diapered toddler. So most days our garage smells like hot trapped trash. Enter cedar posts, stage right.

Palaces of Cedar: The Sweet Fragrance of Love and Sacrifice2022-05-07T23:54:27+00:00

Are You a Bucket Filler?

PATSY KUIPERS|GUEST Most Mondays and Wednesdays find me at daughter Mary’s house. As 1pm draws nigh, I start herding 7-year-old Joshua and 2-year-old Emma toward the car so we can pick almost-5-year-old Lyla up from pre-school. Depending on the number of distraction-produced detours they take, the process can last anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Likewise, the drive to school and back may be filled with enthusiastic commentary on the scenes passing by or with shrieks of “Grammie, tell (insert sibling’s name) not to look at/touch/talk to me!!!” Yes, the trek to retrieve Lyla from school and return home safely is often the most stressful part of my day. But a couple of Mondays ago, the events surrounding our mid-day trip were decidedly pleasant. As soon as Lyla and her teacher exited the building, Joshua, exclaimed, “Lyla’s got the bucket! She’s kid of the day!!” And so she was. As Lyla climbed aboard and buckled up for the ride home, we all started talking excitedly. Congratulatory remarks blended with curious queries regarding the contents of her bucket. Several pieces of candy, a stencil, a super-cool, light-up pen, a certificate declaring her kid-of-the-day, and two books resided inside. Joshua read the books to us after lunch. They were all about how we fill or empty each other’s imaginary buckets by being kind or being mean. Furthermore, the books pointed out we’re doing one or the other all the time.

Are You a Bucket Filler?2022-05-07T23:59:56+00:00
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