Love

The Fruit of the Spirit

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22,23 The fruit of the Spirit is something that we talk a lot about, but what does it really mean? While much is written and theologized on the subject, I’m inclined to look at it more simply. First of all, the list of characteristics that Paul gives in Galatians do not define multiple fruits, but components of the same fruit. In other words, it’s one fruit that is multi-faceted and manifests in different ways. Some days love will be the dominant flavor, and other days, peace and gentleness will be primary, but all of them will be evident in some measure. In fact, the different characteristics crossover, and one tends to give rise to the others. This is why I’m leery of religious people

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Connection Changes Things

“A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.” – Proverbs 18:1 (NKJV) Emotional isolation stifles the human soul. In fact, the first five months of life are foundational to the health of body, mind, and spirit, because that’s when bonding happens. When, as infants, we internalize the love of our mother or parent figure, we’re equipped to retain a sense of connection later on, even if our guardians are no longer present. The reality of having our emotional needs met enables us to be loving and empathic people who have healthy relationships with others as we grow older. Of course, because we live in a fallen world, many things can go wrong in this process, and a lack of attachment can lead to a host of difficulties trying to build and maintain life-giving bonds. If we’re not regularly internalizing the love of our

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Connection Transforms

“A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.” – Proverbs 18:1 (NKJV) Emotional isolation stifles the human soul. In fact, the first five months of life are foundational to the health of body, mind, and spirit, because that’s when bonding happens. If, as infants, we internalize the love of our mother or parent figure, we’re equipped to retain a sense of connection later on, even when our guardians are no longer present. The reality of having our needs met enables us to be loving and empathic people who have healthy relationships with others as we grow older. Of course, because we live in a fallen world, many things can go wrong in this process, and a lack of attachment can lead to a host of difficulties trying to build and maintain life-giving bonds. If we’re not regularly internalizing the love of our spouse,

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No Shame On You

“Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.” – Isaiah 61:7 It’s hard to receive love when we have guilt and shame in our lives. Shame happens when there’s something about ourselves that we hate so much that we don’t let anybody else see it. We fear rejection due to our lack of perfection, and this keeps us in a pattern of hiding — at least partially — from the very connection that can set us free. If we deal with this kind of self-condemnation and guilt, it’s important to remember that everyone who we think is perfect is not nearly as infallible as we think they are. And while we don’t want to gloat in the struggles of others, it’s

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Who Are Your Untouchables?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:43-45 As we wrap up our discussion about the four groups of untouchables whom Jesus readily touched, we do well to ask ourselves, “Who are the untouchables in my life?” So today, I invite each of us to consider the answer to this question and to look beyond the obvious before we respond. While it’s easy to reply categorically and to list populations such as vagrants, criminals, or drug addicts, I believe we all have a more personal application…if we dare to admit it. Truth be told, for some of us, it would be easier to walk into the middle of a homeless encampment and sit down and eat lunch

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Love the Least Likely

“When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.” – Matthew 8:1-3 One of the most powerful things Jesus did after He started His earthly ministry was to touch a man with leprosy. In the culture of His day, lepers were outcasts, and everywhere they went, they were required to announce their presence by shouting “unclean” so that others were warned and could scatter. Furthermore, in many regions, those diagnosed as leprous were required to leave their homes and families to be isolated from everyone they knew, lest they spread the illness to them. Banished to a life of separation and obscurity, the disease

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The Tenacity of Paul

“Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.” – Acts 19:8 The life of the Apostle Paul always amazes me. When I think about a stubborn and gritty guy, he is at the top of my list. Before meeting Jesus, he was so zealous for religion and the law that he dragged hundreds of Christians from their homes and had them killed. He was passionate for Judaism and sold out for “righteousness,” but it never occurred to him that the Jesus he was persecuting was actually the Messiah…until He appeared to him. Blinded by the light of the Son and humbled before the Lord of All on the road to Damascus, his prideful heart was brought low, and he received a new call. God saw fit to change his course and invited him to use his brilliant mind to reason

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Surrendered, Sacrificial Faith

“Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body.” – Mark 15:43 I love the story of Joseph of Arimathea. If you’ve been in church for any length of time, you probably know that he was the man who asked Pilate for Jesus’ body and took it off the cross to bury in his own family tomb. Strangely enough, he was a member of the Sanhedrin — the group of Jewish zealots that put Jesus to death — and although he didn’t support His Savior’s crucifixion, he felt helpless to stop it, so he did what he could to demonstrate his love. In remembering why his actions were such a big deal, it’s important to note that crucified victims were typically hung naked and at eye-level so that everyone who passed by

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Love Goes and Love Gives

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” – 1 John 4:7-9 Today is Valentine’s Day, and though it’s become synonymous with roses, hearts, and candy, the true purpose of this holiday is to honor love. Of course, popular culture has given us thousands of songs and images to convey its own version of this mysterious virtue, but the fact remains that there is only one way to define love, and that’s God. The Bible says that God is love, and if we invert that phrase, we learn that love is also God. Since the Lord is the

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The Blessing in Favor

“For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” – Psalm 84:11 Today, we’re going to wrap up our discussion about the three components of a blessed life (that so far include righteousness and wisdom) and “dive” into the final part of the divine triad, which is favor. Though you might have guessed that love was the third side of the “triangle of blessing” we’ve been unpacking, I believe favor is a more comprehensive way of addressing it. While God’s love is constantly in our midst — much like the air we breathe — favor positions us to recognize and receive it. And since it’s an outgrowth of the Lord’s lovingkindness, it finds us in greater measure when we expect to see it revealed. This is why I’m grateful that I had

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