Love

Who Defines Love?

I get frustrated when people flip-flop about the meaning of words in the midst of a conversation. This is not usually intentional; we may not even notice. I label these words as “slippery.” They take on multiple meanings or auras in our society, and their definitions are particularly subjective or floating.

For example, when I speak of our church, I am talking about the people, our church family. If I say, “I think we have a wonderful church,” I mean, “We have a wonderful group of people who participate in church life.” But the average person on the street—and many Christians—think I am talking about our church building. Others, who advocate a secular society, define church as “religion,” as in “separation of church and state.”

This confusion intensifies when we talk about emotionally charged words, like “passion,” “worship,” or even “faith.” One particularly slippery word is “love,” the focus of this article. Read more about Who Defines Love?

Reborn for Unfeigned Love - 1 Peter 1:22-2:3

This outline continues a series preached in 2002. For my own edification (and hopefully yours), I’ve restudied the passage and made some improvements to the outline. This one is probably now a two-part sermon, maybe even three.

Intro

An old French proverb (14th century) says “love and a cough cannot be hid.” Certainly it’s true that ultimately, like a cough, you can’t really keep love a secret if it’s the real thing. Remember Jesus’ observation: “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples …”

As Peter wrote to the suffering believers of his day, he reminded them of their foreignness in this world, their belovedness to God, their new birth, their responsibilities. He urged them to live with a healthy, sobering fear of the right things instead fearing suffering itself.

In the final verses of the portion we know as chapter 1, Peter calls believers—even suffering believers (maybe especially suffering believers)—to genuine Christian love. In the process, he reveals four truly great opportunities believers have in the area of love. Read more about Reborn for Unfeigned Love - 1 Peter 1:22-2:3

The "Midas Touch" of Good Will

The term “good will” is one I love. Webster defines good will as “a friendly or kindly attitude; benevolence” or “cheerful consent; willingness.” It is an important term, one that can affect our entire disposition and approach toward life.

The fictitious King Midas had a magical touch that turned everything to gold. Believers do not have a “Midas Touch,” but exuding good will comes close. I have seen good will on the part of one marital partner literally save a marriage. I have seen Christians take giant spiritual leaps ahead because someone believed in them, expressing good will. Few of us realize the untapped power available to them when we have an attitude of good will. Embracing good will makes us a blessing to others.

I think of good will as a positive attitude that expects the best from others, sometimes despite previous disappointments. It is wishing well to another, hoping things will prosper for that person, or giving that person a fresh chance to deliver the goods. It is certainly foolish to trust someone who has proven inconsistent or obstinate; good will is not for every situation, but it is for most. Read more about The "Midas Touch" of Good Will

Home, Sweet Home

Two weeks ago, my kids headed off to school. One week later they were back home, sick with the first round of school-bourne illnesses. I got the call from the school nurse around 11:30. My eight-year-old son had a fever—slight—but just enough to send him home. By bedtime, the rest of us were beginning to show signs too. Unfortunately, it was the kind of sickness that was just bad enough to make you miserable but not bad enough to knock you out completely. The kind where you can’t muster enough energy to go about your normal routine but you’ve still got enough energy to bicker and fight. The kind that brings out the worst in you—irritability, whining, helplessness.

And that was just me.

As difficult as last week was, I found that it reminded me of the importance of home. Stripped of the externals—the housekeeping, the pinterest projects, the car pools—the purpose of home became clearer:

The fundamental purpose of the home is to teach us how to live in relationship with God and with each other.

Every day, as we interact with our spouses, parents, children, aunts, and cousins, we are learning the basics of how to interact with other human beings. So when my family is at our worst, when we are not loving or kind or patient, when we have “one of those” weeks, I remember exactly what I am fighting for. Read more about Home, Sweet Home

A Tour of Love, Jewish-Roots Style

Never underestimate the importance of love. Although all creation will glorify God by hook or crook (Rom. 9:22-24), our love for God and others is the volitional focus of the Christian life (Col. 3:14). There are too many passages to site, but reading 1 John or the Gospels (Luke 10:26-28, for example) should make the point.

I am not going to tackle the Hebrew word hesed, nor the Greek word agape. There is a place for that, but today we are going to look at love in relational fashion.

We were created to love. Love affects our entire being, even our physical health. For example,

The experimental group wrote with affection about one person in their lives for 20 minutes on three occasions over a five-week period. The control group wrote mundane descriptions of their activities over the week, jobs they had done and places they had lived…. [A]fter only 25 days, the experimental group who had written affectionate notes, showed a significant reduction in cholesterol. (Affectionate Writing)

Read more about A Tour of Love, Jewish-Roots Style

Book Review - A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships

Image of A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships
by Paul E. Miller
Crossway 2014
Paperback 176

Like he did with A Praying Life, Paul Miller once again has given us a book that doesn’t fit the mold. This is not just any old book on Christian love. This book turns love inside out and gives hope and help to readers at all stages of their Christian life.  A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships describes the perils and pitfalls, as well as the promise and pleasure of love.  Read more about Book Review - A Loving Life: In a World of Broken Relationships

Homosexuality - Seeking a Balanced Discussion

Republished, with permission, from Voice magazine, Jul/Aug 2013.

Several years ago, the philosophy department at Franklin & Marshall College invited me to be a featured guest on a panel discussing gay marriage. They wanted to pick up on the significant community focus on a column I wrote for our local newspaper.

In a large room of full of college students, professors and community people, I was drilled with questions and comments for two hours. The panel included a professor from a liberal seminary, a visiting law professor (whose lesbian partner was in the audience), a gay German professor and a liberal campus minister. God granted me grace the entire evening to patiently respond with kindness to those who questioned me. The students were exceptionally polite but a bit confused as to why I would be opposed to gay marriage. The professors were rude and belligerent.

The evening ended with the German professor looking over at me and asking how I could respect him if I consider him immoral for being gay. Although panelists were not directing questions at each other, I assured the professor that I would always treat him with the utmost respect as a fellow human being even if I disagreed with his sexual behavior. After the event concluded, about 20 students remained to discuss my views with me for another hour.

Despite the pervasive wrongful accusations of militant homosexuals, I am neither fearful nor hateful of those who live a gay lifestyle. But the popularity of such accusations makes it important for us to tone our debate and discussion with true concern and compassion. When we place the discussion in the general context of sexuality, we find important perspective for shaping the tone of debate. Read more about Homosexuality - Seeking a Balanced Discussion

Book Review - Loving Well (Even If You Haven't Been)

Image of Loving Well (Even If You Haven't Been)
by William P. Smith
New Growth Press 2012
Paperback 304

“It’s only after having been loved that you respond with love. You love him (God) back, and you reach out to share with others a tiny portion of the love that you yourself have received.” (p. xix)

Love. It’s a small word with great potential. Its absence is destructive but the effects of its presence are incalculable. But what is it? Is it a feeling or an action? If an action, what does it look like? Where does it come from—from within, or without? Read more about Book Review - Loving Well (Even If You Haven't Been)

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