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    Obedience or Independence?

    If you love Me, keep My commandments. —John 14:15

    Our Lord never insists on obedience. He stresses very definitely what we ought to do, but He never forces us to do it. We have to obey Him out of a oneness of spirit with Him. That is why whenever our Lord talked about discipleship, He prefaced it with an “If,” meaning,…

    For Our Friends

    In Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights, a cantankerous man who often quotes the Bible to criticize others is memorably described as “the wearisomest self-righteous Pharisee that ever ransacked a Bible to rake [apply] the promises to himself and fling the curses to his neighbours.”      

    It’s a funny line; and it may even bring particular people to mind. But aren’t we all a bit like this—prone to condemn others’ failures while excusing our own?

    In Scripture some people amazingly did the exact opposite—willing to give up God’s promises for them and even be cursed if it would save others. Consider Moses, who said he’d rather…

    True Freedom

    Recently, I looked up a few of the definitions for the word freedom in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Freedom, one definition suggested, is “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.” It can also mean “a political right.”

    The Divine Commandment of Life

    . . . be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect —Matthew 5:48

    Our Lord’s exhortation to us in Matthew 5:38-48 is to be generous in our behavior toward everyone. Beware of living according to your natural affections in your …

    How We Treat Family

    Being on staff at various churches has allowed me to hear a variety of stories. One type I dread is about family members who haven’t spoken to each other for a long time. There’s been a breakdown in communication. I hear, “I have no idea what I did. He (or she) just stopped talking to me. My letters, phone calls, and e-mails aren’t returned.” Indeed, it’s a crushing experience when communication and love between family members falls apart.

    Living Worship

    In 1995, Gary Chapman published his influential book The Five Love Languages. In it, Chapman argues that love isn’t expressed through a single means, but that each of us has different ways in which we express and receive love—what he calls love languages. With this, he dramatically expanded the ways in which we understood how to love and be loved by those around us!

    Dedicated to Love

    As a convert to Jesus Christ, Nabeel Qureshi has written books to help his readers understand the people in the religion he left. His tone is respectful, and Qureshi always displays a heart of love for his people.

    Qureshi dedicated one of his books to his sister, who has not yet put her faith in Jesus. The dedication is brief, but powerful. “I am begging God for the day that we can worship him together,” he wrote.

    We get a sense of that kind of love as we read Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. “My heart is filled with bitter…

    Radical Love

    Just one week before her scheduled wedding date, Sarah’s engagement ended. Despite her sadness and disappointment, she decided not to waste the food she had purchased for her wedding reception.  She did, however, decide to change the celebration plans. She took down the gift table and revamped the guest list, inviting the residents of local homeless shelters to the feast.

    Jesus upheld this sort of no-strings-attached kindness when speaking to the Pharisees, saying, “When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed” (Luke 14:13–14). He noted that the blessing would come…

    Loving the Unlovable

    The rows of school desks would soon be filled with energetic teens. Although I was only filling in for their teacher, I took my role seriously. As the first lesson was about to start, the door was flung open and in walked a woman who announced herself as my teaching assistant. Fantastic! I thought. I need the help.

    The Insight of Love

    Rooted in Jungian psychology, the premise of Insights Discovery is that personalities can be classified into four primary colors with ranking degrees of prominence. Each color represents certain behaviors that have both positive (strength) and negative (weakness) connotations. Insights has been adopted by organizations across the world to assist with employee engagement, team dynamics and leadership development.

    Lavish Expressions of Love

    On our wedding anniversary, my husband, Alan, gives me fresh flowers. When he lost his job during a corporate restructure, I didn’t expect this extravagant display of devotion to continue. But on our nineteenth anniversary, the color-splashed blossoms greeted me from their spot on our dining room table. Because he valued continuing this annual tradition, Alan saved some money each month to ensure he’d have enough for this personal show of affection.

    My husband’s careful planning exhibited exuberant generosity, similar to what Paul encouraged when he addressed the Corinthian believers. The apostle complimented the church for their intentional and enthusiastic offerings…

    Foreigners Like Us

    During World War I, German and English soldiers were locked in battle on the Western Front. Thousands of troops on both sides had been killed, and any kind of understanding between the bitter enemies seemed impossible. Yet, on Christmas Day of 1914, something remarkable happened. Soldiers on both sides emerged from their trenches and celebrated Christmas together, singing carols and even engaging in a game of football. For a brief moment, Christmas helped enemies remember their shared values and humanity.

    Strangers Welcome Strangers

    When my husband and I moved to Seattle to be near his sister, we didn’t know where we would live or work. A local church helped us find a place: a rental house with many bedrooms. We could live in one bedroom, and rent the others to international students. For the next three years, we were strangers welcoming strangers: sharing our home and meals with people from all over the world. We and our housemates welcomed dozens of international students in our home every Friday night for Bible study, too.

    God’s people know what it means to be far from home.…

    Hidden Beauty

    Our children needed a little coaxing to believe that it was worth putting on snorkeling gear to peer beneath the surface of the Caribbean Sea off the shore of the island of Tobago. But after they dove in, they resurfaced ecstatic, “There are thousands of fish of all different kinds! It’s so beautiful! I’ve never seen such colorful fish!”

    Because the surface of the water looked similar to freshwater lakes near our home, our children could have missed the beauty hidden just below the surface.

    When the prophet Samuel went to Bethlehem to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the next…

    Pictures of Love

    My children and I have started a new daily practice. Every night at bedtime, we gather colored pencils and light a candle. Asking God to light our way, we get out our journals and draw or write answers to two questions: When did I show love today? and When did I withhold love today?

    Loving our neighbors has been an important part of the Christian life “from the beginning” (2 John 1:5). That’s what John writes in his second letter to his congregation, asking them to love one another in obedience to God (2 John 1:5–6). Love is one of John’s favorite…

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