When my oldest sister’s biopsy revealed cancer in late February 2017, I remarked to friends, “I need to spend as much time with Carolyn as possible—starting now.” Some told me my feelings were an overreaction to the news. But she died within ten months, and even though I had spent hours with her, when we love someone there’s never enough time for our hearts to love enough.
The apostle Peter called Jesus’s followers in the early church to “love each other deeply” (1 Peter 4:8). They were suffering under persecution and needed the love of their brothers and sisters in their Christian community more than ever. Because God had poured His own love into their hearts, they would then desire to love in return. Their love would be expressed through praying, offering gracious hospitality, and gentle and truthful conversation—all in the strength God provided (vv. 9–11). Through His grace, God had gifted them to sacrificially serve each other for His good purposes. So that “in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (v. 11). This is God’s powerful plan that accomplishes His will through us.
We need others and they need us. Let’s use whatever time or resources we have received from God to serve—starting now.
I was immediately intrigued when I noticed a tattoo of a bowling ball knocking down pins on my friend Erin’s ankle. Erin was inspired to get this unique tattoo after listening to Sara Groves’s song, “Setting Up the Pins.” The clever lyrics encourage listeners to find joy in the repetitive, routine tasks that sometimes feel as pointless as manually setting up bowling pins over and over again, only to have someone knock them down.
Laundry. Cooking. Mowing the lawn. Life seems full of tasks that, once completed, just have to been done again—and again. This isn’t a new struggle but an old frustration, one wrestled with in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. The book opens with the writer bemoaning the endless cycles of daily human life as futile (v. 3), even meaningless, because “what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again” (1:9).
Yet, like my friend, the writer was able to regain a sense of joy and meaning by remembering our ultimate fulfillment comes as we “fear [reverence] God and keep his commandments” (12:13). There’s comfort in knowing that God values even the ordinary, seemingly mundane aspects of life, and will reward our faithfulness (12:14).
What are the “pins” you are continually setting up? In those times when repetitive tasks begin to feel wearisome, may we take a moment to offer each task to God as an offering of love.
“Bear” was a gift for my grandchild—a heaping helping of love contained in a giant stuffed animal frame. Baby D’s response? First, wonder. Next, an amazed awe. Then, a curiosity that nudged a daring exploration. He poked his pudgy finger at Bear’s nose, and when the Bear tumbled forward into his arms he responded with joy joy JOY! Baby D laid his toddler head down on Bear’s fluffy chest and hugged him tightly. A dimpled smile spread across his cheeks as he burrowed deeply into Bear’s cushiony softness. The child had no idea of Bear’s inability to truly love him. Innocently and naturally, he felt love from Bear and returned it with all his heart.
In his first of three letters to early Christians, the apostle John boldly states that God Himself is love. “We know and rely on the love God has for us,” he writes. “God is love” (1 John 4:16).
God loves. Not in the pillow of a pretend animal but rather, with the outstretched arms of a real human body encasing a beating but breaking heart (John 3:16). Through Jesus, God communicated His extravagant and sacrificial love for us.
John goes on in verse 4:19, “We love because he first loved us.” When we believe we are loved, we love back. God’s real love makes it possible for us to love God and others. With all our hearts.
In the summer of 2017, Hurricane Harvey brought devastating losses of life and property to the Gulf Coast of the US. Many people provided food, water, clothing, and shelter for those in immediate need.
A few months later, the owner of a piano store in Maryland felt prompted to do something more. He considered how music could bring a special kind of healing and sense of normalcy to people who had lost everything. So he and his staff began to refurbish pre-owned pianos and to make inquiries to see where the need was the greatest. That spring, Dean Kramer and his wife Lois began the long trek to Houston, Texas, driving a truck filled with free pianos to give to grateful families, churches, and schools in the ravaged area.
We sometimes assume the word neighbor means someone who lives nearby or at least is someone we know. But in Luke 10, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan to teach that our love for our neighbors shouldn’t have barriers. The man from Samaria freely gave to a wounded stranger, even though the man was a Jew, part of a people group at odds with the Samaritans (vv. 25–37).
When Dean Kramer was asked why he gave away all those pianos, he explained simply: “We’re told to love our neighbors.” And it was Jesus who said, “There is no commandment greater” (Mark 12:31) than to love God and our neighbor.
My grandmother was a talented seamstress who won contests in her native Texas. Throughout my life, she celebrated hallmark occasions with a hand-sewn gift. A burgundy mohair sweater for my high-school graduation. A turquoise quilt for my marriage. I’d fold over a corner of each custom-crafted item to discover her signature tag reading, “Handmade for you by Munna.” With every embroidered word, I sensed my grandmother’s love for me and received a powerful statement of her faith in my future.
Paul wrote to the Ephesians of their purpose in this world, describing them as “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works” (2:10). Here “handiwork” denotes a work of art or a masterpiece. Paul goes on to describe that God’s handiwork in creating us would result in our handiwork of creating good works—or expressions of our restored relationship with Jesus—for His glory in our world. We can never be saved by our own good works, but when God handmakes us for His purposes, He can use us to bring others toward His great love.
With her head bowed over her needle, my Munna handmade items to communicate her love for me and her passion that I discover my purpose on this planet. And with His fingers shaping the details of our days, God stitches His love and purposes in our hearts that we might experience Him for ourselves and demonstrate His handiwork to others.
On the verge of making team history, University of Iowa basketball star Jordan Bohannon intentionally missed the free throw that would have broken a twenty-five-year-old school record. Why? In 1993, days after Iowa’s Chris Street had made thirty-four free throws in a row, he lost his life in a car crash. Bohannon chose to honor Street’s memory by not breaking his record.
Bohannon showed a keen awareness of things more important than his own advancement. We see similar values in the life of the young warrior David. Hiding in a cave with his ragtag army, David longed for a drink from the well in his hometown of Bethlehem, but the dreaded Philistines occupied the area (2 Samuel 23:14–15).
In a stunning act of valor, three of David’s warriors “broke through the Philistine lines,” got the water, and brought it to David. But David couldn’t bring himself to drink it. Instead, he “poured it out before the
In a world that often rewards those who seize whatever they can grasp, how powerful acts of love and sacrifice can be! Such deeds are much more than mere symbols.
When my friends lived in Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, they were overwhelmed by the welcome they received there, especially from other Christians. Once they took some clothes and provisions to a couple from their church who were very poor, yet who were fostering several children. The couple treated my friends like honored guests, giving them sweet tea and, despite their protests, something to eat. As my friends left with gifts of watermelons and other fruits and vegetables, they marveled at the hospitality they experienced.
These Christians embody the welcome that God commanded His people, the Israelites, to exhibit. He instructed them “to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the
Our circumstances might differ from the Moldovans or the Israelites, but we too can live out our love for God through our welcome to others. Whether through opening our homes or smiling a greeting to those we meet, we can extend God’s care and hospitality in a lonely, hurting world.
Ernest Hemingway was asked if he could write a compelling story in six words. His response: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.” Hemingway’s story is powerful because it inspires us to fill in the details. Were the shoes simply not needed by a healthy child? Or was there a tragic loss—something requiring God’s deep love and comfort?
The best stories pique our imagination, so it’s no surprise that the greatest story ever told stokes the fires of our creativity. God’s story has a central plot: He created all things, we (the human race) fell into sin, Jesus came to earth and died and rose again to save us from our sins, and we now await His return and the restoration of all things.
Knowing what has come before and what lies ahead, how should we now live? If Jesus is restoring His entire creation from the clutches of evil, we must “put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (v. 12). This includes turning from sin by God’s power and choosing to love Him and others well (vv. 8–10).
The specific ways we fight with Jesus against evil will depend on what gifts we have and what needs we see. Let’s use our imagination and look around. Let’s seek out the wounded and weeping, and extend God’s justice, love, and comfort as He guides us.
“Estera, you got a present from our friend Helen!” my mom told me when she got home from work. Growing up we didn’t have much, so receiving a present in the mail was like a second Christmas. I felt loved, remembered, and valued by God through this wonderful woman.
The poor widows Tabitha (Dorcas) made clothes for must have felt the same way. She was a disciple of Jesus living in Joppa who was well known in the community for her acts of kindness. She was “always doing good and helping the poor” (Acts 9:36). Then she got sick and passed away. At the time Peter was visiting a nearby city, so two believers went after him and begged him to come to Joppa.
When Peter arrived, the widows Tabitha had helped showed him the evidence of her kindness—“the robes and other clothing that [she] had made” (v. 39). We don’t know if they asked him to intervene, but led by the Holy Spirit Peter prayed and God brought her back to life! The result of God’s kindness was that “this became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord” (v. 42).
As we are kind to those around us, may they think of God and feel valued by Him.