Love in 2018

Several years ago, I was invited to speak at a big Presbyterian church in Ohio. The church had had some problems. Apparently the former pastor had been secretly letting a group of homeless men into the church at night so that they would have shelter during the freezing winter months. He was secretive about it, because he knew the church members would not like it.

All went well until one of the church women came early one morning to set up for a bridal shower luncheon.  She was greeted in the church kitchen by a homeless man with nothing but a church-owned towel wrapped around him.

Turns out that the pastor was also letting the men use a washing machine meant to clean church linens for just such occasions as the bridal shower luncheon.  The guy had striped down naked to wash the only clothes he owned.

That was the week they fired their pastor.

I was invited by the interim pastor to come and speak.  He had been the interim for four years at that point. He told me that when they first hired him, he evaluated the situation at the church. And as he did, he came to realize that the members simply didn’t know how to love.

They didn’t know how to love each other.
They didn’t know how to love their pastor.
They didn’t know how to love those in need.
They didn’t know how to love God.
And they certainly didn’t know how to love themselves.

So every sermon he had preached the entire four years he was there had been about love.

In 2018, I am going to spend the year blogging about love. It’s what the world needs.  It’s what the church needs.  It’s what I need.

So scroll down to see the latest posts. Or join me daily by following my blog or liking my Author Page on Facebook.  Note: On Facebook, you’ll have to not only like the page, but go under “following” and default “show first” or “notifications on” – otherwise Facebook won’t send you the blog.

Love (and I mean it!),

April

LOVE

God’s Love is Bigger than Broken Promises

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; God will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. — Deuteronomy 31:9

God wanted to make a covenant with humanity. “I will be your God and you will be my people.” But there is a problem. We keep breaking our side of the promise.
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We keep forgetting who we belong to.  We keep acting in a way that hurts God and others. We fail over and over to keep our covenant with God — to live in a way that is in line with being the children of a loving God.
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But amazingly God’s love is even greater than the covenant God made with us. God’s heart of mercy and kindness keeps coming after us, wanting us back, reaching out to us.
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We have all failed. Yet, God will never leave us. Never forsake us. Do not be afraid and do not get discourage.  Just turn around and reach out for God. God is for you and with you.
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April has written a unique Disorderly Parable Bible Study series for groups and individuals that teaches the lessons of scripture through modern parables. On Sale: Kindle Version is $2.99 for a limited time on Amazon. Paperback is 40% off by entering “Parable” at checkout on the Wipf and Stock Website.

 

Agape

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. — Jesus (John 15:12)

The Greek word for love in this verse is agape.

As used in the New Testament to describe God’s love, agape is a love that is not wakened or created by the beauty or allure of the person so loved.  Agape is God’s character and originates in who God is, not in our being lovable.

Jesus tells us in this verse that we should love others this way too.  Not because they are beautiful or alluring, but because our character is to love.

Love everyone you meet today. Not because they are worthy, but because agape — God’s love resides within you.

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April has written a unique Disorderly Parable Bible Study series for groups and individuals that teaches the lessons of scripture through modern parables. On Sale: Kindle Version is $2.99 for a limited time on Amazon. Paperback is 40% off by entering “Parable” at checkout on the Wipf and Stock Website.

Happy Feast Day St. Francis!!

In the USA, we celebrate St. Francis by blessing our pets, but that isn’t how they do it in Assisi.  In Assisi, the magistrates from all over Italy gather in the city hall of Assisi and sign a document, Pac di Civile, promising to work together in peace. This is an ancient remembrance of when St. Francis orchestrated peace between the wealthy and the not so wealthy. Those who had no land had been highly and unjustly taxed by the rich. St. Francis negotiated a just agreement.

Afterwards there is a parade to the Basilica for mass. Then someone important, usually the prime minister or occasionally the Pope, speaks to the crowd in the courtyard.

My new book, St. Francis and the Christian Life, which uses the stories of St. Francis’ life to illustrate the Epistle to the Galatians, will be published soon! I am so excited about this book!! I will let you know when it is available.

Below are links to live webcams of the main square in Assisi and the lower courtyard of the Basilica. By the time you see this, the festivities of the day may have already completed due to the time differences.

 

April has written a unique Disorderly Parable Bible Study series for groups and individuals that teaches the lessons of scripture through modern parables. On Sale: Kindle Version is $2.99 for a limited time on Amazon. Paperback is 40% off by entering “Parable” at checkout on the Wipf and Stock Website.

Love with no “ifs”

The Apostle Paul described God as one “who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace” (Gal 1:15).

Paul knew that God loved us before we were even born. There is no “if.” No “if” you behave well enough or “if” you believe all the right stuff about God.

Paul was not a good guy.  Before he came to follow in the way of Jesus, he took part in the torture and murder of those who disagreed with his beliefs about God.  So it means a lot for him to claim that God loves him.

Yet, because he chose to have faith that the creator of the universe loved him, he was capable of turning his life around. He went from being a rule-following religious person to having a relationship with God. He described that relationship as “living in the Spirit.”

What if you and I intentionally choose to believe that God loves us no matter what? How might that choice transform our day? How might knowing God loves us change how we see ourselves and others?

Let us bask in God’s love for us. Let it warm us like the sun’s rays. Let’s invite it in and may it nurture and transform us.

 

Paul

 

April has written a unique Disorderly Parable Bible Study series for groups and individuals that teaches the lessons of scripture through modern parables. On Sale: Kindle Version is $2.99 for a limited time on Amazon. Paperback is 40% off by entering “Parable” at checkout on the Wipf and Stock Website.

 

You have it, so give it away!

Freely you have received; freely give. — Mat 10:8

Jesus was sending his twelve disciples out to proclaim the good news: “The kingdom of heaven has come near!” Part of their instructions were to help others without asking for anything in return.

This is love. Giving freely. Unconditionally.

But to love, Jesus indicates that we must first receive love. Many of us are depending on family and friends to love us and have been let down. But what we forget is that we are loved – if not by family and friends, certainly by our creator.

The Jesus story was of God who showed up in human skin to live among us and to love us. Although he knew our shortcomings better than anyone, he thought that we — every single one of us! — were worth loving. He gave his life for us, showing us love by giving himself freely and unconditionally. He told us to do the same for each other.

You are loved — treasured by your creator. This love demands nothing of you. So go forth and love others without asking for anything in return.

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April has written a unique Disorderly Parable Bible Study series for groups and individuals that teaches the lessons of scripture through modern parables. On Sale: Kindle Version is $2.99 for a limited time on Amazon. Paperback is 40% off by entering “Parable” at checkout on the Wipf and Stock Website.

Fake News. Fake Religion. It’s a “me first” problem..

Problem:

“For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths.” — Paul (2Tim4:4)

Remedy:

“I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.” —Paul (2Tim4:3)

What is the message we are to proclaim?

Jesus taught us to: Love God. Love others. Love self, yet always putting the needs of others before our own.

April has written a unique Disorderly Parable Bible Study series for groups and individuals that teaches the lessons of scripture through modern parables. On Sale: Kindle Version is $2.99 for a limited time on Amazon. Paperback is 40% off by entering “Parable” at checkout on the Wipf and Stock Website.

Love and Civility

Civility: Formal politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech.
Be careful. No one following Jesus will ever standby and let evil reign in the name of civility.
Speaking the truth without love is wrong, but those who speak the truth in love are often accused of lacking civility simply because those to whom they speak don’t want to hear the truth.
A byproduct of our call as the followers of Jesus is that people who are clinging to the unjust systems of this world are going to feel uncomfortable around us. That’s okay. It’s expected. It’s what you signed up for when you decided to follow Jesus.
Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.–Jesus (Luke 6:22)

Lord, I am Having Trouble Loving!

Dear God,

Today I am having trouble loving. My problem is with the authorities who are separating the immigrant children and their parents.  But not just them, I am having trouble loving the citizens who support the authorities who are ordering this to happen.

Today, these are my enemies. I want to pray for their demise. Surely they are who Jesus spoke about when he said,

“…the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…” (Mat 8:12 NRS)

Gnashing of teeth!  That is what I want to happen to them.  Jesus must want it too! I am angry just like Jesus! But wait, Jesus also said,

“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven;” (Mat 5:44 NRS)

Forgive my lack of love. Forgive my desire for retribution. Forgive my lack of desire to pray for all those who practice and support the evil against these families.

Give me strength to love. Give me compassion for the enemy, because if you don’t, I can not find it in myself. Give me strength to stop judging and condemning. For that is not my job.

You have given me the job of speaking truth while loving–even the enemy.

Make me unafraid to speak truth–to call out this evil, but to do it because I want the enemy to know there is a better way for them to live–a way where they can share the blessings you have given them.  A way where they can live in peace and joy instead of selfishness and greed.

Let your love shine through me. Make me good at being your daughter.

Amen.

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God Living in Us

boy helpsIf we love one another, God lives in us and God’s love is made complete in us.
— 1 John 4:12

This little guy saw an elderly woman–a complete stranger–trying to climb some stairs.  His mom stopped the car so he could help her.  Another stranger filmed it.

ABC news tracked him down through his mom’s license plate.

Look out for ways to love one another today! Be someone’s hero!

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April has written a unique Disorderly Parable Bible Study series for groups and individuals that teaches the lessons of scripture through modern parables. On Sale: Kindle Version is $2.99 for a limited time on Amazon. Paperback is 40% off by entering “Parable” at checkout on the Wipf and Stock Website.