Tag Archives: Love

John 21: Weak, Unworthy, Loved

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I’m always amazed how kind and gentle Jesus is to his friends on this particular morning — the same friends who fell asleep, cowered, ran away, denied him in his darkest hour. These men, like me, were weak and unworthy disciples.

But Jesus doesn’t scold them, guilt them, or abandon them, although their sins and failures were fresh. Instead, he speaks words of peace, works a miracle, makes them breakfast, and gives them the chance to profess their love for him again. He’s calm, loving, and forgiving in response to their weakness — a beautiful picture of how Jesus deals with us each and every day.

Then he said, “Follow me.”

This is the kind of Friend I want to follow always. This is Jesus, to whom I sing: “O make me thine forever, and should I fainting be, Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to thee.”

John 20: Belief Moving Forward

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“Do not disbelieve, but believe.” The words that the risen Christ spoke to Thomas so often speak to me — the simplicity, the truth, the conviction, the encouragement.

Yesterday was a day when everything I did seemed to be born from disbelief, a lack of faith. Jesus’ words helped me to confess and seek reconciliation with the God I love and yet so often refuse to BELIEVE in the midst of stress and worry.

Again: “Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

In response, Thomas answered, “My Lord and my God!” This is my answer, too. I can’t make up for yesterday; I can only turn to my Lord and my God to forgive, cleanse, restore.

John 15: Abiding Love

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“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.” (v. 9)

Wow! This has got to be one of the most shocking verses in the Bible. One of those things you wouldn’t believe if it weren’t right there in front of you. But Jesus said it and he cannot lie: he loves his disciples as the Father loves him.

I can’t begin to understand or imagine the depth of that love. But I know it’s not a surface, fickle love — the kind that can be tossed aside when I sin or stumble or wander off. The Father’s love for the Son is constant, eternal, unchanging, immovable, unshakable. It’s the kind of love God can have for fallen men ONLY when they’re hidden in Christ, clothed in his righteousness, cleansed by his blood. We’re invited into this vine and we’re mere branches, grafted in: “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” I believe it.

Lord, may I ever abide in your love.

John 13: Jesus, Savior, Friend

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With everything that’s about to happen — betrayal, abandonment, torture, crucifixion, coming face to face with wrath — Jesus doesn’t for a moment cease to love and serve his friends. He doesn’t take “me time” to rest and prepare for the trials (literally) to come. Instead, he strips down, humbles himself, and washes the grimy feet of his disciples. It’s a story I’ve read so many times, it’s easy to gloss over, but today I’m in wonder at what patience and grace it took to wash their feet. So thoroughly and thoughtfully, knowing his time had come, knowing what was in store. It wasn’t hurried or halfhearted. He wasn’t distracted or dejected. He was present, still teaching them the lessons they would need when he was gone, including the “new commandment” to love one another, just as he loved them. What a savior! What a friend!

John 11: Because Jesus Loves Me

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“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (v. 5). To me, this is one of the most beautiful sentences in scripture. The naming of specific people is comforting; it’s so different from the generic “blanket” love of Jesus for all people that I heard about growing up, as if there’s no difference between his friends and enemies, believers and unbelievers. This is a very personal love for his friends.

But I also love that this sentence is followed by, “So…” Everything that follows happens because Jesus loved these three friends. Jesus stayed put for two more days BECAUSE he loved them. Lazarus died BECAUSE Jesus loved them. Mary and Martha suffered in mourning for four days BECAUSE Jesus loved them. Lazarus was raised from the dead BECAUSE Jesus loved them.

If only I could see my struggles through that lens. Whatever I’m going through, however I’m feeling, it’s because Jesus loves me, and he sees the bigger picture. In fact, he’s the artist. Today I’m struggling for several reasons — recent sin, concerns for a friend’s health, worries about the future. I hope that as I meditate on this verse for a little while longer, I can see myself in this love: “Now Jesus loved Bryan. So…”

John 4: A Heart For Sinners

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Much like the wedding miracle in Cana, Jesus often worked behind the scenes and purposely far away from those in power. At the faintest whiff of fame, he snuck away to — of all places — Samaria. And there takes place one of my favorite encounters with a sinner, the woman at the well, whose sexual sins, like mine, Jesus knew well, yet he dealt with her so gently. In the end, her testimony of Christ caused many other Samaritans to believe.

Soon after, Jesus offers himself again to the Gentiles with the healing of an official’s son, which also results in belief and salvation. Unlike the Messiah people expected, Jesus performed his miracles in small circles of poor, sick, needy, and unexpected people.

This is good news for those who feel they can’t approach Jesus. His actions in John 4 and throughout the gospels prove his heart is soft toward sinners who know their need for him — and his love is greater than their sin. As A.W. Tozer said, “Jesus Christ knows the worst about you. Nonetheless, He is the one who loves you most.”

Death Redeemed And Reimagined

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Today I spent a couple hours walking through the wreckage that is autumn. In the spring, my afternoon walks are ripe with resurrection imagery — buds, blossoms, butterflies. Everything whispers “new life” and I’m emboldened to hope in the risen Christ. It’s like a sermon: “Behold, I make all things new.” But today, smack in the middle of October, nature clearly pointed to death: bare branches, bone-dry plants (with a few clinging to dear life), tiny animals scrounging for scraps. (I imagined them prepping for the winter apocalypse.) As much as I love spring and the signs of life that come with it, the fall imagery was beautiful, too — just in a different way.

Which got me thinking, how can death be beautiful?

death2In Scripture, death is ugly — the costly wages of sin (Romans 6:23). But the death of Jesus gave death new meaning — even hope. Jesus, the best man to ever live — the only man who TRULY lived in the way we ought to, fiercely devoted to God and neighbor — this man who really lived, REALLY died. Like the beautiful, blood-red leaf that floats and spirals and plummets to the ground, severed from its source, the Son of God was slain. His corpse entombed for three days — a short season, but enough for the reality to set in. The tomb was sealed. The disciples mourned. The women blended burial spices together and knew where to find the grave. This was the real deal.

And yet Christians believe, somehow, this death is beautiful. Because this wasn’t ordinary — not like all other deaths that came before it. This particular death marked “the death of death” for all who believe. On the cross, every last drop of God’s wrath was poured out on the Son, who died in our place, and every bit of Christ’s righteousness was given to us, in what theologians call “the great exchange.” This death secured eternal LIFE for those who love Jesus — the one person whom death could never touch, because he was without sin, yet he submitted to it willingly. Yes, this death proved something: not only Christ’s love for the Father, but also his love for us.


My second thought, as I crunched my way along the trail, was of dying to self — something all Christians are called to do. A few verses came to mind. Like when Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Another time, he said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24-25). Then there’s Paul, who said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). To die is gain. 

In all these passages, death for the Christian is redeemed, reimagined. I think that’s why today, despite my affinity for spring, I was able to see something beyond death — something more like beauty — in the images that pervaded the landscape. At the end of the trail (right after my phone died), I spotted a caterpillar on the pavement. I picked him up with a twig and watched another sermon crawl before my very eyes:

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Love(s) Of My Life

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Living the celibate life means facing claims that, because I’m not married or having sex, I haven’t truly experienced love. Sometimes those claims come from the culture, or worse, my own heart.

While it’s true I haven’t experienced an exclusive love — the sacred “one flesh” union so many people enjoy — that doesn’t mean I don’t know what it means to love and be loved. I have to remind myself of that pretty often. And in a marriage-oriented, sex-obsessed world, it takes more than a pithy remark about love coming in many forms. Sometimes I have to LITERALLY start listing the ways I experience love through the people God has placed in my life.

The friend who sends postcards from wherever she happens to be — quirky, handwritten reminders that our friendship matters.

The “mahernas” who for years have shared my burdens, rejoiced in my victories, and made me eat (nay, drink) my vegetables.

The friend who lives far away but says “good morning” every day and finds things we can do together: read books, watch Netflix, memorize Scripture.

The couple that invites me over for movie nights and homemade (slightly burnt) dinners, and stays up late with me after their kids have gone to sleep.

The “stupid” friend I tell everyone about, with her Twiggy lashes and fancy hair, who laughs with me till my guts hurt.

The woman who leaves me little love notes, prays with me, and sends invitations even if she knows I’ll be out of town, just so it’s clear I’m WANTED.

The bride who made me her “man of honor,” and whose house is gonna be REALLY close to mine on the new earth, right by her brother (and the dinosaur ranch).

The one who puts up with me 40 hours a week but still wants to spend time with me out of the office, and who’d rather call me “friend” than “coworker.”

The ladies I’ve known since junior high but even now, in their thirties, make time for “hangover” once a month — sometimes more when we really miss each other in between.

The family that lets me walk into their house without knocking, raid their fridge, play their piano, cuddle up on their couch, and even takes me on family vacations.

The neighbors who became brothers through years of churchgoing, Nintendo playing, Survivor watching, Bible studying — who know WAY too many embarrassing stories about me but aren’t ashamed to say I’m part of “the fam.”

The friends who found me via blog and “stalked” me until we became real-life friends — the kind that sing together, take strolls on the beach, all that California stuff.

Then there’s family — my own blood, that is — my parents, brother, adorable niece, aunts and uncles in strange, faraway lands (aka Kansas).

Of course, there are many more, but I’m already over my word count (and probably your attention span and/or capacity for mushy stuff). But in my heart, the list goes on.

So yeah, as a single man, I can’t dote on the “love of my life” (unless you count Jesus, and most people don’t). But I can tell you what I know: my heart belongs to these folks. I’m theirs and they’re mine. Maybe it’s not the “Honey, I’m home” kind of love, the wedded bliss, or the goodnight kiss, but these are the loves of my life. This is love, and it’s the real thing.