As I sat down to write about envy this week, I seriously had to ask myself, “What is it about envy that makes it so unloving?” I realized that to properly understand the relationship between love and envy, understanding Paul’s purpose of writing must be grasped—it is the unity of the church and the Church. One could ask many questions at this point, including “why is the church’s unity so important?” or “Really? My envy affects the unity of the global Church?” The church’s unity is vital for the proclamation and spreading of the gospel. That is why love matters. And that truth gets us a little closer to why envy matters, why it’s so unloving, and why it affects the unity of the Church.

James (remember Jesus’ brother?) makes a solid case that envy’s root is pride, that is, our own selfish, pleasure-seeking desires. Envy causes divisions, fights, and wars because one is not satisfied, content, or, dare we say, thankful. There’s the key. Yes, envy is the antithesis of gratefulness.

Envy is the desire for more. If it is the desire for more for one’s own pleasure, then it is a logical (and spiritual) progression to conclude that envy is the desire to be first (Calvin). It cannot merely be the desire for more. Desire is not a source unto itself; desire is always connected to a point of origin. And the reality? The source will always be either God’s glory or your own, my own. Envy is the desire for more and the source is your selfishness and my selfishness. And love, agape love, cannot be about you and me. It is about them.

It would be too easy to simply address our materialism here. No, it’s much deeper than that.

To be clearer, envy is unloving because I am not joyful or grateful that someone else experiences a blessing and I don’t:
-They’re healed and I’m not. What’s my heart response?
-He is financially successful and I am not. What are my thoughts toward him?

-They have five kids and we are struggling to get pregnant. Do we cheer or isolate?
In another letter, Paul tells Christians to “give thanks in everything” (1 Th. 5:18). We like to quote that, but verse 15 often gets left out, which says, “always seek after that which is good for one another.” Give sincere thanks for the good in others’ lives and the power of envy will diminish.




We don’t think twice about it now. Whether a book title, the name of a city or country, a month of the year or the beginning of a sentence, we know to use a capital letter. And, without a doubt, proper names get the same treatment. Greg, Tom, Susan, Paul, Rebecca, Christine, and Bob all get capitalized because scholars somewhere at some time decided ‘people are important enough to have the first letter of their name capitalized.’ Capitalization equals importance.


For most of us, this includes capitalizing any form of God’s name; how He moves, works, or is manifested; or any other reference to Him in writing: Father, Yahweh, Jesus, Spirit, Son, Lord, Provider, Healer, Giver, Love, Savior, Redeemer, Almighty, Christ, Messiah, Holy, not to mention He, His, and Him. He is of utmost importance, of value unequaled by anything or anyone, and worthy of even our smallest expressions of honor, like capitalizing His name. It is certainly the least we can do. And although we probably don’t think twice about it, hopefully, it serves as a little reminder of His worthiness every time we use a ‘G’ instead of a ‘g,’ a ‘J’ instead of a ‘j,’ or an ‘S’ instead of an ‘s.’


Because I love writing, I have boxes, bins, and nightstand drawers full of old notebooks chronicling my thoughts about life; feelings and emotions regarding personal growth and relationships; not to mention countless prayers lifted up to God with my pen. In all my writings, God is either the recipient or referenced to, and if I ever let you read all that I have written, (I won’t, by the way), you would only find a few times I have missed capitalizing His name. Again, it’s the least I can do, and I don’t think twice about it. As I prayed with my pen the other day, capitalizing His name as I went, God said something to me that I won’t forget:


“Capitalize your life.”




“I appreciate the capital letters, but what I want is the same commitment you have in capitalizing My Name to be reflected in your life.”


Whoa! What does that mean?


“Love people. Love Me. You honor Me with capital letters, but honor Me even more by how you love people. Capitalize your life.”


You have my attention, God.


In writing, we know how to honor God—with an ‘G’ instead of an ‘g’; an ‘R’ instead of an ‘r’; a ‘C’ instead of a ‘c.’ We were taught these fundamentals first in elementary school and then probably sometime again in Sunday school. We don’t think twice about it anymore. It is second nature. Honoring God by loving people, on the other hand, isn’t second nature for most of us, so if there’s any hope of us loving others, we must first think about doing it. And before even thinking about loving them, we must think about love.


For many of us, while we were taught our ABCs and when to capitalize them, we were simultaneously taught that we should love people, but no one happened to mention what love actually is.


But we know now:

love is patient, kind, content, encouraging, humble, honoring, selfless, gentle, forgiving, truthful, protecting, trusting, hopeful, and persevering.


Capitalization equals importance. Continue capitalizing when you’re writing about God, but join me in capitalizing our lives by loving people in the way He defined. Your neighbor is important, your life has value, and God is worthy.

The (True) Tale of Two Men



A man sat in his house minding his own business when God’s voice was heard over the silence of the quiet town in which the man lived. “Go to the neighboring town—the one you’ve avoided for so long—and tell them they need to stop worshiping themselves and worship Me instead. Go now.”

But the man did not go. Not only did he not go, he went in the opposite direction to send a very clear message to God: I don’t like those people and I don’t want to do anything remotely good for them. They don’t deserve it.

As can be imagined, God wasn’t about to be made servant to this man, so He acted in such a way to get this man’s full attention. And get his attention He did. “Go to the neighboring town—the one you’ve avoided for so long, and the one full of people you don’t like—and tell them they need to stop worshiping themselves and worship Me instead. Go now.” So, the man went. Miraculously, everyone in the town dropped everything and worshiped God from then on. But the man was angry; angry that they turned their lives around and were now eternal beneficiaries of God’s mercy.

A second man sat in a house also minding His own business. His business, however, was, in fact, to be in the house. No voice was heard saying, “Go now to the neighboring town,” for this man was exactly where He needed to be. This man reclined at the table amongst the ones others had avoided for so long. He did not go in the opposite direction, but rather toward them, sitting and eating with them, which sent a very clear message to those gathered around Him: that He loved them and wanted to do anything for their good, even if they didn’t deserve it. The man was hopeful; hopeful that they would turn their lives around and would become eternal beneficiaries of God’s mercy.

Jonah and Jesus. Different men with two different missions and different visions.

Jonah’s anger at the repentance of a city revealed a heart struggling to love well, a heart not understanding that love always hopes. He could only see the behavior of the Ninevites, not what they could become. Jesus, on the other hand, was a visionary. Lovers of people are visionaries. Their vision doesn’t ignore the present but is rather viewed through the lenses of the future and potentiality. That is how Jesus was able to sit with “tax collectors and sinners.” Of course, He knew their behavior, even their heart. But He looked ahead.

Without a doubt, Jonah and Jesus contrast sharply. The two outcomes differ just as much. Jonah did eventually do what God said, seemingly while withholding love, and Nineveh was saved. Jesus, love incarnate, sat with tax collectors and sinners, but no record is found of them following Jesus from that point on. How could this be? What are we to make of this?

Perhaps these two men and these two stories remind us of two truths about an always-hoping love:

  1. It looks beyond who they might be today, and
  2. It is not determined by the outcome.


God knows who they are today and who they could be tomorrow. Let us not worry about the outcome. Let us simply love without hesitation and full of hope.

The Pictures We Paint

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As I walk down the hallway of the Children’s Worship Wing at Northland Church, I am welcomed by countless interpretations of Bible stories by the kids that worship there each week. After hearing a story, they are invited to retell the story by drawing their interpretation of it, all with the help of Crayola. It’s truly a special art gallery, one you should check out if you haven’t already.

Down the road at The Morse Museum, professional artists clearly have heard a story, too. Most are not Bible stories, but still they share their interpretation of a story they’ve heard covering subject matter ranging from flowers to birds to sky to people to the ocean. Crayola has no place here, but their interpretation through drawing, painting, and sculpture still invites lovers of art to peruse the many galleries to hear their side of the story.

Child or professional, the interpretation of the story comes out, while the rest of us benefit by having our understanding and perspective expanded. We get to experience the beauty of their perception, whether with the innocence of the child or the expertise of the professional.

Love’s demand to protect [the reputation of] others is no different, but with much higher stakes than either gallery of art.

What is the story you’ve heard? Is it the friend who talked about you behind your back? Is it the manager who chewed you out and fired you unjustifiably? Perhaps it is a family member who doesn’t seem to care about you, sometimes adding hurtful words to their otherwise silent indifference. The stories can be endless and the stories can be painful.

This is where we must realize that we, too, are artists. No matter the story, there is always an interpretation to be seen and heard. And so, like master artists, we begin drawing, sketching, painting, and sculpting our perception of the story. Just as the novice and professional create for others to enjoy, we, too, present our finished product to generate appreciation from anyone who would walk the halls of our gallery. We can be so diligent in creating such “artistic masterpieces,” but we are left with questions: Is it a picture full of beauty and grace, or one portraying the unfortunate reality of how we’ve been treated, complete with the tinting (or rather, tainting) of our own opinion? What picture have we painted of the one who wronged us?

To many of us, another thought remains: “Why would it matter how I create the picture? They’re the one who wronged me.” We might even justify our painting or sculpture by saying it’s for the benefit and protection of others. I’ll let John Wesley weigh in here: “Whatever evil the lover of mankind sees, hears, or knows of anyone, he mentions it to none; it never goes out of his lips, unless where absolute duty [obliges you] to speak.”

Let us agree that most of the “art” we create from the stories we experience don’t need to be spoken about. And let us together resolve to excel in becoming the best artists around, speaking only good of anyone, including the ones who don’t love us well. In doing so, people will walk the gallery of our lives with awe and wonder at the love only God can produce in us.

The Good News And Bad News About Patience



I’ll just say this now and get it over with. You don’t have to be patient. You don’t have to. It’s your choice. It’s your free will. It’s your life. Impatience is an option. Go ahead and take it. They probably don’t deserve patience, appreciate it, or even acknowledge it. They don’t show gratitude. They don’t give back. They don’t seem to care. And their chances have probably run out.


But know this…you won’t receive the promises if you choose impatience.


Oh, I can’t tell you what the promises are, for some are reserved just for you. Our good God knows how to give good gifts, and since gifts are often personal, the promises He wants to give you will most likely be tailor-fitted to your situation, personality, and faith journey. Listen to this:

The writer of Hebrews says God does not and will not forget the love you have shown toward His name, that is, other people. He goes on to encourage us to keep showing that love, (don’t be sluggish in doing so), being imitators of those who did the same and inherited the promises (6:10-12).


It was important enough that he mentioned it again:

You have need of patient endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, [that is, loving people], you may receive what was promised (10:36).


The words in chapter six come after the writer tells his audience to press on to maturity, not laying another foundation. One foundation is enough—you’ve repented and are saved. Now, move to maturity…by loving people with patience.


The words in chapter ten are no less challenging. He’s writing to people who have experienced suffering, persecution, and criticism at the hands of enemies. Does he encourage impatience? Fighting back? Retaliation? No. “Be patient,” he says, “and you‘ll get what’s promised.”


So, that’s the good news—there is promise to be enjoyed when we’re patient with people. Now, I have to tell you the bad news.


A book later, James has the same message, and uses an analogy to help explain it. He writes, “[After planting seed], the farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains” (5:7). James was writing to people who knew about farming. I know next to nothing about farming, except that I’m grateful someone’s doing it for me. The little I know amounts to this: when James says the farmer is “patient about it,” he does not mean the farmer is sitting in his house, staring out the window, waiting for harvest. No, he’s working by cultivating the land and keeping insects and rodents away. “Patience is not passive resignation, but active endurance of opposition” (HIBD).


That’s the bad news—this love we’re called to takes more work than anything else we’ll ever do. But, remember the good news. There is a promise. James says it is the “precious produce of the soil.” I don’t know what the promise will be for you, but as it is with the farmer’s crops, it will be enjoyable, life-giving, and able to be shared with others. Choose patience!

Our Journey Of Hope



Hope and Christmas—a match made in heaven, indeed. It’s the promise fulfilled, the beginning of the rest of the story, the unseen finally seen. Why else would pews be packed this Christmas Eve with worship teams pulling out all the stops but to celebrate the hope of Christmas? Hope, however, has gotten this reputation over the years as being something more celebratory than maybe it is at times. Gratefully, pastors, preachers, and priests all over have grown more sensitive to the temperature of the times, realizing not everyone is experiencing the same level of joy as others. But still, the seats are full on Christmas Eve because of hope, even if just an inkling of it.


There is, no doubt, the hope of Christ’s advent, but sometime later after Jesus came, Paul sat down to write to the Corinthian believers and spoke directly into the messiness of relationships—an arena of life where celebration can be so very distant and seemingly impossible for many, especially now as we come together to celebrate Jesus’ birth. Paul wrote, “Love always hopes.” There may be severe misunderstanding and subsequent frustration if we think, “love always has a smile painted on” or even “love always celebrates.” Do not lose sight that Paul wrote directly into the messiness of relationships, where smiles and celebrations aren’t always present. What could he have meant and what would be the point?


Explanations abound for what Paul meant when he encouraged his fellow believers to live out an always-hoping love toward others, and one of my favorites is this: “Love holds onto eventual development, which insinuates there is profound underdevelopment currently. It means we remember that God has them on a journey” (Judah Smith). Hope may be holding onto their eventual development, but can we agree that that holding gets tiring, that their eventual development can’t come soon enough? Love always hopes, and always is a long time!


Another source helps in a similar way: “Love [always hopes] in the sense that it earnestly desires that all things work out for the best” (BBC). Does this mean we’re foolish? In expressing an always-hoping love, do we become over time people characterized by gullibility? Or has God designed love in such a way that as we rightly hope in the proper place (i.e. Person), we become not great models of naivety, but truer examples of His love and character and a closer resemblance of the best possible version of ourselves? Yes, it must be that. Hopefulness is not synonymous with foolishness. To be clearer, it is not ignoring the pain, blinking at the mess up, or sweeping anything under the rug. It is redirecting our eyes in order to retain a proper focus. This is done not to ignore, but in order to love most effectively. If hope is remembering that God has them on a journey, then redirecting our eyes is looking to that journey, instead of taking a screen shot. More accurately, it is looking to the Journey-Guide. It is not based on the past or the present, but on the Future-Maker. It is not focused on the sin, but on the Sin-Forgiver. Hope is not anchored on broken trust, but on the Trustworthy God.


There is no feasible way that we would become foolish by loving others with hope. Not only do we become wiser, but God has designed love in such a way that as we demonstrate it our character is developed. We must not be surprised, however, that our character development comes in the always. Yes, God has them on a journey, but He has us on one, too, and journeys take a while.

How Lovely are Your (Dead) Branches



It’s the season of cold weather, snowflakes (in some parts of the country), reindeer, eating holiday desserts everyday, Christmas music, Christmas trees, and…the newborn King, Jesus. My thoughts turned to Christmas trees the other day. I haven’t seen any statistics on how much we, as Americans, spend buying a tree and decorating it, but it can’t be a small number. We love our Christmas trees (and the presents underneath it). My thoughts then turned to us Christians.  The holiday is, indeed, a Christian celebration of the birth of the Messiah, so the comparisons between Christmas trees and Christians are appropriate and humbling.


How many of us buy Christmas trees but don’t decorate them? No one does that! We buy them, stand them up in the most prominent place of our house for all to see, cover them with lights and ornaments, and top them off with an angel, a star, (or a monkey finger puppet, like I’ve done in the past).

Now, the tree has its own symbolism, along with the gifts, but I’m offering a new one; one that stings a little, but potentially helpful, nonetheless.


So, the tree’s bought, the kids have helped wreck decorate it, and the monkey finger puppet is looking down on your happy family with protective care—great. There’s only one problem–the tree is dead! Congratulations. You have successfully dressed up a dead tree. Merry Christmas!

Of course, you know it’s dead; why else would you pour water in the tree stand (except for the prevention of it going up in flames from the thousands of lights you wrapped it in)? If the water wasn’t a give-away, then time certainly is. What happens when January rolls around? The needles start to turn from a beautiful green to brown, which is not anything like the leaves up north changing colors in autumn. Those same now-brown needles begin to make their way to your floor, where the 7-year old pug (at our house) tries to snack on them (bad Kobe!). The strong branches holding the ceramic ornaments your grandmother made you can no longer stick out, and now sag close to the ground. Finally, the pleasant odor of evergreen gives way to…well…expired evergreen. It was nice while it lasted.


Standing next to the Christmas tree, both literally and metaphorically, is the Christian. How have we arranged our lives so that we’re appearing very much alive, but in reality, we are simply not? We are Christians, but struggling to stay connected to the Source of life. The result is not a surprise—they are not being loved by us as God intended and defined. Our love of people may be going okay now, but like with the uprooted Christmas tree, time will tell. Or crisis. Or success. Something will reveal how alive we really are. The water in the tree stand will run out. We’ll start turning brown and smelling bad. Thank God, however, we’re not exactly like the tree; we can get reconnected with those Roots.


Dressing up a tree is a wonderful tradition. This year, as your family gathers to make it shine, remember to stay connected to King Jesus, whom we celebrate, so that you don’t wither away like that dead tree you’re trying to keep alive. Merry Christmas!

Moving Companies, Jesus, and Us

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You’ve sold your house, closed on the new one, and beginning to feel the stress of having to pack up all your belongings to move across town. You swore the next time you moved, you’d hire a company to help. To the yellow pages internet you go. Consider your options. Which of these three companies will you pick?


  • Piano Crashers Moving Company
  • We Drop the Beat (and Your Boxes) Moving Company
  • Gentle Giants Moving Company


We’re told not to judge a book by its cover; would you judge a moving company by its name? In this case, you absolutely would! No matter how inexpensive your piano or how low the beats drop, you’re hiring Gentle Giants. Their name says it all. Your boxes and furniture are heavy, so you want the giant; and you want them to arrive just as they left, so you want the gentle. Moving complete. Let the unpacking begin!


While you unpack, here’s some Bible trivia for you—Philippians 4:5 comes right in between Philippians 4:4 and 4:6. (I promise, I learned more than that in seminary.) I also promise there is great significance in the Bible trivia I’m offering. Many of us can quote 4:4 (“Rejoice in the Lord!”) and 4:6 (“Be anxious for nothing”), but Philippians 4:5 gets lost in the mix. I can’t say for sure why, but I wonder if it’s because of the challenge it presents: “Let your gentle spirit be known to everyone. The Lord is near.”


We are to be known by our gentleness. Gentle Giants Moving Company, (a real company, by the way), is known by its gentleness while moving your valuables. It is seen in their work and in their name. We are Christians—little Christs. Should everyone, then, expect us to show the same gentleness Jesus exhibited? It is part of our very name.


Take into account a couple examples. Thomas wasn’t around when the other disciples got to see and touch Jesus’ hands and side after His resurrection. In fact, Thomas had to wait an entire week before he would get the chance. It’s no wonder he doubted. Give him some grace. When Jesus finally did show up again, knowing full well Thomas’ stance on believing, He didn’t respond with exasperation and anger. His response was, “Thomas, here you go. See and touch, because I want you to believe.” Gentleness.


When Saul was on his way to persecute more Christians (little Christs), Jesus interrupted the journey. Jesus questioned him, for sure, but made provision for Saul to make it to town safely, granted him full forgiveness of everything he had ever done, and empowered him to preach the gospel with boldness. He would become one of Jesus’ most famous followers of all time. Gentleness.


Jesus had his own moving company and we can join Him. He moved Thomas from doubt to belief with gentleness. He moved Saul from sin to repentance with gentleness. There’s more: He moved the woman at the well from outsider to missionary with gentleness. He moved the adulterous woman from shame to freedom with gentleness. He moved the thief on the cross to eternity with gentleness.


People don’t just have valuables; they are valuable. Be known by your name, Christian, and accept the privilege and responsibility to move them with the same gentleness shown you.

Pride, Humility, and Plagues



“How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?”   –God


To my knowledge, this question never made it onto one of those black-and-white billboards seemingly penned by God Himself. What if it had? What would you have thought or felt? Anger from being offended? Ignorance, convinced it must be for someone else? Would the shock from God asking such a question have resulted in you crashing your car? Or would your mind have been spinning from thinking of all the ways you’ve not humbled yourself?


Though not on a roadside billboard, this penetrating question was asked by God and directed at Pharaoh (Ex. 10). By this point, Pharaoh and the Egyptians had experienced seven of the 10 plagues—bloody waters; swarms of frogs; gnats all over humans and animals; swarms of flies; pestilence affecting all livestock; boils on people and animals; and deadly hail and fire. He would not let the Israelites go. It would take three more—locusts, complete darkness, and death of all their firstborns—before he would relent. How long did he refuse to humble himself before God? Long enough! But time is irrelevant here. What stands out, instead, are the effects of pride and the link God makes with humility.


There are multiple effects of pride that could be mentioned, but focus on one of them—the plagues affected all of Egypt, not just the one to whom the question was directed. There is obvious application here. In our refusal to humble ourselves, others are impacted to some extent. Frogs may not fill their house (let’s hope not!), but they may not get to experience Jesus today. Your neighbor’s faucet may not start dispensing blood (can plumbers fix that?), but your ability to speak into their life may be hindered. This is enough to think about, but consider the alternative, as well.


To do so, look at what God says next: “Let My people go, that they may serve Me.” This is significant! Pharaoh’s pride not only brought destruction on his own people, but also prevented the Israelites from doing what God created them to do—live in freedom and to serve Him. Would Pharaoh’s humility have had that much power? Would his act of humbling himself have actually allowed the Hebrews to live out the life for which God created them? It seems so.


And us—does our humility have such power, as well? Will our willingness and act of humbling ourselves allow others to live out the life for which God created them? Is God so bold as to link our humility with their potential? Why wouldn’t He? Didn’t He show us the same thing again with the life and death of Jesus?

His humility. Our freedom.

His humility. Our ability to serve Him.

His humility. Our abundant life.

His humility. Our potential.


We may not see such a poignant question on a billboard, but the question is still asked today and our choice, one way or another, will impact our relationships. Watch out for the locusts!

An Argument For Hope

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Love always hopes. Really? Always? That’s a long time, don’t you think? God, in having His word penned for all generations, does something we are advised not to do, especially in arguments with others, and that is use the words ‘always’ or ‘never.’ And yet, in His “argument” of defending His own nature, in describing His own essence, and in defining the love we’re to show, He says love always hopes. A faithful Bible teacher once told me (and everyone else in the room), “they who read it slowest, get it.” So, take a moment to slowly digest what God has told us: Love…always…hopes. It’s really more profound, deep, convicting, and encouraging than the attention we give it.


As profound, deep, convicting, and encouraging as it might be, though, do we collectively know what it even means? In who or what are we hoping? For what are we hoping? And why even hope at all, much less always?


First, we are not to hope in people. Our hope is in God alone. This God-hope means we wait for Him in relationships; we act as though He’s able to change our relationships; and we trust He’s moving in their life as well as ours. He has more invested in your relationships than you do. That’s God-hope. When our hope is properly placed in God, it then becomes quite practical and quite evident in how we speak to and act toward others. To further clarify, God-hope is not in people, but it is for people. It is hope in God for their growth, maturity, and progress.


Why should we hope? Take the antithesis of everything in the previous paragraph and we can quickly see why we hope. Once a God-hope fades, perseverance dissolves, patience disappears, contentment diminishes, and forgiveness dies. The Garden Wall is crumbling. An always-on hope is crucial.


Later in Jesus’ ministry, a few of His disciples argued over who was to be the greatest. Think through this. It’s been almost three years. The disciples have seen amazing miracles, but also just as amazing humble responses and acts from Jesus. Never once had Jesus demanded attention for attention’s sake, a crowd to simply be seen or heard, or to be crowned king. And the disciples are seen standing in the shade of a tree disputing about who would be the greatest. Remember that time Jesus overturned some tables? This seems like an appropriate table-throwing situation. Instead, [love is like that, by the way—lived out instead of the alternative], Jesus not only shared how to be the greatest, but that they would, in fact, be great. Instead of prideful finger-pointing, Jesus humbly responds with gentleness. Is that a love that hopes? Absolutely. He understands they’re still growing and maturing, and so he teaches, encourages, and even communicates gratitude. How hopeful is that!


So, how would you describe your character right this minute? Now, contrast that with how you’d be able to describe it if you always demonstrated hope within your relationships. What would change? Interestingly, in the middle of the disciples’ dispute, not one of the them spoke up to say, “None of this matters, guys. Jesus is the greatest!” Seems like that would have broken up the argument. Our God-hope, indeed, begins there, that Jesus is the greatest and can do wonders in our relationships.