Tag Archives: love

The Palms of His Hands

I tend to be a bit forgetful at times. I’ll walk upstairs to get something but forget what it was when I arrive. I’m only 37 but I swear my short-term memory is fading!  The obvious solution for this affliction is to write things down, make lists, or plug it into my iPhone calendar.

Before iCalendars, I went through the post-it note phase. A sea of yellow notes covered my work desk, laptop cover, car dash, kitchen counter and refrigerator. I even flirted briefly with the idea of using different colored notes to organize my life.

Yet, far pre-dating post-it notes is the equally “handy” method: jotting reminders on the inside of the palm of your hand! Ever done this? I know you have.

Don’t be embarrassed. Even God Himself isn’t above this timeless tactic. But what do you think could possibly be so important that even the Creator himself writes it on his hand as a constant reminder? Continue reading The Palms of His Hands

Clothes Shopping with Apostle Peter (1 Peter 2:1)


“Man, I look good!” I said to myself as I tried on a new shirt and sport coat at Target this week. I rarely buy new clothes — maybe a couple new shirts each year and some new jeans when the old ones get too “holy” even for our church!

As we continue our study of 1 Peter, the Apostle now helps us get dressed for our new life as Christians. Before we enjoy a glass of pure spiritual milk with our breakfast (2:2), we need to strip off our old clothes (2:1) and “put on Christ” (Rom. 13:14). He writes:

“So get rid of all evil behavior. Be done with all deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and all unkind speech” (1 Peter 2:1 NLT).

The verb used here for “get rid of” is used for taking off clothing elsewhere in Acts 7:58. We’re called to throw the old behaviors aside, to strip ourselves from the filthy rags of our past and throw them in the laundry bin (repentance). While wearing an ugly sweater to a holiday party may win you some laughs, adorning yourselves with deceitfulness, hypocrisy, jealousy and unkind speech is sure to dampen the mood. Sadly, such traits may fit you for a presidential debate, but you’re certainly not fit for the Kingdom of God in such garb!  Continue reading Clothes Shopping with Apostle Peter (1 Peter 2:1)

Why Fear a God of Love? (1 Peter 1:17-19)

Join us as we continue our journey through 1 Peter verse by verse!

Last post we explored 1:13-16 where Peter helps us set our hopes not on any earthly hope but on the salvation realities found in Christ. In a world driven about by knee-jerk emotionalism and untamed desires, we are called to be driven instead by minds that are actively engaging the truths of God and not intoxicated by fuzzy ideas or common deceptions. We are surrounded by people every day who are, according to Peter, “conformed to the passions” based on “ignorance.” Here’s the passage again:

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance….

We are called to be different, set apart, odd and strange in this world as we conform our thinking and behaving to the Way of God revealed in Jesus:  15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Now, before we get haughty and begin looking down our noses at others who are still “ignorant” of God’s Ways (Peter’s words, not mine), we are warned that we are all individually accountable to God and he will not play favorites and cut us slack because we’re on the “inside.” The God we are privileged to call Father is also a holy judge.

17 And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile…

The same God who Jesus taught us to address intimately as Abba, or “daddy”, is also the holy God to whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess as Lord. We are to live securely in his grace, knowing he is merciful and loving; but also live with an appropriate measure of “fear” during our time on earth. Paul likewise urges: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” (Phil 2:12).

What does it mean to fear a God of love?

Continue reading Why Fear a God of Love? (1 Peter 1:17-19)

Brennan Manning & Scandalous Grace

I’ve recently rediscovered the powerful grace-centered ministry of the late Brennan Manning who passed away a couple years ago. What a life, what a story, what a message he brought to so many people in need of an accurate image of the true God revealed in Jesus, and to the many in need of an accurate image of themselves as the object of God’s ferocious love.

The internet has brought into our homes so much useless, trivial, and crude content for sure. But I was reminded this week how fortunate we are to have at our finger tips access to so many great messages by some of God’s greatest prophets and preachers from the past century. I have spent many hours the past couple weeks feasting on the tear-jerking, gut-wrenching, hope-giving, image-healing messages of Brennan Manning.

I was privileged to go hear Brennan speak in person once or twice in high school and college. He is part of the tapestry of my faith formation and he sowed seeds in me as a young man that are bearing fruit in the kind of grace-filled church of ragamuffins I now get to lead at MainStreet. I had a blast sharing a video of one of his messages this past Sunday in place of my sermon…because once I heard his message on the topic I was preparing…how could I deprive my flock from the opportunity to hear from this gentle giant? (I’m tempted to show an encore this Sunday. Why not?)

His books Abba’s Child and Ragamuffin Gospel are classics now, but I believe Brennan’s gift of communication flows through his story telling and passionate preaching.

I’ve decided to spend the next 2 or 3 Lifegroup gatherings watching and discussing some of these videos. I encourage you to check them out too this week. You’ll be blessed. But a warning: Grab some tissue before you begin watching. I broke down in tears at least twice each message.)

1 Corinthians 13: Christmas Version

This is great!  From Rob Merola

If I decorate my house perfectly with plaid bows, strands of twinkling lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen, baking dozens of Christmas cookies, preparing gourmet meals and arranging a beautifully adorned table at mealtime, but do not show love to my family, I’m just another cook.

If I work at the soup kitchen, carol in the nursing home and give all that I have to charity, but do not show love to my family, it profits me nothing.

If I trim the spruce with shimmering angels and crocheted snowflakes, attend a myriad holiday parties and sing in the choir’s cantata but do not focus on Christ, I have missed the point.

Love stops the cooking to hug the child.

Love sets aside the decorating to kiss the husband.

Love is kind, though harried and tried.

Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china and table linens.

Love doesn’t yell at the kids to get out of the way, but is thankful they are there to be in the way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return but rejoices in giving to those who can’t.

Love bear all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.

Video games will break, pearl necklaces will be lost, golf clubs will rust.  But giving the gift of love will endure.

ESSAY: Love, Justice & the Kingdom: A Christian Social Ethic (2002)

I wrote this essay many years ago.  Some of my views related to Christian involvement in the political realm have changed a bit. But it’s still worth a read.  -JB


From the beginning, the question of how Christians should relate to the rest of society has continually been raised and reevaluated.  In retrospect, it is apparent that the church has never achieved unanimous agreement over the issue of Christian social responsibility.  History documents many movements toward a position of noninvolvement or even absolute separation from society.[1] At the same time, Christians also have a rich heritage of active social involvement.[2] Still others along the way have tried to acrobatically tread the high ground somewhere between these two valleys.  Regardless of which view one ultimately holds, any biblically sound basis for Christian social responsibility must start with the example found in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Which part of Jesus’ life and teachings do we turn to in order to find such a model?  Do we simply turn immediately to his most famous treatise on ethics—the Sermon on the Mount?  Or perhaps the answer is not necessarily to be found in what he said, but rather in what he did.  If this is so, might we just examine his interactions with various social groups and formulate a position based on that?   I propose that we center our attention on what was clearly the driving force behind both Jesus’ words and actions—namely, the gospel of the kingdom of God. A fuller understanding of the essence of the kingdom will provide the basis we are seeking for a position on Christian social responsibility.

The ensuing study seeks to show that at the heart of Jesus’ message of the kingdom lies the dual administration of both God’s love and justice.  If Christians of the twenty-first century are to be more effective stewards of the ministry of the kingdom, which is by essence a reflection of the character and will of God, then a proper understanding of love and justice is the crucial starting point. Continue reading ESSAY: Love, Justice & the Kingdom: A Christian Social Ethic (2002)