#tbt – Picking fruit – Love

(originally written 7/16/06)

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 KJV)

I think it’s interesting that love is the first fruit mentioned. There are several verses throughout the Bible that state that without love there is nothing. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become [as] sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.” (1 Cor 13:1) Charity in this verse and love in Galatians are translated from the same Greek work agape. Now there are many types of love mentioned in the Bible, each with different words. Phileo is a brotherly love, storge is affection, eros is romantic love, but agape is a self-sacrificing love, a love that is unconditional and selfless. Paul says that without that type of love, all his words amount to nothing more than noise. And immediately after saying that, he goes on to give one of the best biblical descriptions of agape, just in case any of his listeners might not know what he’s talking about.

Agape is long-suffering – perseveres patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles.
Agape is kind.
Agape does not envy.
Agape is not boastful.
Agape is not full of pride.
Agape does not act unbecomingly.
Agape is not self-serving.
Agape is not easily angered.
Agape harbors no evil thoughts.
Agape does not rejoice in the face of unrighteousness.
Agape does rejoice in the truth.
Agape bears all, believes all, hopes all, endures all.
Agape NEVER fails.

That’s a tall order, and few people can attain that level of love. I’ve been thinking of the love I give in my life, and I know that, before I was a Christian, the love I had for people was more in the storge or eros category. I grew up moving from place to place, unable to make close friends, and knowing that, even if I did, I would be moving away again anyway. I had no roots. My parents both worked hard, so, emotionally, I tended to be on my own a lot. I knew my parents loved me, because they sacrificed all in order to care for us. We never went hungry, we always had a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. But, emotionally, there was something missing in my life. I became a loner, unable or unwilling to make friends, and every time I tried, I ended up being hurt. So, I learned to be emotionally self-sufficient (by the way, it’s impossible to do so, but it is possible to fool yourself into thinking you are.). I built my castle walls and guarded my heart from pain…as well as from joy…

Relationships I had with women were shallow and short-lived. I didn’t have my first real relationship until the age of 26. It was the first time I’d been with someone longer than three months, and the first time I truly allowed myself to care about someone. That relationship only lasted a year, but I immediately met someone else. I married her, thinking she was the answer to all I was looking for. But, in all honesty, I didn’t know her at all when we got married. Not only that, but I was looking for things from her that I should have been looking for from God. At that time, though, I wanted nothing to do with God. Needless to say, the marriage didn’t last. We both wanted things from each other that the other wasn’t able to give. It was a self-serving love, each of us putting our happiness above the other’s. We got divorced six and a half years ago.

Since that time, I came to Christ and realized what I’d been looking for was right there with Him. He truly loves me just the way I am, and there’s nothing I can do to make Him love me any more or any less. He accepts me, warts and all. He died so that I wouldn’t have to. He gave His all for me. I still am very guarded about giving my heart away. After all, old habits die hard. But I have developed some very strong friendships, people who I would die for.

“For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:7-8) And yes, the word love in that verse is also agape.

Husbands, would you die for your wives? Wives, would you die for your husbands? Would you die for your friend? Most people would say yes. But agape asks this question – “Would you die for an unrighteous person, for a stranger?” Would you give all that you can to help another at the expense of suffering yourself? Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” The word used here is agapao, self-sacrificing love. Would you sacrifice yourself for your enemy? Jesus did.

When I started this blog post, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Love – agape – is something that can be and has been written about for ages, and yet never fully understood until one actually experiences it.

I thank all those of you who actually read this, and I will close with another verse from 1 Corinthians 13 – “And now abideth faith, hope, charity (agape), these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity (agape).”

JOOTB! Now Caffeine-Free!

As my title states, I am indeed caffeine-free. My addiction to caffeine was one thing I intended to address eventually, as an out-of-the-box experience, but I’ve hesitated doing this because if I go longer than a day without caffeine, I get awful headaches. Sometimes, though, these decisions are made for us. On Sunday, January 29th, I came down with the flu, food poisoning, or a combination of both. I spent the next three days in and out of fever as well as suffering severe…digestive issues. I barely ate and tried to keep myself hydrated with lots of juice and water. The end result was that, four days later, on Thursday, I realized I had gone five days without caffeine. Any headaches I may have suffered were ignored as my body was dealing with several other issues. After breaking those chains, I have been loath to put them back on, and so I continue caffeine free!

In other news, the trip to Europe is a go! I received my passport last week, which means I am now not confined to the borders of the United States. Talk about out of the box! I have decided upon Barcelona and Rome, from March 2nd to March 11th, but any part of that is subject to change. It’s amazing to think that in 24 days, I will be setting foot in a completely different hemisphere. Amazing and, I must admit, scary. But that’s the whole point. Step out of that comfort zone. Do something that scares you. Step out of the boat.

On the financial front, it seems like all my stock picks have been good. I am slowly watching my account increase. I won’t be ready to retire any time soon, but it’s fun to see my money working for me for a change.

The working out is still intermittent, partly due to injury and partly due to being sick last week. But, I’m sticking with it, and I will succeed at losing the weight and getting fit.

All in all, things are going really well, and I’m feeling good.

Truth

I posted a few days ago about the virtues of truth, justice and the American way. I only scratched the surface with that blog, so I decided to devote some time to each one separately. So, in order of appearance, and importance, we’ll start with truth.
What is truth? That’s something that people have always asked, even though the answer is usually obvious. A perfect example is Pontius Pilate. He was face to face with the man who claimed to be the Truth personified and asked him what truth was.
I know this is usually the part where non-Christians begin to tune out,  saying, “Well, the Bible may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.” Here’s what I have to say. The Bible is either true for all, or true for none. It’s that simple. If Jesus was, and is, who He claimed to be, He is Lord of all, whether one chooses to believe that He is not. Likewise, if He was merely a man, then he is not Lord of all, whether one chooses to believe that He is. There is no relativity about it. He’s not just a man for some, and God to others. He is one or the other to all. Two contrary statements cannot both be true at the same time. A room cannot be dark and brightly lit at the same time. And if you’re sitting in a brightly lit room and close your eyes, you can claim that the room is dark, but that does not change the fact that the lights are on.
Now, we pose the question again – “What is truth?” Is Jesus the way, the truth and the life, or is the truth elsewhere? Well, the easiest way to answer that would be to examine the veracity of the biblical accounts. And I know that raises some hackles on non-believers as well, who refuse to accept that the Bible is accurate. Historians, and not just Bible historians, will agree that there is enough extant manuscript evidence to show that the texts we have today are the same as those originally written. So, that just proves that the texts are the same, but if the stories were not true when first written, they would not be true today, right? Right. So, here are a couple of things to look at:
Even secular historians agree that there existed a man named Jesus, and that he was most likely crucified. Where the disagreement begins is in the resurrection. But here’s where theories against the resurrection fall apart. First point – all the Romans or Jews had to do was produce the corpse of Jesus. Had they been able to do that, there would have been no doubt that Jesus was not who he said he was. But, there was no corpse.
Second point – Jesus’ followers fled after the crucifixion, certain they would be next. Peter went so far as to deny he knew Jesus. But something happened, something miraculous, which changed these men from being afraid to die to dying martyr’s deaths, with the name of Jesus on their lips as they died. No one would be willing to die for what they believe to be a lie.
Third point – Paul, a man whose sole purpose in life was to find and kill Christians, whom he believed were heretics, had an encounter which caused him not only to stop persecuting Christians, but instead to become one of the chief spreaders of the gospel, enduring hardships such as prison, stonings, shipwrecks, and blessing the name of Jesus through it all. He wrote his epistles at a time when people who had lived in the time of Jesus were still around. The four Gospels were written no later than forty to sixty years after the Resurrection. Any one of the people of that day and age could have stepped up and said no such thing ever happened. But there was no such person. All possible explanations for anything other than the Resurrection of Jesus were discounted many times over. Which leads to one conclusion only – Jesus died and rose again, just as He said he would. His followers died, and still die, professing Him as Lord. He was, and is, who he said He was. If you’re looking for Truth, you need look no further than the ultimate personification of Truth, the one who never lied, never sinned. Look to what He says, and you will see the truth. And if you choose to close your eyes and claim that truth is relative, it will not change the brightness of the Truth one bit, but you might find yourself missing the beauty and the glory of that Light of the World.