Greetings to My Dear Fellow Travelers

Dear fellow travelers,

Have you ever wondered why posts here often start with that greeting?  But before that, why start with a greeting at all?  It started with an observation.

There are 27 New Testament books, and 17 start with the words “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” or something very similar.[1]  It wasn’t an accident, which made me wonder: Do I greet others with grace and peace?  Do I intentionally bring grace and peace to relationships with others?  In real-time interactions, certainly not as often as I’d like, but in a blog, where I have the time to be very intentional, why shouldn’t I be able to?  So, what would be an appropriate greeting for this blog?

“Dear fellow travelers” first came to mind because it communicates motion and relates to the name of the blog.  In Taxi Cab by twenty øne piløts, God tells Tyler, the song’s author, that “We’re driving toward the morning sun; Where all your blood is washed away; And all you did will be undone.”  Where we are is not where we will be and becoming Christian changes our destination forever.  We’re going to a different place, but if we focus too much on the circumstances of our time and not enough on the implications of eternity, we lose sight of the Lord who is our Savior, and of the grace and peace He provides.

“Dear fellow travelers” also reminds us of this grace and peace.  The apostles started their letters acknowledging up front that everyone needs grace, even the author.  We are all travelers in this community of faith, and we should be dear to each other.  In addition, when Paul, Peter, or John wrote of peace, they didn’t mean just a sentiment or feeling.  The word translated as peace is rooted in a Greek verb meaning “to join”.  God’s grace enables us to overcome what divides us and to join together in Him.  Through grace, we all fellowship as one and experience peace.  We’re all in the boat together, and with Jesus as the captain we can be confident in the destination.

Since blogs can reach people in any place and theoretically at any future time through the internet, the blog’s greeting needed to be inclusive.  Nations and cultures don’t each have their own gospel of Christ.  There is one gospel, and it applies within, and above, all nations and cultures.  Christians in all places and times are traveling through a place that is not their home, to a place where we will all be together in perfect grace and peace.

So, dear fellow travelers, let’s keep driving!  Let’s strive to bring grace and peace to every encounter we have as we travel through this world.


[1] Refer to Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:2, Galatians 1:3, Ephesians 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Colossians 1:2, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, 1 Timothy 1:2, 2 Timothy 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon 3, 1 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 1:2, 2 John 3, and Revelation 1:4.

Casting Mountains into the Sea

The last post focused on Jesus’ withering of a fig tree on His way into Jerusalem and how it was a sign of the eventual withering of those who reject God’s authority by not bearing fruit where fruit was needed.  Today we return to Jesus’ explanation of how the tree withered so fast: “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21:21-22)

Jesus does not say “any mountain,” but “this mountain.” Which mountain?  Since they were returning to Jerusalem, a city built on a hill, it is likely that He is talking about His purpose in going there.  He was about to overthrow the authorities of the world on the cross, including that of the Jewish rulers, but also the Roman Empire.  As I wrote in an earlier post: “Only in hindsight do we know what Jesus already knew at the time: in AD 66, Rome would invade and level the city of Jerusalem, including desecrating the temple.  In 410 AD, Germanic tribes would sack the city of Rome and eventually overthrow the empire of Pax Romana.”

By causing the fig tree to wither quickly, Jesus showed His disciples that anyone who rejects His authority will inevitably wither.  What He demonstrates in a limited way instantaneously, He will fulfill completely eventually, but certainly.  Through our faith we bear our own cross rather than blindly following the authorities of the world.  If we act in faith, our actions outlast every authority of this world.  Thus, our faith moves mountains!

Being “on the right side of history” means doing the right thing in light of eternity, not doing what is popular in the fleeting, present moment or imagining some future opinion poll’s judgement on the present day.  The popular view may often seem like the easy way, but the authority of God, which tells us to love Him and love our neighbor in every circumstance, is the only way to bear fruit that lasts.  Following God may make us popular, or it may not, but seeking popularity should not be a reason for doing things.  Popularity is ok as an outcome, but not as an objective.  For the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, seeking popularity initially made them unable to commit to anything, but eventually led them to crucify God Himself.

In my case as a blogger and in many areas of anyone’s life, there are constant temptations to do what is popular.  Many of the “followers” of this blog are other blogs asking me to pay for advice about how to get more attention; to improve my “metrics.”  Other forms of social media want us to focus on “likes” and other verifications of our popularity.  However, only a life lived knowing that God, our Maker and King, knows what is most beneficial for us and fruitful for His people provides the wisdom we need to find true fulfillment.  The lesson of the fig tree reminds everyone that a quest for popularity might only lead to a withering of their ability to bear real fruit for eternity.

We close with these two verses:
The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” – Isaiah 40:8
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” – Mark 8:35

The Eternal Work of Eden, Heaven, and Earth

As the Covid-19 pandemic recedes, many are finding that the work they did before the pandemic doesn’t seem as important or meaningful to them now.  People are quitting their jobs or retiring early so often, we created a new catchphrase: “Great Resignation.”  Also, many workers, especially younger ones, are demanding that their employers become more vocal and active on social and political goals they agree with, or they will leave.[1]  In short, people are asking for reasons to go to work outside of their employer’s actual business, beyond the job itself, and in addition to the paycheck it provides.   None of this is entirely new, but the pandemic has made it a much bigger issue.  Is work itself meaningful?

As a partial response to this frustration, today’s post will make three points about work before the Fall, in the Garden of Eden, and what that means for our future in heaven and the place of work in our lives now.  We start with an idea from Genesis that is sometimes missed:

#1 – “Not all the world was Eden”
As noted by Michael Heiser in his book The Unseen Realm[2], Eden’s geography is limited and defined in Genesis 2:8-14.  Also, when God expels Adam and Eve from the garden in Genesis 3:23-24 we know that they are still on earth, but no longer in the garden.  God didn’t create a new place for them to go but removed them from the part of the earth that was Eden.  While Eden was a paradise, it was not the entire world.  Which leads to the second point:

#2 – The original task of humanity was to make the entire Earth like Eden
In Genesis 1:28 we read: “And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’”  Heiser notes on this verse that “the earth needed filling” and that “it makes no sense to subdue the garden of God.”

Eden was a perfect pattern which mankind was to learn from and apply to the rest of the world.  God’s creativity in Eden was a model for human creativity everywhere else.  The pre-Fall world was not a world where there was no work left to be done, which suggests that:

#3 – Work is Eternal
A popular view of heaven is that it is a leisurely place where we don’t have to work.  Images of angels playing harps and finally being able to kick back and relax come to mind.  Some hope in heaven partly for this reason – that they’re tired of working and can’t wait for it to be over.  However, in Genesis 2:15 “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”  Adam had a job to do in Eden, and God’s people will have jobs to do in heaven.  Work is not only part of our current fallen world, but a part of our eternal destiny as well.  This may seem like bad news to some of my readers, but does the idea of doing nothing for eternity really appealing when you think about it?

We can be encouraged because the actual hope of heaven is always greater than we can imagine.  As Paul wrote in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”  While in heaven we will work, it will be thoroughly meaningful and fulfilling.  Every person will be perfectly suited for their tasks and doing exactly what they were designed to do.  No longer will work be cursed by “thorns and thistles,”[3] where labor means pain and you only benefit “by the sweat of your face.”[4]  Work will not be gone, but redeemed and perfected.  Heaven will not be what we expect, but God promises it will always be better than our expectations.

Work is Now
For now, this means that whether you’re working at a job, at home, retired, a student, a parent, or in any role in this world, as God’s creativity was to be reproduced by Adam and Eve, the character of Jesus is being developed in His people in this world, and will be fully reproduced in heaven.  In the Lord’s Prayer, part of the meaning of “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) is that we should live as much as possible in this world in the same way we would in heaven.

Christians are God’s agents in this world to glorify Him and make Him known, in our jobs or in any other roles we find ourselves in.  Heiser cites many examples from the Bible which show that “God works through figures like Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, the prophets, and the apostles. But the pattern extends to us, to all believers. There is nothing we do that God could not accomplish himself. But he has not chosen that method. Rather, he tells us what his will is and commands his loyal children to get the job done.”

In heaven your job will not be what it is now, but for each of us, whatever role we have, whatever our circumstances, our job is to take the gifts of creativity and character God endowed us with and make this world a bit more like Eden.

Jesus was a perfect pattern which we are to learn from and apply to everything we do in this world.


[1] There is less news coverage of people who don’t want politics in the workplace or who have different social and political goals and might leave their jobs to find a less politicized workplace.
[2] Heiser, Michael S. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible.  (2015).  This post draws from pages 49-52.  I’m not unaware that this book (and many others I read) might be controversial to some, but I learned a lot from it and saw several passages of Scripture in a different and sometimes better light.
[3] Genesis 3:18
[4] Genesis 3:19

Finding Port for the Good Ship Ambivalent

From yesterday’s post, you’ll know I am reading King’s X: The Oral History, a book chronicling the history of the rock band King’s X, by Greg Prato.  Yesterday, I dove into one of their more bizarre and unknown songs, but today is about the band’s biggest hit.  “It’s Love” got to “#6 on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock charts and #1 on the FM Radio Airplay charts. It was our highest-ranking single, ever,”[1] according to Ty Tabor, the band’s guitarist and sometimes lead singer, who wrote the song.

I knew both Christianity and King’s X by reputation before becoming a true fan of either, but both were growing at the same time in me during college.  Having heard of King’s X but never actually heard their music, I once saw one of their CDs in a friend’s dorm room.  My friend said it was his roommate’s but that he wasn’t much of a fan.  Before leaving I picked up the CD and looked at it.  The album, called “Faith, Hope, Love” had a cool cover, and included the song “It’s Love.”

Album cover of “Faith Hope Love” by King’s X

Later, the memory of that album cover made the triad of faith, hope, and love jump out at me whenever I saw it in the Bible, including 1 Corinthians 13:13, which says: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  This triad is all over the place and there are many verses explaining the relationships between them.  Seeing these references also made me come back to the band and give them a listen. The rest, as they say, is history.

Before getting into “It’s Love”, you can find the lyrics here, or listen to the song here.  I promise it’s an easier one to listen to than “Six Broken Soldiers” and also that this post will be shorter than yesterdays.

Overall, the message is fairly simple: Ty says he doesn’t know everything, but the thing he wants to share from his experience is that love is the most important thing in life.  Love both keeps the world from falling apart (“holding back the weather”), but also eventually love is what requires a loving God to bring about a plan to fix what’s wrong with the world (“the same will let it go”).

But there’s one line in the song I didn’t really get until reading about it recently: “There’s a ship on the ocean, and I can’t decide if I like it.”

There Ty is, enjoying good company, the beach, and the ocean, but he wasn’t sure about the ship on the ocean.  There’s an ambivalence about the ship, and a suggestion that maybe it’s an exception to the overall message of “love,” but I couldn’t figure out more than that.  I wasn’t alone in not getting it.

In the book, Ty says his brother didn’t understand the line, so he explained: “my point was, man’s progress is wonderful and everything, but when the ship turns over and poisons all the fish, that’s not so wonderful. So, it was me contemplating all that we do and all that I’m happy with about it, but how much destruction it causes. It’s yet again one of those socially conscious songs. I just had to say it.”[2]  It was almost that Ty was struggling with whether love applied when someone does something that “poisons all the fish.”  In tricky, real-life situations, does love still rule?  Ty doesn’t seem sure.

Contemplating What is Crooked
Yesterday I quoted Romans about Paul’s inner conflict, but later in the same chapter, Paul wrote: “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.” (Romans 7:21). This idea that even our best efforts at goodness in this world are tainted is not a new one.  Solomon referred to something similar twice in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, in 1:15 – “What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot be counted.”  And also in 7:13 – “Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked?

What Paul and Solomon are getting at is that there are things in this world, including us, that will remain crooked and unfixed until God’s plan is completed in eternity.  The Bible tells us that all of creation is cursed by God because of our sin.  Some things are wrong because God has made them so.  Until a person establishes this in their own heart and mind, they will chase the wind of worldly utopia until they become hopelessly ambivalent, or continue on, highly motivated but frustrated and angry.  The phrase “under the sun” comes up 28 times in the book of Ecclesiastes (by my quick count) and refers generally to the actions of mankind done without consideration of God’s wisdom or eternal consequences.  Everything done “under the sun” is lacking, and none of it can provide the satisfaction and meaning true wisdom can deliver.

It’s Still Love
Since “under the sun”, even good things come with a cost, what do we do?  We can’t be ambivalent to those costs to the point of not caring, but we also can’t be so committed to removing these costs that our efforts become another cost.  The world is broken, but also people are broken, and how we treat them matters.

Despite any ambivalence about the ship on the ocean, it’s still “love that holds it all together.”  Therefore, the priority is always to focus on obedience and thankfulness to God, who tells us to love, not on utopian alternatives to God that tell us something is more important than loving every one of our fellow humans.  The proverbial ship on the ocean and its problems are seen by God and are part of His plan.  He cares about our conflicts and paradoxes, but still tells us to have faith, hope, and love.

However, rejection of love means prioritizing our own, temporary, interests and decide who we should love and who we should hate based on that.  One side will defend the necessity of the ship – and more ships – at all costs, because it’s good for the economy.  They can make money and enjoy what little time on earth they have.  The other side will condemn those who poison the fish, or might possibly poison fish in the future, because this earth is all they have, and they want to protect it.  “Under the sun” there is no nuance or ambivalence about the ship, but our opinion of the ship determines everything, including whether we can enjoy the beach and the ocean that we do have.

The answer lies not in some abstract move to the center politically, but in knowing that there is more than what exists “under the sun.”  Regardless of the conflicts inherent in living with broken people in a broken world, faith in God to save us, hope in His provision of a perfect future, and the priority of love for God and others, is always the right answer.  We can be a little ambivalent about the ship on the ocean, but we should have no ambivalence about love, nor about its partners, faith and hope.  We should pursue them with everything God has gifted us with and give Him the glory.  We can’t fix all the world’s problems, but we can show the world the character of its Creator and show it the way to a better world.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  Always.


[1] Prato, Greg. King’s X: The Oral History (2019).  P. 105.
[2] Prato, Greg. King’s X: The Oral History (2019).  P. 95.

All You Need is Love, But What is Love?

A recent survey said that only 9% of American adults have a “biblical worldview.”  I’m generally skeptical of polls unless I know how they were done.  After looking into this one, I wonder if I fall in to the 91% of American adults who don’t have a “biblical worldview.”  Why?  In their definition of “biblical worldview” the word “love” was nowhere to be found.  Maybe they thought “love” was too hard to define to base a survey on.  If so, I can understand because love is a complicated thing.

In this survey, “love” was not in the definition, but “absolute moral truth” is, which bothered me not because truth is a bad thing, but because moral law is what condemns us.  Moral law would still exist if Christ had not died for us.  The Gospel, or Good News, of Christianity is that we can be saved despite failing to follow the law. Truth without love is like describing Easter and leaving out the Resurrection.  If we have not love, we have nothing but condemnation.  Love is essential.

But what is love?  Love means many things to different people and is a word people like to leave undefined or use to mean whatever sounds good.  Often people agree that “we should all love each other” without knowing what exactly they’re agreeing on.

Confusion about what love is has been around for a long, long time.  The Bible itself talks about several different kinds of love, making a “biblical worldview” definition harder.  In English translations of the New Testament, the word “love” shows up over and over again, but the Bible wasn’t written in English.  I’m no Greek scholar, but what follows is how I personally understand “love,” and I hope it clarifies rather than confuses.

In Greek, there are at least 4 words for love, including these three:

  • Eros – sexual or passionate love
  • Phileo – this is a root of “Philadelphia”, literally the city of brotherly love.  Loosely, phileo means an affection for people who are “brothers,” who we like because we admire something about them, or because they are like us.
  • Stergo – This is a love toward kindred or family, typically between parents and children.  This love is like a loyalty to those we are related to by blood.

These words and ideas were part of the culture in which Jesus lived, died and rose again over 2,000 years ago.  However, the writers of the New Testament Bible couldn’t line the meaning of these words up with what they wanted to say about Jesus.  Therefore, they took a little-used word – agape – and poured new meaning into it.

A Better Love
Agape is epitomized by the act of Jesus dying on the cross, but also by His selfless love for others repeatedly demonstrated in the gospel records of His life.  Agape is putting the interests of others above the interests of yourself, even if there is no benefit to yourself, or even if there is a significant cost to yourself.  Even if those others don’t love you.  Agape motivates acts of benevolence or charity.

Why is love so important to a Christian worldview?  Not only because if God didn’t love the world, He wouldn’t have sent His only son, but also because if individual Christians leave love out of their worldview, they use “absolute truth” as a reason to judge.  Love that requires sacrifice may be less popular than love that doesn’t, but without it there is no cross.

As I see a Christian worldview, this kind of love is absolutely essential.  From it comes a framework of the entire history of God’s relations with man in three phases: love rejected, love redeemed, and love restored.

Love Rejected
While vague “love” is popular, true agape love is not.  When I took a college class on Interpersonal Psychology, one of the topics was the multiple meanings of love. The professor explained the multiple Greek words used for “love”, but when he got to “agape” he asked if anyone in the class could explain because he didn’t “understand” it (or so he said).  I raised my hand, answered by describing the self-sacrificial love of Jesus, and was snickered at by much of the class.  The professor smiled at me and moved on to the next topic.  He probably set up the same situation every semester.  So, yes, not only does the world often not know what “love” means in a Christian sense, but they actively ridicule it when it’s explained to them.

From Adam and Eve right to the modern day, agape love is the bonds that mankind seeks to break and find their own way.  In an earlier post, I wrote that the “bonds” and “cords” that the world tries to break free from in Psalm 2 are the laws of love for God and for our fellow man.  Jesus summarized all the commandments of the Bible as: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”, and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”[1]

I recently wrote that “the problem with every person individually is that they are unable, no matter how much external pressure is put on them, to treat other individuals the way they should be treated.”  People like to ask or demand that others practice agape love, but usually for the benefit of themselves.  It is not in our nature to demand it of ourselves first whether or not anyone else reciprocates.

Love Redeemed
People also usually like the idea that every person gets what they deserve – but we are less likely to talk about that for ourselves than for others.  The justice of God demands that anyone who refuses – at any time – to love Him and to love their neighbor should get what they deserve.  He does not miss anything but is perfect in His justice.  Jesus had to live the perfect life of agape love, under the loving guidance of Our Father, not so we won’t have to, but because we can’t.  Without Christianity and without love, the world would never be able to overcome the “Love Rejected” stage.

Christianity is not judgement, but the only way of escape from it: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). If man had not rejected love, Christianity wouldn’t be necessary; but also, if Christianity does not restore mankind to agape love, it’s pointless.  Jesus, by willingly giving the ultimate sacrifice of Himself, satisfied God’s perfect justice and perfect love simultaneously.

By rising from the grave, He is able to share with us the power of agape love, which governs and redeems the other loves:

  • Eros – So many of the personal and societal problems in the world are driven by unconstrained eros.  In agape, God provides boundaries within which eros benefits, rather than harms, humanity.  See an earlier post on Godly Offspring for how God prevails over unconstrained eros even when we fail.
  • Phileo – Unconstrained phileo, which can become what we call tribalism, is behind a lot of the racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other group conflicts in the world.  This also is nothing new – God through His Son will redeem us.  I wrote about agape overcoming tribalism in an old post about Jesus reaching out to Zacchaeus the tax collector.
  • Stergo – Families might be expected to be the easiest places to love each other, but they are often where passions run hottest.  James 4:1 says “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?”  Only agape provides what is needed to bridge the divide, a love to govern stergo.

A Christian in our world has a restored relationship with God but is only able to practice agape love imperfectly while awaiting a new body in a new heaven and a new earth.

Love Restored
The Bible does not contain a lot of specifics about the eternal life that Christians inherit and it is often misunderstood.  For example, those who think of Christianity as a set of rules that make us “perfect” think they are right to ignore the hope of heaven.  C.S. Lewis says sometimes “our notion of Heaven involves perpetual negations: no food, no drink, no sex, no movement, no mirth, no events, no time, no art.”[2]

But thinking of heaven as love restored helps understand it better.  Elsewhere Lewis reframes heaven as: “When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which Nature is only the first sketch.”[3]  By obedience he means obedience to loving God and man, and in heaven every person’s ability to love will be as the laws of nature, as reliable and predictable as the rising of the sun every morning or the return of leaves to the trees in the spring.

Also, we will not become something entirely other than what we are now, like an angel, but will be transformed and perfected, while retaining our individuality.  Pastor Tim Keller explains that “Our future, glorified selves will be continuous with who we are now, but the growth into wisdom, goodness, and power will be infinitely greater.”[4]

This is a future worth having.

How to Have This Love
For those who agree that the agape love we lost is the love we need back, Jesus alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  He offers a world where every individual person uses their individual talents, gifts and creativity in the best interests of others.  All you have to do is agree to do the same, redeemed by His sacrifice and empowered by His Spirit to do the will of the Father.

How do we accept this offer?
“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” – Romans 10:9-10

If you haven’t already, ask Him to be your Lord and Savior.

Nobody is more or less Christian than Jesus makes them.  No doctrine or experience can replace a loving, personal relationship with our Maker and Lord, who guides and empowers us to love as He does.  If we have not love, we have nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).  Fortunately, in Christianity we have His agape love if we will accept it above all other, lesser loves.  Christianity is not Christianity, and we are not fully ourselves, without it.


[1] From Matthew 22:37 and 39
[2] Lewis, C.S.  The Weight of Glory (1941).  P. 107
[3] Ibid.  P. 43
[4] Keller, Timothy.  Making Sense of God (2016).  P. 170