The Brother You Can See

All sorts of people attend church. Some you like; some you don’t. A few rub us wrong. Fewer still seem to have it in for us. What are we to do? Avoidance comes to mind. But what’s God’s standard?

We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot [or, how can he] love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:19-21 English Standard Version (ESV)

Okay, so if we don’t love our brother then we don’t love God? The word used for love, here, is ἀγαπάω (agapaō), or sacrificial love. Though affection may arise from this kind of love, the essence of agape toward our brother or sister is: unconditional, generous effort for another’s welfare. For deeper insight concerning these verses, consider what Calvin says:

We love him …This love [of God] cannot exist, except it generates love [toward our brothers and sisters]. Hence [the Apostle John] says, that they are liars who boast that they love God, when they hate their brethren.

…The Apostle takes [for] granted what ought…to appear evident to us, that God offers himself to us in those men who bear his image, and that he requires the duties, which he does not want himself, to be performed to them, according to Psalm 16:[2-3], where we read,

“My goodness reaches not to thee, O Lord;

towards the saints who are on the earth is my love.”

…John…shows how fallacious is the boast of everyone who says that he loves God [who is invisible], and yet loves not God’s image which is before his eyes.

And this commandment …He not only gave a commandment respecting the love of God, but [commanded] us also to love our brethren. We must therefore so begin with God, as that there may be at the same time a transition made to men.

Echoing John, the Apostle Paul, in the twelfth chapter of the Letter to the Romans, says in part:

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:16-18 ESV

Further, we look to other ‘one anothers’ in scripture. Almost all of these are commands for us to act upon for our brethren’s welfare.

So, let us exert unconditional, generous effort for our brother’s or sister’s welfare by praying for their needs, forgiving and asking forgiveness, and supplying material kindnesses to them. Who knows, perhaps affection may arise afterward.

RC Sproul: Pre-Evangelism – Defending Your Faith Part 3

Pray for Peace

Where do we find ourselves now? Is this the country you thought you’d be living in? Are you fed up and ready to “burn it all down?” Or do the alternatives we have scare you? Imagine what exiles from their homelands must feel.

We have an example of just such exiles in the book of Jeremiah. The people of Judah and Jerusalem were taken captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. The prophet Jeremiah exhorted the exiles to live in obedience to God for seventy years, the term God decreed for their banishment. While in Babylon, to show obedience, they were to build houses, plant gardens, and establish families. And, in their obedience, they were to do one more thing for their captors:

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7 English Standard Version (ESV)

We find ourselves in a very turbulent time. Those who want to “take a chance” don’t know what they’re in for. Neither do I, really. However, in the midst of this we are called to pray for those we would otherwise oppose. A very hard thing to do, I have to admit. However, lately I’ve been praying:

“Make bad men and women good.”

This is a prayer Calvin had recommended nearly 500 years ago. His commentary on the passage in Jeremiah is challenging:

…By saying that their peace would be in the peace of Babylon, he [suggests] that they could not be considered as a separate people until the time of seventy years was completed. He therefore commanded them to pray for the prosperity of Babylon.

At the first view this may seem hard; for we know how cruelly that miserable people had been treated by the Chaldeans. Then to pray for the most savage enemies, might have appeared unreasonable and by no means suitable. But the Prophet mitigates the hardness of the work by saying, that it would be profitable to them to pray for the happy condition of Babylon, inasmuch as they were the associates of their fortune.

…The Prophet teaches the Jews that they ought not to refuse what was required from them, when God [commanded] them to pray for Babylon, because the prosperity of that kingdom would be for their benefit…They were so connected with Babylon, that they could not expect to be exempt from all trouble and annoyance, if any adversity happened to Babylon, for they were of the same body. We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet.

…Hence [we] deduce a very useful doctrine, — that we ought not only to obey the kings under whose authority we live, but that we ought also to pray for their prosperity, so that God may be a witness of our voluntary subjection.

In our voluntary subjection to God’s appointed ruler’s (even ones we do not like), we must also act for their good:

He not only [entreats] them patiently to endure the punishment laid on them, but also to be faithful subjects of their conqueror; he not only forbids them to be seditious, but he would have them to obey from the heart, so that God might be a witness of their willing subjection and obedience.

He says, Seek the peace of the city; this may be understood of prayers; for דרש, daresh, often means to pray: but it may suitably be taken here, as I think, in reference to the conduct of the people, as though he had said, that the Jews were to do what they could, to exert themselves to the utmost, so that no harm might happen to the Chaldean monarchy…

Of course, this means opposing criminal acts (those would not be for their ultimate good before God,) possibly even to our harm. We are called to “seek their peace.”

So, we have a high bar to meet based on this example from antiquity. Not only must we pray for the prosperity of God’s appointed rulers (even those He uses as scourges,) but, we must act for their good to prove our willing submission to God who rules all.

***

For those of us who hope in the Lord Jesus Christ’s atonement for our sins, let us pray what Calvin prayed in his day:

Grant, Almighty God, that we may be more and more [accustomed] to render obedience to [you], and that whenever [you chastise] us with [your] scourges, we may examine our own consciences, and humbly and suppliantly [seek to avert your] wrath, and never doubt but [you will] be [benevolent] to us, after having chastised us with [your fatherly] hand; and may we thus [rest] on [your paternal] kindness, that we may ever look forward with quiet minds, until the end appears, which [you have] promised to us, and that when the warfare of this present life shall be finished, we may reach that blessed rest, which has been prepared for us in heaven, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.

We, who wait for a Savior from heaven, know this world is not our own. We are exiles. We should pray for Kings such that we, and our neighbors, might lead peaceful and quiet lives, and all would be, in His providence, saved.

Fiery Furnace

Is 99 Cents the New Free?

Tianming CoverI can definitely assert that using ‘free days’ in the KDP Select program to boost book sales or visibility doesn’t work after the debut offering. I’ve tried using free days prior to the July 4th and Labor Day holidays only to realize a decrease in sales rank when the sale days were over.

I have 150 free copies out there all over the world and I know three of my four book reviewers (I have a good guess on the fourth). Each of them, likely, paid full freight.

I’ve tried other things to boost sales, too. I’ve put out a press release. Don’t be fooled by so-called ‘impressions’; only sales count. I did an author interview. It was very nicely presented but the site draws a limited audience. I have a Goodreads page. This site rejected me as an author for some reason.

I contacted Amazon Vine and Top reviewers in my book’s genre (spying & intrigue). Of the eight I contacted, one put me on his to read pile. He has a policy of not slamming books he doesn’t like; I greatly appreciate that attitude.

However, whining gets you nowhere.

I’ve got a second book in the works and I’m trying even harder than at first. Better writing. Better editing. Better marketing. Pricing based on page count. I’m sticking with KDP Select when it makes sense (70% royalty and the Lending Library program). And I’ll try to release a third book this year.

I’m going to have Red City review the first book, Tiānmìng – Mandate of Heaven, to find out what they think about it. We’ll have to see. There’ll be no welfare payments for this author.