Fruity Fridays: Extreme Love

I heard on a podcast this week that one word being used today to describe Christians by those outside of the faith is extreme. So in thinking about writing a post about the first fruit of the spirit (love), I asked myself a question: what kind of extreme love shows all observers that something supernatural is being produced? Here are two illustrations:

1. Forgiveness to the drunk driver who killed a family member

2. Traveling around the world twice to adopt a child

If after watching these videos the thought comes to you, “Wow! Those are moving stories. But I don’t think I have something that extreme to offer.” Allow me to pushback, please.

Anything that challenges you to go against yours or other’s norms is up for consideration when it comes to defining extreme. 

  • Husbands, it probably sounds extreme to some of you to hear that some husbands have chosen to do the laundry for the family, not because they love doing laundry but because this is how they’ve been led to produce the fruit of love in their home. 
  • Divorcees, it probably sounds extreme to some of you to hear that some remarried spouses actually engage with former spouses by traveling together, assisting financially, or routinely showing genuine care in various ways, not because they love the tension of past baggage but because this is how they’ve been led to produce the fruit of love in their family.
  • Employers, it probably sounds extreme to some of you to hear that some employers have chosen to not take raises or take a “usual” salary for someone in their position, not because they love living paycheck to paycheck but because this is how they’ve been led to produce the fruit of love to their employees and for their company.

Love should be extreme. Spirit-filled love should surely be extreme. Here’s a challenge-ask yourself this question in a form of a prayer and see what happens: “Holy Spirit, how/where and to whom can you produce extreme love through me? What will you do through me for which the only explanation could be extreme, supernatural love?”


Running Tuesdays: Cross Training Is a Must

by Michael Wilder

The first time I heard about Cross Training was in an article I read in Runner’s World Magazine. This article caught my eye because it was next to the article about what type of running shoe you need to have this year. Being a beginner runner, I read the article and then stored it away in my mind and left it there. I thought cross training was extra work you could put into your training. I was under the impression that running 3 days a week was good enough for my marathon training. Boy, how wrong was I in November 2013!

Around Thanksgiving, I ran the longest run so far in my training for my first marathon. It was about 18 miles, and all I remember was the pain I had in my right knee. I didn’t know why I had that pain, but it hurt and only Tylenol helped. After doing research about knee pain for runners, I had to ice it and take it easy for a couple of weeks. Right in the middle of my training for the marathon, I had to stop. I was depressed and worried! Even when I got back into running after a couple of weeks off, my knee still hurt. The truth is that even today my knee still bothers me. From my research I found out that my knee injury could have been prevented with cross training. With strength training and flexibility my knee would have been fine. But I didn’t cross train at that time. Now heading into my 3rd marathon you bet I cross train! I cross train to avoid injury and to help with my running.

My current schedule for cross training is twice a week, in between my runs. For example, I run Monday, Wednesday, and Friday/Saturday; I cross train Tuesday and Thursdays if time allows. I make my runs mandatory in the morning, but if I don’t get to my cross training until the evenings it’s not the end of the world. Anything I do beyond running is only a benefit. Doing something is better than not doing anything at all!

What I do for cross training is at-home strength training and yoga. I love doing yoga and encourage every runner to do yoga! Yoga helps me be flexible, speed up recovery, and promote breathing. I use a DVD that provides a variety of yoga poses. You can check it out here:

Cross training is a must for me! If you are a beginner runner, I suggest you start cross training now. If you are a runner who does it now and then, don’t worry about it. No matter what for all people, just go out and do something. Be active and stay healthy.

God sees, knows and loves you, Ballard

Today is one of those days that makes those “other” days worth it. Our church, First Baptist of Bradenton, has partnered with Ballard Elementary for several years. One way we partner is by providing free services for the students throughout the year. Today, the students could come to the church and receive haircuts, shoes, hoodies and pictures. We do this to show in a practical way that God sees them, knows their needs, and truly loves them.

We love our volunteers. These stylists came from Tampa to be a part of #fbclovesballard.

This student, volunteer and mother share the joy of #fbclovesballard.

This picture of a picture being taken is a great symbol of what #fbclovesballard is all about. May we all continue to do our part in the development of these young men and women’s lives.

Fruity Fridays: Love is Dirty

by Jeremy Nixon (A nobody fireman trying to do it right, but mostly getting it wrong)

What is Love? 

Everyone has a picture of love in their head. Love is so many different things to so many different people. It kind of depends on where you’re at in life as to what love looks like to you. I think that we view love differently. To some it’s attainable, to some it’s something one can feel, touch, see or grab a hold of. Still to others it’s something that they feel is unattainable. 

What does love look like?

To some love looks like going to KFC after they’ve gotten your order wrong and biting your tongue and being very nice. Sometimes love looks like a spouse needing a back and neck rub. Sometimes love looks like giving some money to a homeless person. 

God has painted pictures of love throughout the Bible. Story after story show us God’s love. It doesn’t always look peachy (pun intended) all the time. Remember Job? 

1 John 4:16 says “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him.” 

Jesus came down to earth to show us what love is and how to love. God says to love Him. He also calls us to love our neighbor. When Jesus came to earth he had many neighbors and he loved on people everywhere he went. He painted us a picture of how we should love. 

Jesus’ love is unconditional. It always has been and it always will be. Paul describes love in 1 Corinthians 13 like this: Love is patient, love is kind. Love is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

Jesus had passion every step he took, every story he turned around and every conversation that he had. I can’t help but think this is what we are called to do as His children.  

Jesus showed us how to love all the way to the cross. He was free of sin yet he took a beating for you and me. He strapped that cross on his back and walked through the city dragging that cross on his back, and then he stretched out his arms so they could nail his hands and feet to that cross to take on my sin and your sin. That is love. 

John wrote it down like this: “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

Are you ready for that? I’ll tell you what I think love is – it’s dirty. It’s going against every grain and doing things that no one else is willing to do. It’s being willing to lay down your life for someone else. 

Fruit is grown outside. It endures rain and sunshine, high wind and extreme heat. But when it’s full grown, it’s the sweetest thing you have ever had. Jesus calls us to go and tell. Go get dirty, love God, love people and let God be honored by you in your life. Enjoy the sweet, sweet fruit. 

It’s Always Election Day

Fear is a powerful emotion. And for some bizarre reason, we are drawn to it. We are intrigued by it. And if we are not paying attention, we can be controlled by it.

Think about which political figure you are drawn to or disgusted by. That drawing or disgust is most likely rooted in fear(s) of what the future holds for you, our country, and the world. And they know it; thus we have the fearmongering onslaught from every media avenue possible.

But this isn’t new. It’s just the largest example currently put in our face. Reality is, we face fear every day whether it’s an election year or not. Reality is, it’s always an election year. In fact, every day is Election Day.

We elect every day what fears to believe, where to place our fears, and whom we will allow to influence us with fear. This is exemplified by something as simple as your cell phone. When you get any kind of notification-text, email, social media, or call-what is your response time? Does it even cross your mind that you have a choice as to how quickly to respond? If you don’t respond when that person wants, or if you don’t reply to the latest post, or if you let that call go to voicemail, it is highly possible that fear has somehow found its way to your heart and mind. You’ve elected to live in fear.

Paul wrote in the New Testament that God doesn’t give us this type of fear. Instead, he gives us power, love, and a sound mind. But, again, every day is Election Day. God’s fear replacements are offered and accompanied by his presence, but we have to elect to give up our other offerings of fear and choose to live in his image.

Is this easy? It’s like anything else that requires growth; it takes practice. There’s a reason it’s called exercise or discipline. If you’ve been choosing fear every election day, then it’s going to take discipline to change your choice every day. It starts one Election Day at a time. It’s always Election Day.

Running Tuesdays: 7 Run Detroit

These seven runners (left to right: Lorraine, John I., John G., Monika, Regina, Joan and Patsy) from Bradenton invaded Detroit this weekend to run the Detroit Free Press International Full and Half marathon on Sunday. My bib is a different color since I did the half. The rest of these running beasts did the full.

Before the run, we did a little site seeing at the Motown Museum and Greenfield Village on Saturday.

We started downtown in the dark at 7, experienced dawn running over the Ambassador Bridge into Canada, and finished in the rain back on Fort Street. The young lady in the lower center picture wearing the hooded red jacket is Amber; all the way from Switzerland, she took care of us in many ways this weekend. What runner doesn’t need their own physical therapist?

After the run, we treated ourselves to some goodies at Astoria.

We all thoroughly enjoyed this trip and experience in a city that is rebuilding. Thanks to these establishments for giving us a picture of Detroit that left many saying, “I would definitely come back.”

As for reviewing the race, all of us enjoyed the course. Rain fell four hours after the start, so some got more than one shower for the day. Despite a few spills on the course, some met race goals, one set some unique personal records, several had negative splits, a few BQs were achieved, and one was second in age group-good job, Joan.

This trip is another testament why the running community is amazing. Love being a part of it.


Inspired by a few observations and conversations lately, I’ve been thinking about identity. By identity, I’m specifically thinking about how we find our worth, and also how we keep in mind who we are based on our understanding of who God is and how he sees us.

Today I flew home from a trip to Detroit. One observation I had on the plane today was of a man one row up from me. I’m guessing he was at least 75 years old. I was first drawn to him because I was trying to figure out where the smell of peanut M&Ms was coming from. Busted. But then I noticed something much more intriguing.

He was reading a book. The side of the book I could see was being held open by some type of clamp, something I hadn’t seen before. Being a reader, I thought it was maybe some type of gadget to help you keep your place. As I looked closer, the reality became clear. It was the end of a prosthetic.
As I watched this man, I saw further that his right hand appeared to be writhed by arthritis. This man had a lot going on. Yes, he was an amputee. But he was more than that. I saw that he was a reader, a lone traveler, a mobile device user, and a candy lover.

I wondered what his story was. How did he lose his limb? Was he a vet? Had he been a contractor who suffered a career-ending accident? Did he keep working regardless and now was enjoying retirement in Florida? Was he a survivor of a disease? Does he identify himself mostly as an amputee? Had it been so long ago that he’s lived longer with the prosthetic than without it? What was the basis of identity for this gentleman?

What should be the basis of anyone’s identity? 

  • What we do to make money? 
  • What we do to enjoy life? 
  • Who we know? 
  • What has happened in our life? 
  • What we hope to happen in our life?

I believe true identity is rooted in seeing ourselves as God sees us. He sees us as good creations, as males and females made in his image. Despite our choosing to reject him, he sees us as forgivable. Despite our replacing him with other gods, he sees us as worth waiting for when we return after those gods fail us. Bottom line: God sees us. He cares if we have a job or not, if we have all our limbs or not, if we love candy or not. Regardless, he sees us. Truly sees us. That’s all we really need to know in order to answer any questions about our identity.

Thank you, fellow traveler, for reminding me that we all have a story. We all have an identity. When seen as recipients of our Creator’s gift of life, we never truly have to wonder who we are. We can know that we are loved and forgiven, seen and known, observed and accepted. That’s a great identity.

Fruity Fridays: Love=A New Commandment

by Danny Bote

If you do a quick internet search on the word love, you will find many definitions. Most definitions that you will find are in regards to love being a feeling, a strong affection toward someone, a physical attraction to someone, or a person that you have romantic feelings about. 

But what does Scripture define love as? When Galatians 5 says that love is a fruit of the Spirit, what does that mean and look like? Let’s begin by taking a look in the gospel of John. Jesus says in John 13:34: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another…” 

Have you ever wondered why Jesus says this is a new commandment? Isn’t that the purpose of the last six of the Ten Commandments, to love others? How is it after thousands of years after the law was given and written that Jesus is saying this is “a new commandment”?

You see, Jesus isn’t saying this is a brand new, unknown commandment, but that he is showing what it is actually supposed to look like in practice (a fruit). How is he teaching and showing us? Let’s look at the context in which this verse is found. 

Jesus gives this “new commandment” during the evening in which he was washing the disciples’ feet (which in and of itself, is incredible! The CREATOR of the UNIVERSE washing dirt off of the feet of those who are about to desert him as he gets arrested). After the foot washing, with a deeply troubled spirit, Jesus tells the disciples that one of them will betray him and that it’s the disciple to whom he gives the dipped piece of bread. He proceeds to give the bread to Judas, and then Satan enters Judas. Judas leaves, and the disciples still don’t know what’s going on; they just think he went to go get the moneybag and buy something for the feast or give to the poor. Right when Judas leaves Jesus gives this “new commandment.”

So, what do we learn from this account and message on love in John 13? 

First, we love others. Don’t skip over that too fast. It doesn’t say we love those who love us, or believe like us, or like us. We love others. We love those who betray us, believe differently than us, hate us and maybe even potentially kill us one day. Christ knew all along who was going to betray him from his inner circle; yet he still loved him, served him and washed his feet. It is obvious that Judas was never saved, but Christ still loved him and served him unconditionally. 

Second, before we judge Judas and others, we must realize that we all were at one time, or still are, enemies of God. And Christ died for his enemies. Romans 5:10-11 states; “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” 

So, who are your enemies? Is it your spouse? Child? An ex-spouse? Old friend? Co-worker? Boss? Political enemy? Someone from a different religion? We are to express the love of Christ to our enemies. 

Jesus then continues his explanation of love by saying this in verse 35, “By this (love for one another) all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” 

Do people know that you are a Christ-follower? How are they to know? 

  • By your love, service, and sacrifice for all people. 
  • When people see that you love your fellow Christ-follower as well as your enemy. 
  • When you serve and forgive all people-those who are in your inner circle and those who hate you and want to kill you. 

Then, ALL PEOPLE will know that you are a disciple of Jesus. He doesn’t say that all people will come to salvation because of the expression of love, but that when they see you and the way you love, forgive, sacrifice, and serve, other people will KNOW that you are a Christ-follower.

Then we must be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks us for the reason of the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). If this fruit of the Spirit is being expressed in our lives, we will have the opportunity to share with people what and who true love is-Jesus Christ.

The Emotionally Healthy Leader: Suggested Reading

Most likely, you haven’t read a leadership book like Peter Scazzero’s. That should tell you something.

Most likely, you haven’t considered how keeping Sabbath could make you a healthier leader. That should tell you something.

Most likely, you’ve never been told to “face your shadow.” That should tell you something.

Most likely, you’ve not fully considered how to lead out of your marriage or singleness. That should tell you something.

Most likely, you think this book isn’t for you. That should tell you something.

3 Questions to Determine if You’re Whining

Let’s be honest. There are plenty of ills in the world that can cause us grief. Many of these ills should grieve us. 

  • Starving, malnourished children in the richest country in the world
  • Sex trafficking in the local community
  • Child abuse or neglect in neighborhood homes
  • The destructiveness of pornography in one’s family
  • Extremists who twist religious beliefs into life-taking deeds in the land of the free and the home of the brave

These are examples of things that when we choose to talk about them we do so because we are grieved.

It’s troubling, however, to hear recurring, ongoing conversations that express the same weight of grief over lesser important things. They are not really ills at all. They are more about what we want or expect at a much lower level of societal importance, mostly because of a personal, emotional connection. And the amount of time given to complain about these things makes listeners stop and ask, “Really?”

  • Whether THAT coworker gets preferential treatment
  • Whether THAT team deflated those footballs
  • Whether THAT HOA can…
  • Whether THAT athlete deserves the hall of fame
  • Whether THAT family member should have done what they did

Let’s be honest. There’s a whole bunch of whining going on. Too much.

To be clear about what constitutes whining, here are a few defintions:

  • Whine: to complain in a petty or feeble way
  • Petty: unimportant, trivial, small-minded
  • Feeble: weak, without strength, force or effectiveness

If you’ve ever privately questioned if you’ve crossed the venting or complaining line and entered into full-blown whining, most likely the answer is yes. If you are obsessed with some petty issue and continue to stew over it, most likely the answer is yes. If your complaint is legit but you are completely powerless to do anything about it, most likely you have entered whine world. But to help you determine if you are engulfed by whining, ask yourself these three questions:

How long have I been voicing this same complaint?

  • If it has been months or even years that you have harped on this same topic, consider yourself a whiner. Your issue may be very legit; but if you have not acted on it to impact change, the feebleness of your complaint constitutes a whine.

Does what I’m complaining about have a solution within my power to achieve?

  • Most likely the issue has a solution. But not all issues we complain about are within our power to control, solve, or turn around.  In those cases, the complaint has little force or strength. It is nothing more than a powerless whine.

If so, does this conversation have a solution-based drive?

  • In the case where a complainer does have the opportunity to bring about a solution, then that should be the drive of the conversation. If that drive is missing, the complaint is a very feeble whine.

Let’s be honest. We are all tempted to whine. 

Let’s be honest. We can do better.

Let’s be honest. God grieves but doesn’t whine. We should consider our choices.