Love is Hard.

We have all heard the phrase, “Love is a choice.” Sometimes that choice may feel easy, but lets face it there are many times when that choice feels hard. It feels easy when our children are smiling and obeying, but when the laundry and dishes are piled high, you are flat out exhausted and your children are throwing a fit because you didn’t cut the crust of their sandwich…it can get hard. It may feel easy to love when your spouse is being sweet and thoughtful, but when they are short with you, or say something thoughtless…it can get hard.

It’s not so much choosing to love, but choosing to respond in love that can be hard at times. I struggle with it, we all struggle with it. Recently, I saw this great picture of a scripture verse out of Romans 5:8. The scripture reads, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this; While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV) The image paraphrases the verse and says, “I loved you at your darkest.” Wow. In my darkest moment God loved and still loves me. He also calls us to love like that, except it is much harder for us to do. That is why we need His help.
As I write this, Ed Sheeran’s song “Photograph,” is playing in my mind.

Loving can hurt
Loving can hurt sometimes
But it’s the only thing that I know
When it gets hard
You know it can get hard sometimes
It is the only thing that makes us feel alive…

Loving can heal
Loving can mend your soul.

It isn’t hard to love the “lovely,” but what about the homeless man you see downtown that hasn’t bathed in a while? What about the woman who spits in your face when you tell her she is worth more than the $50 her pimp is getting for her? What about the person close to you who breaks your heart? I think about what Christ endured; the ridicule, the physical and emotional pain, the sting of death. And what for? Love. The cross wasn’t easy. Therefore love isn’t always easy. Yet, it is the most vital. It encourages, uplifts, frees, heals, restores, makes new and is desperately needed.

Remove the word “is” and you get…love hard (and with all you’ve got).

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A Heart Captivated.

We have all been in a season in our lives where we are not the biggest fan of how situations are turning out, but have you ever been in a season where you are watching the amazing work of God’s love in your life and love the process?  That is current my season.  I am learning much and growing in a new way and my heart is captivated by the situation and God’s love and direction through it all.  It’s felt like a loooong time coming…but God is never late.

You see, lately I have been actively feeding on His faithfulness (Psalm 37:3)…which simply means to be rejoicing in all that God has done for me.

He pursued me in my sin and brokenness and called me holy. (Hebrews 10:10)
He pursued me when I felt ugly and called me lovely. (Psalm 45:11)
He pursued me when I rejected Him and ransomed me anyway. (Hebrews 9:15)

God’s love has pursued me (as well as it does you) and captivated my heart.  His love at work orchestrating situations (as I trust Him) has captivated my heart again and my heart sings about His faithfulness.

We all have times in our lives when we want to do anything but rejoice…but let’s remember that the Israelites 11 day journey turned into 40 years in which many didn’t even make it to the Promised Land.  Why? Because they refused to feed on God’s faithfulness, rejoice in what He had miraculously done for them, they chose instead to complain and had hearts far from Him.  Personally, I want the 11 day journey.  In fact, maybe it’s not so much about the Promised Land as it is about the journey…will we sing and hold onto hope through it or complain and let our hearts be far from God?

May you be encouraged today that God has not forgotten the promises He has made you, He has not forgotten the deep desires of your heart…for you are unforgettable.  I am a firm believer that what matters to us matters to God.  May this month be a time where your heart is captivated by what God is doing (and has done) in your life; that you see His love at work and are able to walk in joy knowing that He is sovereign and working on behalf of those who trust in Him. (Isaiah 64:4)

So go ahead and post the lyrics to Nat King Cole’s Unforgettable on your mirror and let your heart be captivated by the One who loves you…remembering all He has done and rejoicing in all He will do.

Love doesn’t exploit.

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Characteristics of Love Series

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It ALWAYS protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 1 Corinthians 13:6-7  (emphasis my own)

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, and with more people enslaved now than ever in history we can safely say that we have a monstrous problem on our hands.  Human beings are buying and selling each other; men, women and little children.  While I say the word “human beings” I recognize what drives this industry…evil, pure evil.

Women and children are forced to sell their bodies (actually someone is selling it for them), forced to have abortions, and are becoming drug addicts just to try to mentally, emotionally and spiritually escape their daily horror.  There have been times when I have looked at what seems like an unconquerable situation, where heartache reigns and evil triumphs.  Then, I remember what love is and who love is and my heart is renewed within me.  Isaiah 61 promises that Christ came to set the captives free and God isn’t a man that He should lie (Numbers 23:19) and it also says that He has given us what we need to overcome.

We can have faith, we can have hope, but the greatest of these is love (1 Corin. 13:13) and love is the greatest thing we can give.  Remembering, that real love doesn’t exploit and it is the action of love that will bring an end to this atrocity.  Love will not buy sex, love will not sell another human being, love will rescue, love will heal, love will reach out and love will not exploit because it always protects.

Next time you see a picture in the news of a woman arrested for prostitution, don’t skip by the article, don’t skip by the picture.  Look at her, have compassion and pray for her (act in love).  Next time you hear about a prostitution ring (trafficking ring) being busted, don’t ignore it…thank God (the One who is love).

I also urge you to get involved, even if it’s only for January…do something because someone needs you…heck the world needs you.  Be the love someone needs because they matter.  Make a decision to protect…make a decision to love.

Characteristic of Love #6…love protects (it doesn’t exploit) 

Want to learn more about human trafficking and what you can do?

Contact Us

Sharedhope.org

Polarisproject.org

Exoduscry.com

Books about trafficking:

Renting Lacy by Linda Smith

Refuse to Do Nothing by Shayne Moore, Kimberly McOwen Yim

The Slave Across the Street by Theresa Flores

Movies:
Nefarious, Merchant of Souls
Not My Life
Not For Sale
Born into Brothels
Half the Sky

Love looks ahead.

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Characteristics of love series

When Jesus died on the cross He wasn’t looking backwards…He was looking straight ahead.  Hebrews 12:2 says, “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before Him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Emphasis my own) We were and are still that joy.  He was looking ahead, He knew His purpose on that history making day, He came for us.

I find this extremely comforting when I have flesh out days and lose my temper with my kids.  I find it extremely freeing when shame or regret tries to grab ahold of me because Jesus endured the cross and the shame for the joy that was set before Him…me and you.

You see, love looks ahead.  It offers new mercies each and every day.  In fact, it says in Deuteronomy 30:15, “See! I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction,” which means that each day God sets before us life and death.  No matter what we choose He is there and the morning comes and His everlasting patience sets before us life and death again.  Now, I am not saying that when we sin there are no consequences, what I am saying is that Jesus paid for our sin…period…it is finished.  We look back, hold records of wrong against others and ourselves and wait for the axe to fall.

If we just understood who we are in Him, we would choose life more and more.  If we understood that love keeps no record of wrong (1 Corinthians 13 and Psalm 103:12) and it knows the end from the beginning we would live differently.  If we understood that God, who IS love, doesn’t love like we mere humans understand it, because His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8).

Walt Disney once said, “Keep moving forward.” Well, you can’t move forward very well if you keep looking back. Think about this: He sent His son while we were still sinners, knowing full well that not everyone would love Him in return and we get so lost in our past and at times our present.  Yet, I believe God in His infinite wisdom looks ahead.  Maybe today He wants us to know that He knows there is a better tomorrow, but today we need to know He loves us no matter what.  That is life changing.  That’s the love I want to know more.

Characteristic of love #5: it looks ahead

Love is looooong.

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Characteristics of Love Series

The scripture passage in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 about the qualities and characteristics of love is probably one of the most quoted parts of the Bible, but may be the hardest to live out.  You know the one…”love is patient, love is kind, etc.”

The first part of (v.4) says, “Love is patient,” and while most versions say “patient,” some say, “Suffers long” or “long-suffering” such as the NKJV.  I don’t know about you, but at times being patient does seem like I am suffering long…so I can see why they are used interchangeably.

Dictionary.com defines long-suffering as:
adjective
1. enduring injury, trouble, or provocation (angers, irritation, instigation) long and patiently.

noun
2. long and patient endurance of injury, trouble, or provocation (angers, irritation, instigation)

Being patient sometimes means we suffer a little bit, never really anything too life-threatening or damaging to our self-worth.  I experienced a little long-suffering last night, but soon realized how it was for the benefit of another…and really wasn’t suffering compared to what someone else was going through.

A friend and I went out to eat to meet up and chat.  The restaurant we had chosen was closed and so we went down the road a ways and found another.  We sat down, ordered waters (as if you need to know that) and waited…and waited…and waited to order.  I was beginning to get a smidge perturbed that our waitress had not returned and was no where to be found.  The restaurant was not empty, but not super busy either.

It wasn’t until I realized that this woman was the only waitress (and bartender) for the whole restaurant and then I spotted her there behind the bar…crying.  “Ok, God, my food isn’t so important.”

All too often we do not see why we need to be better in the long-suffering department.  We don’t stop to think that our patience will positively affect another person.  To me long-suffering isn’t just about being patient, but caring about other people around us.  Not being door mats, but a little less self-centered.

It would have been easier to remain annoyed at that waitress and not be understanding.  It would have been easier to get up, leave and go to another restaurant instead of asking her if she was ok.  It would have been super easy to not leave a very good tip.  Yet, people need to know that someone cares, is patient and isn’t so self-centered in their moment of stress…that they are more important than burgers and sweet potato fries.

Remember, that love isn’t just “long in the tooth,” but it is also loooooong-suffering at times too.  It is also probably good to remember that God doesn’t command us to do something that He doesn’t do daily (love thy neighbor).  He is pretty patient and loving with us.

 Characteristic of love #3: it is looooong.

Never Alone

Characteristics of Love Series

There have been times in my field of work, better yet field of ministry, when I have been overwhelmed with the heartache and tragedy that people have gone through.  Times when I have just wanted to cry at what I was hearing, tragedy beyond our imaginations.  Yet, due to the goodness of God, there have been more times when I have cried at the power of His love at work in the lives of people (and even my own).

Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me ALL the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  (emphasis my own)

So as much as evil seems to follow people around sometimes, the love of Christ follows harder and relentlessly.  According to Psalms 23:6 we are never left without His love…never alone.  Even Romans 8:38-39 proves that the love of God never leaves us.  It is the love of God that sets people free from all sorts of bondage, whether physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.  It is the love of God that never leaves us in our dark times, pain or brokenness.  It never leaves us when others do.  His love makes the ultimate commitment and that fact overwhelms my human heart.

Has there ever been a time in your life when instead of feeling that you are never alone, you feel quite the opposite…forever alone?  Remember that the bible is a character reference for God…it describes who He is.  If God promises that He will never leave you, then you are never alone.  Characteristic of love #1 : it never leaves us alone.

A Whale in the Water

There is no fear in love.  Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment…
1 John 4:18

Lately, I have been reading the Word of God to let it reveal His character to me, who He is, what He thinks and it has led to some amazing discoveries.  Not too long ago, I was talking with my daughter about the story of Jonah, when an idea “dawned” on me.  Growing up Jonah was a bit of a scary story…don’t do what God says and a whale just might be the price of disobedience.  I know many Christians look at that story and think Jonah ended up in the belly of a whale for outright disobeying God’s direction.  Yet, as I sat talking with my daughter about the story and who God is (because I think it is very important to teach our children about the character of God, not just His “rules”), I suddenly had the thought, quite possibly heaven inspired, that God never told Jonah to jump ship.  I decided to check that out in scripture and sure enough God did not tell Jonah to jump overboard…heck his shipmates didn’t want him to jump overboard.  Jonah knew he disobeyed God out of fear and felt guilty and decided to punish himself.  Does that sound familiar to anyone?

God had great compassion on a city of brokenness and told Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh to warn them.  Yes, God has compassion.  He didn’t have to send anyone to tell the people of Nineveh anything.
Jonah knew the city’s reputation and decided against doing what God said.  Sure, God caused a storm to rock Jonah’s boat, but here is some food for thought:
God never told Jonah to throw himself overboard, right?  I am pretty sure an apology and grabbing the next ship to Nineveh, quite possibly, would have sufficed, but Jonah got scared, jumped ship and… God’s plan was waiting in the water.  Have you ever considered that God sent the whale to save Jonah’s life?  When we sin, when we disobey, when we screw up…God’s plan is there waiting.  Our first inclination is to punish ourselves, either verbally, mentally or even with a fast or even jumping ship and leaving church altogether.  How about next time pushing aside fear and immediately going to God, getting into His presence and see what He says?  Don’t take matters into your own hands, no self-punishment, and for crying out loud…no jumping ship!

What does Jonah’s life have to do with the scripture 1 John 4:18?  Jonah’s fear sent him overboard (into a mindset of punishment) and in the opposite direction of God…the perfect love of God.  God wants us to know He isn’t waiting to punish us (a VERY common misconception).   Jesus took care of that, God is waiting to make us whole in His perfect love.  Punishment and fear do not keep you on the right track for very long, knowing that you are loved no matter what…who wants to sin when they know that?

I love the phrase in this verse “drives out fear,” it is such a better phrase to me than say, “casts out.”  It gives  quite the mental image of who our God is…He doesn’t just “tell” fear to go, His love drives it out of our lives, because it has no place.  Fear has no future, remember?  You have a future according to Jeremiah 29:11 and therefore you and fear are incompatible.  Period.

Remember, God loves us passionately and will use whatever He needs to rescue us from fear, circumstances, or ourselves…He’ll even use a whale in the water.