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).

bible-verses-about-love-bibleversesaboutlife.com-image-7

Worry Stones

stones

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

We live in an age where there is plenty to worry about. Just watch the news for a half hour and you’ll be tested. Yet, the Word of God says in Ecclesiastes 1:9 that there is nothing new under the sun. I’m pretty sure things seemed quite dire to the Israelites when they were hanging out at the edge of the Red Sea or even to David when he was hanging in the caves and wasn’t on a spelunking mission. We are not the first ones to feel like the world may be coming to an end and we won’t be the last. We are not the first ones to feel the weight of worry which is why God tells us in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast our cares upon Him because He not only cares for us, but He can handle it.

First, let’s look at that word cast. Thesaurus.com also describes cast as fling, toss aside, hurl, heave, launch, eject, thrust and the list goes on. Just replace the word cast with one of its synonyms to give the scripture a new perspective.

Heave all your anxieties upon Him because He cares for you.
Fling all your anxieties upon Him because He cares for you, etc.

This gives us an amazing picture of the heart of God and the weight it bears. Jesus can handle anything we cast at Him, as my dad once said, “There is nothing that can knock God off His throne.” That includes anything that brings you angst. Just give it to Him.

I remember years ago when I saw two teenage girls come out of a new age shop on a busy city street. They carried in their hands “worry stones.” The idea is that you were supposed to put all your worries onto those stones. My heart broke and I went to them to share a story about a man who came to carry all their worries over 2000 years ago. The love of Jesus Christ that came to bear the weight of their worry and fear. A love that doesn’t have a heart of stone. Worry is just like that stone. The only useful purpose it has is to be a weight.  With worry you end up with a burden you weren’t meant to carry.

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength. –Corrie Ten Boom

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? –Jesus (Matthew 6:25-27)

So…let it go, it is weighing you down.
Let it go, He carried it for you already.
Let it go, you are in His hands.
Let it go with a ferocity and remember that He cares for you.

A little R&R…

Characteristic of Love Series: It gives…and is meant to be received.

“For God so loved the world…He gave His only begotten Son…” John 3:16

My dad has this saying that always touches my heart, “The cross didn’t gain God’s love for us…it came from His love for us.”  God already loved us when He gave His all.

So often we want to deserve God’s love, which really means we want to earn it, but can we?  I say no, true love is not earned.  True love gives without expecting anything in return.  God gave His all at the cross knowing not everyone would love Him back and He did it anyway.  Jesus didn’t die just for those who would say yes…that is true love.  True love gives.

We may not be able to earn it, but we can receive it and then respond from there.  Receiving leads to response…love and giving in return (to God and to others).  This is God’s order otherwise we may just become religious robots doing our “duty” as Christians and I am pretty sure Jesus didn’t die so we would be dutiful.

We were designed to receive and then respond, otherwise we can get all out of whack.  We begin a steady decline of trying to earn God’s love; a decline that leads us away from intimacy.  We need to let God love us and from that let our works line up…give from a place of having received a love as great as this (John 15:13).

Best summed up: receive and respond…a little R&R.

Characteristic of love #4: it gives and is meant to be received.

Love is looooong.

long.001

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 heart awaits.

Isaiah61wallpaper-1The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bing up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…Isaiah 61 (NIV)

The world around us is filled with the brokenhearted and the causes seem endless.  Divorce, homelessness, disabled veterans, post-abortive women, victims of sexual exploitation, modern day slaves, the sick, the unemployed and the list goes on.

An article by NBC News states that in 2011 the number of homeless in the United States is over 630,000 and according to the Polaris Project there is an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today and according to the APA the divorce rate in the US is about 40-50% of married couples, if this doesn’t indicate that there some broken hearts who need a dose of unconditional love I don’t know what does.*

Maybe that is you, maybe you need an unconditional embrace from your Heavenly Father whose love for you goes deeper than any ocean and is more passionate than we can imagine.  God is there and waiting.

Yet, the love isn’t for storing up.  Love is meant to give.  As the body of Christ, the world needs us.  It needs to know the greater message, not one of condemnation or shame, but the message that a love which is greater than we are is pursuing them.  A love that heals, saves and delivers.  A love that provides for every need, comforts those who mourn, is patient, never fails (because we do) and is waiting.  We need to allow God to fill us overflowing with this love and in turn go out into the world and pour it out.  God doesn’t need us, but wants to partner with us to reach the brokenhearted.

There are so many areas we can get involved in and reach out.  So, what are you waiting for?  The world awaits….better yet, a heart awaits.

Organizations who reach out to the brokenhearted:

*World Relief http://www.worldrelief.org

*Wounded Warrior Project http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org
*World Vision www.worldvision.org

*Agape International Missions www.agapewebsite.org

*Feeding America www.feedingamerica.org

*Salvation Army www.salvationarmyusa.org

Be sure to check out your local church to see what they are doing to reach out to the community!  You can also partner with For Such a Time Ministries and the work Kelly is doing in the community for the sexually exploited.

*Because I always cite a source:

1) http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/01/18/10177017-homeless-numbers-down-but-risks-rise?lite

2) polarisproject.org

3) http://www.apa.org/topics/divorce

a sufficient scandal.

grace.001

I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!  Galatians 2:21 (NIV)

I am not sure how many times I have cried out to the Lord, “If I could just encounter you face to face, like the woman who touched the hem of your garment, I would never be the same.”  There have been many times in my walk with Christ that I have been superbly agitated with my imperfection.  Why, afterall, can’t I get it right?  I “know better” because I know what the word of God says about a particular situation.  I haven’t always rejoiced in my weakness because it reveals the strength of Christ (2 Corin. 12:9)…I don’t know that I have always even fully understood that.

The law could not prevent sin, but only to point it out and when Jesus came along and began saying He was the son of God and the way to heaven was through Him…well let’s just say that was scandalous.  Jesus was speaking a shocking language, if you will, they called Him all sorts of names and eventually He was crucified.  Yet, while the human mind and weakness (and the enemy for that matter), thought it was their will He die, it was all a part of God’s plan.

Jesus died to prove something, that because of the love of God we could be free, we could live in His grace and not by the law in which we would continuously break.  (Yes, we all know grace is not an excuse to sin.)  Jesus came to make access to the Father easy…it is by faith, this was the opposite of what had been tradition, which was by works.  This can be scandalous to our human minds and wills, because we think, “I’ve got this.”  Scandalous is just another word for improper or shocking and grace can be very shocking to our human will and weakness.

The other night as I was laying in bed talking to the Lord, I was reminded of the times I had cried out, “Lord if I could just encounter you face to face, all this mess would just break away and I would never be the same.”  Then, the Lover of my soul spoke directly to my heart and said, “You need to know I love you in the mess.”  …insert a profound heartfelt sigh…

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by GRACE you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus  – Ephesians 2:4-6 (emphasis mine) NIV

We all need to know He loves us in the mess, because that is His grace being sufficient.