Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Love is not hypocritical

"[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, Love never fails."
1 Corinthians 13:7-8(a).

When you think of love, what do you think of? Many times in this culture, love is what you say to your boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife; it is what you feel when you are the object or giver of favored importance; or maybe it's just a word that passes around that never really has any meaning because of overuse or bad experiences. That is not love! I repeat, that is not love!

We are all hypocrites. Every single one of us. We all do things that we shouldn't have done, that we didn't want to do, that we look down on in ourselves. We don't bear all things. When the going gets tough, my first inclination is to drop it. Why would I bear through something if someone had wronged me? I can't possibly look passed all that. But I know someone who will.

We don't believe all things. There are certain times where I believe that someone else can't get better, can't be forgiven, or that they could never live up to their aspirations, let alone that I could. But I know someone who does.

We don't hope all things. In fact, I don't even know that I hope a little of the things. The word hope comes from the meaning, "to confidently expect". When you or I look out around this world, do we look at it with confident expectation that it could change? that it could get better? Do we live our lives every day in the confident expectation that heaven is just around the corner? I know, with an emphatic NO, that I do not live this way even an eighth of the time. But I know who sees everything, beginning and end.

We don't endure all things. We can endure for a little time hardship, or suffering, or ridicule, but to what extent? I know someone who hung on a tree til death, who died for our sins, and endured everything so that I could be with Him.

Love never fails. God never fails! In essence, when we look at these characteristics, we all become hypocrites to love. Only God himself can claim that characteristic.

But that doesn't mean we just stop. We strive to have all of these characteristics of love. So how do we get there? By striving after God. I quote Jon Courson a lot, but I just love the way he writes about this. "The only way [to exhibit this kind of love] is to let Jesus Christ live it through us, for He is the embodiment of these characteristics. . . . As I walk with the Lord, talk to the Lord, and learn about the Lord, His Spirit produces this character in me ever so slowly, but ever so surely." I realize I am a hypocrite, and I realize that when it comes to this, I mess up a lot, especially with the people that matter most to me. But as I continually walk with the Lord, and read about how he lived and loved, I find myself more and more inclined to live the life he exampled.

When the world sees this type of love, they won't get it. Jon quotes again, "people will accuse you of being blind to certain situations. But they will be wrong. Agape love is not blind. Quite the opposite. BECAUSE love sees MORE, it's willing to see LESS". God has forgiven us all. The person you are bitter about, the person that pretended to love you; He even forgave you and me. God bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. God's love on the cross, never fails!

He is love!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Love does not seek its own

Before I go back into 1 Corinthians 13, I want to go a little into something that's been on my heart as of late. Yesterday, I was listening to a podcast entitled "Last Words" by Ben Courson, in which he talked about living every day like it's our last day before we go to heaven. As I sat there thinking and looking across campus, I began to take the topic deeper into what it might look like personally. When we think about sharing with others, some of the thoughts that cross our mind (or at least mine) are: Well I might as well share this with this person because I am not going to see them again - or - We become so afraid of sharing, or so content with our lives that we end up not sharing with them at all. BUT WAIT A SECOND. where did our view of eternity go? Instead of sharing because we might never see them again, share BECAUSE you will see them again in heaven! Instead of being afraid to initiate conversation, realize that you might never get the chance to share with that person again! Instead of being content with your life, remembering that any moment could be your last moment this side of eternity, and then what? Would you be happy with your life or would there be anything that you would want to do differently? DO IT NOW. Think about what it will be like in heaven with all the people you have and could effect. What a joyous thought!

ok so back to the verses:

1 Corinthians 13:5-6 - "[Love] does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; Does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth"

That first part, "does not behave rudely" can be a tough one. Yeah, obviously don't behave inconsiderately of those around you; Don't be hurtful. But as obvious as this verse is, I'd like to take it deeper. What about preachers, such as the ones that come to our campus preaching hate out of a supposed "love" to see them come to God? I would consider that rude, or as the KJV puts it "unseemly". When people thronged toward Jesus, it wasn't because he cried in the streets (Isaiah 42:2, Matthew 12:19), It was because He exuded love to others so much that the common people heard him gladly (Luke 12:37) and it was the religious people that about had a stroke. That, for the most part, seems to have completely switched. Many of the preachers I have experienced on campus that attack students, seem to be ridiculed and not a word from their mouth is taken in by their listeners. It saddens me that their love is not the love of 1 Corinthians 13.

Love does not seek its own, or in other words, it is not selfish. Raise your hand if you struggle with that one. Our tendencies are naturally selfish. What career do I want? What would earn me the most money? respect? love? And the world sits and wonders why so many marriages fail these days; Why there is so much depression; Why there is so much jealousy and fighting. If we would all just treat others the way that they would want to be treated, placing them higher than ourselves, what a world this would be!

Love is not provoked, Love does not think evil, Love does not rejoice in iniquity. When we began to see things unselfishly, these cease! When we are provoked, it is because we are cheated or treated unfairly. But that is based on the premise that we deserve respect. Jesus, of which should garner the most respect, was completely ridiculed and challenged, and yet he was never provoked; He always thought good thoughts! OH, How I would love to daily learn to live like Jesus and not be provoked as I so easily do. And for those that provoke me, I want to learn to be able to hope the best for them, and not rejoice in their iniquity as so often my selfish desires and pleasures tell me to do.

Love rejoices in the truth! When others are lifted up, I want to be able to rejoice. Love rejoices when others are praised or blessed or doing well. It rejoices when there is truth. It is the opposite of jealousy, of greed. It rejoices when someone turns to put their faith in Christ, in the truth (as seen with the angels). Love loves when truth is the highest standard.

A lot of these passages on love deal solely with the topic of being unselfish. Lifting others up above yourselves; placing their eternal picture, higher than your own. So going back to my first thoughts, love those around you today, this thanksgiving week, this year, until your appointed time to meet Jesus. Its not a question of fear or carelessness, it's one of unselfishness, of LOVE!

Watch this!!! ---HERE---
Sums everything up!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Love suffers long . . .

I thought leading up to thanksgiving, that I would go through 1 Corinthians 13 one small step at a time so that we can see some characteristics of love, but more importantly, characteristics of God. Over the next week, I am going to try and take a snippet of some of the characteristics from verses 4 through 8, and apply them to stories in my life presently or to apply them to areas in our lives we can all learn from. So with no further ado,

1 Corinthians 13:4 NKJV "Love suffers long and is kind; Love does not envy; Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up."

One of the ways I love to look at these verses is to replace the word Love with the word God. Afterall, in 1 John 4:8 we read "God is Love"; both being the Agape form of the word love which can only be described as a heavenly, unconditional love. So God suffers long and is kind. Do you believe that? Lets look first at the cross! God so loved US, that HE hung on a tree and DIED so that we might be found completely forgiven and completely righteous. You might say that Jesus was God and that he could not suffer, but then you hear his cries toward the father "why have you forsaken me?" Truly know that Jesus suffered long for you and for me! and not only did he suffer but he was kind as he looked over at the guilty thief and said, "Today you will be with me in paradise" and then looking at all of the people responsible for executing Him (everyone really), and saying "Forgive them, for they know not what they do!" That is merciful and kind!

But you might say, "Well God has never been kind toward me! He has left my life in shambles after taking my job away, or He took my friend away from me at such a young age, or He didn't prosper me to the point in life that I thought he was directing me!" The list really can go on and on. But I urge you to reexamine whatever issue it is in your life to doubt God's love for you. The Lord can give, and the Lord can take away. We are just called to trust in faith, and follow. Maybe you lost your job and it's caused a lot of stress and heart ache at home, but maybe God has a more important place for you or maybe its so you can take a season getting a chance to love your family more. Maybe a friend or family member died at a very young age and you wonder why a loving God could do that to you or to that person! That is a tough situation indeed, but so many times does God work through areas like that. Its different in every situation but just take some time and look for the light, look for what God might be trying to tell you. Love does suffer long, and is kind!

I wanted to add something from the original posting in regards to this topic. This is a music video by Josh Wilson that deals with loss and heartache and seeing God's love. check it out, HERE

Love does not envy; Love does not parade itself, is not puffed up.
This might sound simple, But God is completely sufficient in Himself. He does not envy for anything and does not parade Himself (or as the KJV translation puts it "vaunteth itself up"). God in his sufficiency still loved us enough to send His Son to die for us!

So how can this verse apply to our lives and help us love God and love those around us? In a commentary by Jon Courson, regarding this passage, he writes

"The person who understands that 1 Corinthians 13 is most fundamentally talking about the nature and character of God's love toward him personally will be one who inevitably overflows with love to the people around him".

If we are to seek after God, and God is love, and these are the characteristics of love, then we ought to remember these are the qualities we strive after. So when we are around others, no matter what they do to us, we suffer long and are still kind. That might seem incredibly hard, but next time a situation arises, look back at the cross and remember God's love toward you and maybe, just maybe, it will help you figure out how to suffer long. When you are around others, don't parade yourself, or puff yourself up, for blessed are the humble! Don't envy after what others have, or what you yourself want, but learn that contentment with earthly things, is the only way to strive after heavenly things!

I'll continue with verse 5 and more of the characteristics of God in the next couple days. Until then, love God, and love people, and apply these characteristics into your daily situations.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Love is dying to yourself

To start this post off, I am going to introduce a video to you. The video is the music video for the song SMS by David Crowder Band

To see the video follow this link

I am going to kind of lay out one of the main ways i interpreted it, even though there are so many ways this video can be taken and each are beautiful. This isn't even my favorite interpretation or the one i think the song is dealing with most. I wholeheartedly believe this is the song of the love of Christ, of God. The interpretation I am telling you is a little different but it has so much more to deal with where I am at personally right now. We are only really focusing on the plant at this point. continuing on, as I see it there are three stages in this song, Birth . . . Pause . . . and Growth.

When the video initially starts you see a plant slowly growing up to a flower stage which is what flower plants are supposed to do. God initially has given us life, He has given us His word, He has given us creation, He has saved us! He has given us a blooming plant so that we might give it to others. In the entirety of the video, the plant never dies, just as when we truly grasp the life God has given us through his son, our newly found plant can never die. But also notice, that it never grows. Now turn with me to the lyrics for this first stage of the plant.

"Send us a sign, a hint, a whisper. Fill me with life 'cause I am listening. Come break the quiet, breathe Your awakening. Bring me the light 'cause I am fading. Surround me with the rush of angel's wings. Shine Your light so I can see You, pull me up, I need to be near You. Hold me, I need to feel loved. Can You overcome this heart that's been overcome?"

Notice the phrases on a lot of it. The word "me" or "I" or other references to oneself occur 10 times! And isn't this true? At least it was for me, that when we first grasp this new life, we have the tendency to think that it's all about us. How many times in our prayers do we talk to God and ask him to bless us, to protect us, always seeking some way of God glorying us, then us glorying God. and yet the plant is still alive. . . because get this, God DOES love us! Even when we are overcome, God is listening and working in our lives.

The second part of the song is the pause. I referenced it earlier, but notice the plant has no growth. It is just stagnant at that one stem! Life goes on in the video as they enjoy creation, and then themselves, and ultimately just life, and the plant is always there! Just never growing. to this we go back to the lyrics

"You sent a sign, a hint, a whisper. Human, Divine, Everyone is listening. Death laid low. Quiet in the night is stirring, All around the rush of angels," and then back into the first chorus

At this point, God gave His son Jesus as the sign that was asked for. In this verse, it tells the story of Jesus right up to the point of death. So often we are told to live our lives based on the example of Jesus. We fall into a legalistic mindset as we do this if we don't first place the love of God in the forefront. And we can also fall into a self righteous mindset as we compare ourselves to those around us because they might not be doing something we agree with or they might have even messed up. We can't just strive for the life of Jesus without first recognizing the death of Jesus. Without love, works are dead. Notice the chorus during this part is identical to the first because at this stage in life, or in a situation, We still have grasped that it's not about us, its about God!!!!!

But then guess what: Jesus did die! He took every sin, every screw up, every self condemning act, and He took it upon Himself, and He died! He conquered it! He rose again, leaving it all behind so that we might have grace, life MORE abundantly, and know what true love is. And until we grasp that, nothing else matters! The lyrics go on as the girl in the video dies, and say, "O, the wonder of the greatest love has come!" and then notice the alteration in the chorus as this once stagnant plant, explodes!

"shine Your light so ALL can see it, lifted up, 'cause the WHOLE WORLD needs it. Love has come, what joy to hear it, He has overcome, He has overcome!"

There is no reference to me or myself, the focus is on the entirety of the world, on everyone around us! All of a sudden a life that had just been mediocre, fully recognizes the love of God, the sacrifice of God, and there is no looking back. The plant must explode! Jesus had to die to make that plant explode.

On a more applicable note and just a little about how this has been going on in my life. I read a commentary the other day about Isaac and Ishmael reconciling after their father's death. There was a whole applicable story entitled "Someone must die". And it takes the external act of having to have their father die for them to come back together, and applies it personally that when their are separating circumstances, the only way to reconcile it, is that someone must first die. Right now in my life, there is a lot going on where relationships once stood, walls have been built up; where healthy friendships once were, deserts have grown between. And it's been challenging to figure out how to handle certain situations. But then I look at God and his sacrifice, and suddenly it makes so much sense, someone has to die! You can't live your life with walls everywhere, someone has to die, YOU must die to yourself and make things right!

Everything comes back to love and the love God showed us